TO THE east of the Ungarkopf, and high above the cavern called Eggerskeller, there stands, close to a dizzy chasm in the rocks, the Kohlhütte (coal hut), which is surrounded by steep grey mountain walls. Not long since there resided in this hut a wild man, with his wife Fangga. Jordan, for this was the name of the giant, employed himself in stealing children and beasts which he devoured, and he occupied his time also in hunting the poor fairies, whom he caught and killed, or shut up in underground prisons.
One day he brought home a fairy, most probably one of those which resided in the Eggerskeller, and who was already more dead than alive. He threw her down at the feet of his wife, and was on the point of killing her, but Fangga said, “Let the thing live; it will be of use to me.”
“So,” growled the monster; “what can you do with her?”
“I should like to have her in the hut to make her work,” answered his gigantic wife.
“Take then the thing,” shouted the giant; “the white cat to the black one!” for the giant couple had in their hut a huge black cat which the giant had made a present to his wife in a similar manner after having caught it in the mountains.
The poor fairy now bore the yoke of servitude, under the giant couple, who called her Hitte Hatte. She was obliged to wear servant’s clothes and do servant’s drudgery, which she did so cleverly and quickly that Fangga was contented with her, and treated her as kindly as it was in her brutal nature to do. Hitte Hatte was kind to the cat, fed her regularly, let her sleep in her own bed, and got altogether fond of her. Although she had now taken entirely the nature of a human being, she constantly longed to be free of the giants, and one day she took the occasion while Jordan was out and Fangga sleeping, to slip down into the valley and to seek her fortune amongst mankind. The cat, as though she knew the intention of her friend, followed her every step of the way, and so it happened that one evening a pretty girl, followed by a huge black cat, entered the farm of Seehaus, which is close to the village of Strad, in the Gurgl valley, and offered her services. The farm people, whose name was Krapf, a very good and worthy couple, were not very well off just then, as they had suffered some heavy losses, and therefore at that time did not keep many servants. So they engaged the pretty girl for very small wages, without even asking her who she was or from whence she came. She did her work joyfully and well, and with her blessings entered Seehaus; it was a pleasure to see how beautifully Hitte Hatte, for this name she had kept up, managed and arranged everything. The cleverest old peasant woman would never have been able to do so well as she did. She went about her work quietly, spoke little, and never anything without purpose; was always modest and reserved, and the people of the farm left her to go on in her quiet way just as she liked. Her greatest pet was and remained the cat, which was also very useful in keeping the house and buildings clear of rats and mice. Hitte Hatte only knew one fear, and that was the giant, who on account of her flight had made a most fearful noise, and beaten his wife without mercy; but in the valley he could not touch her, for the village boundaries were every year blessed by the priest, and there were all round about little crosses and chapels, of which the gigantic race of pagans had the greatest terror.
While Hitte Hatte was still in Seehaus Farm, two boys of Strad had climbed up the Ungarkopf to gather strawberries, and approached by accident the giant’s abode. As the evening shadows began to fall the boys got tired and hungry, and were about to return home, when they saw blue smoke arising quite close to them, which ascended out of Jordan’s Kohlhütte, and one of the boys shouted to the other, “Look at the smoke! there, I am sure they are making cakes; let us go and see if we can’t get some.”
They soon arrived at the door of the hut, which was carefully closed, so one of them scrambled up on the roof, removed one of the wooden tiles and peeped down below. Fangga, who was busy at her kitchen, heard him in a moment, and called out, “Who is up there on my roof?”
The boy answered, “It is I with my good companion. We are hungry, and pray you kindly to give us something to eat.”
Fangga opened the door and called out, “Come in, my boys, and you shall have something, but be quick and creep into this hole (she pointed out the stove), and keep very quiet there, for the ‘wild man’ is coming very soon, and if he catches sight of you he will eat you bones and all.”
On hearing this the boys were terrified out of their wits, and crept into the stove, and directly afterwards the giant entered the hut, and sniffing round with hideous rolling eyes, he shouted to his wife, “I smell, I smell human meat!”
But Fangga, who had not been educated in an Innsbruck school, answered him very sharply, “You smell, you smell the devil!”
Then the giant gave such a tremendous snort that the whole hut trembled as though it had been shaken by the wind, and the boys terrified lest the stove should fall and kill them, jumped out of it. As Jordan caught sight of them his rage grew still more horrible; he overloaded Fangga with imprecations and abuse, shut the boys up in a cupboard and took the keys with him while he ran off to catch a lost goat of whose bell he just caught the sound. The poor boys now began to scream and implore, and at last Fangga, cruel and hard as she was, was touched with pity, and consented to release them. But as she had not the key of the cupboard, she kicked at the door till it flew open, let the boys out, and told them the best means of making their escape, and away they went as fast as ever their legs would carry them.
They had not gone long when the wild man returned home, but without his goat, which had also escaped him, so he vowed now to kill the boys; but as the cupboard was empty and he could nowhere find them, he thundered new imprecations at Fangga, who however took no notice of them. The savage monster then seized his boarskin mantle, and set off in pursuit of them. He arrived at last on the edge of a wild roaring mountain-torrent, on the other side of which he caught sight of them, and he called out in the sweetest and softest voice he could command, “Tell me, dear boys, how you got over the river!”
“Ho! wild man,” shouted the boys, “go up the river, and further on you will find the plank over which we crossed.”
Jordan now tore along the banks of the river for miles and miles, about as far as from Nassereit to Siegmundsberg, where he found a weak bending board upon which he stepped, and plump down went the monster into the wild foaming water, in which he had to struggle for a long time ere he succeeded in reaching the opposite bank. Meanwhile the boys had got far in advance; but the giant ran as fast as he could, and soon caught sight of them again on the other side of a large lake which he did not know how to get over, as he had no idea of swimming, and wade through he dared not, as he did not know how deep it might be, and there was no boat either large enough to carry him over. Therefore he shouted again to the boys in a flattering tone, “Dear boys, tell me how you got over the lake!”
The boys answered, “We have tied large stones round our necks, upon which we have swum across.”
So he took a heavy rock and tied it firmly round his neck, jumped into the water, and was immediately drowned. So the boys escaped, and people say Fangga did not die of grief over the loss of her savage husband.
A few days afterwards Lorenz Mayrhofer, a friend of the farmer of Seehaus, returning from the market of Imst where he had sold a team of oxen, and carrying the yokes on his shoulders, stopped at Krapf’s house on his way home, and over a glass of Tyrolian wine with which Hitte Hatte had herself served him, he said to his friend, “One sees most wonderful things in these times. After leaving the Döllinger Hof on my way here, a voice called out to me from the heights of the mountain, ‘Carrier of the yokes, tell Hitte Hatte that she can now go home, for Jordan is dead.’”
The farmer and his wife looked at one another and then at Hitte Hatte, who, hearing the news, set down the ladle which she was holding, and said, “If Jordan is dead, then I am happy again. Take great care of the hairy house-worm. I thank you much for your kindness to me, and wish you all luck with your farm. If you had asked me more I should have told you more,” and in saying so she passed out of the door, and has never again been seen.
The farmer, his wife, and friend were struck dumb with astonishment, and could not divine the girl’s meaning. Under the “hairy house-worm,” she had meant the cat. “What a pity it is,” still now say the peasants of Strad, “that the Seehaus farmer never asked more of the fairy, for if he had done so we should know more.”