IN A wild mountain valley in which only savage animals and reptiles were to be found, and in which vast expanses of moss covered the swamps so treacherously that even bears and wolves had been engulfed in them, a huge giant arrived one day, looked at the surrounding country, and chose it for his abode. He dug himself a cave, built drains through which he sent off the superfluous water into the lower valleys; and as, after having chopped down enormous expanses of forest, he found that it had become quite to his taste, he set off in search of a wife. He neither wished for a fairy nor a moonlight maid, and for that reason he went upon the peaks of the mountains, from which he soon returned with a giantess who was as strong and savage as himself, and who assisted him dauntlessly in all his abominable works.
In three years they were obliged to considerably enlarge their habitation, as their three young giant sons began to grow up; and when these became strong enough, they helped their father to build a new house. The old giant felled the trees on the Alp Mareit, which stands about six miles from his former abode, and his sons dragged the trunks to the building-spot. They were not then very strong, and could only drag one tree each at a time, which, however, was no less than eight feet in diameter. Only the youngest of the giant’s sons, whose name was Bartl, sometimes dragged two at once, at which his father smiled with contentment.
To make his new residence like that of a civilized family, the giant caught a few “flies,” as he called them, which were men and clever carpenters, who were compelled to hew and shape the wood, in which work the giant’s sons helped in turning the trees, as it would have been impossible for the carpenters to do it themselves.
People call the swamp which the giant has drained the Rossmoos, and to the giants they gave the name of the Rossmooser Riesen (Rossmoos giants), while the new house received that of the Rossmooser Hof (Rossmoos farm), which still stands upon the peak of Albach opposite Stolzenberg.
After the building had been finished a few years, the old giant father felt the approach of age in the gradual loss of his strength; therefore he began to think of making over his property to one of his sons. But he did not know to which of them to give it, as all three were equally dear to him, and at that time the laws of birthright were not yet introduced into the giant-race, no more than the institution which exists in other places, and according to which the youngest son receives the house, and pays to his other brothers their share in ready money. Therefore in his perplexity he talked it over with his wife, who advised him thus, “Give it to the strongest of them, and then you have done.”
This idea pleased the giant very much, and that day at dinner he said to his sons, “Boys, I am old, and one of you shall have the house; but each of you is as dear to me as the other, and so I think you must decide it by throwing a stone, and the one who proves himself the strongest shall have the house.”
This proposition was very acceptable to the giant’s sons; and after the dinner was finished, the old fellow took a stone of 650 pounds into which was fastened an iron ring weighing 50 pounds, and carried it fifteen paces from the Hof, which fifteen paces made just one mile, as the giant with one step covered as much ground as would take a human being five minutes to walk. Now they proceeded to the trial according to the ancient rules of throwing stones, as it was invented centuries ago by the giants themselves. He who had to throw stood with the left leg firmly planted on the ground, while with the right foot, which was passed through the iron ring of the stone, he swung it against the mark, which in this case was the giant’s Hof, and the stone was to alight on the other side of the house.
The eldest son commenced; he took up the stone and flung it, but it didn’t even reach the mark, and fell far short into a fence, which it smashed to pieces. The second son then fetched the stone and tried his chance with more success, for he touched the house and knocked in the front wall.
“You stupid asses!” shouted the old man, “is that the best you can do?”
Now came the turn of the youngest, who did even better; for he threw the stone so vigorously and high that it fell on the top of the roof, through which it crashed like a bomb-shell and destroyed everything in the house.
“Oh, my Bartl!” sneered the angry old giant, “you are a clever fellow. You have gained the house, but now you will be obliged to repair it.” And then he began to rave, “You sacrischen Sauschwänz, that you are. Now look at me, poor weak old thing, how I will beat you. Run, dear wife, and bring me back the stone.”
His wife ran and brought him the stone on the little finger of her left hand, which just passed through the ring, and the old giant set himself in attitude according to the rules of the game. He hurled the stone with such tremendous force that it fell far on the other side of the Rossmooser Hof; and seeing this the three young giants slunk off quite ashamed of themselves. The old giant sighed as he said, “There is really no strength left among the young folk. At one time one had no cause to be ashamed of himself. I remember still how I carried a stone weighing a hundred centner (10,000 pounds) from the Kolbenthalmelch place to the Kolbenthal saw-mill, where it is still lying; you can go and look at it there, you Fratz’n.”
At the same time as these giants were living at the Rossmooser Hof, there resided a couple of other giants upon the Dornerberg in the Zillerthal, who always cast angry looks at young Bartl, and challenged him very often to fight. Bartl avoided them as much as he could, and showed no inclination to measure his strength with them, for he had not a quarrelsome nature. One day the giants of Dornerberg met the Rossmooser Riesen with Bartl, at whom they sneered, and mockingly challenged him again to fight with them, but as Bartl was undecided and would not answer, the old giant became angry with his son and said, “You are then no bub (boy) at all, that you suffer all this.”
“Should I fight them?” asked Bartl, and as his father nodded his head he added, “But, father, it’s not worth my while to fight one alone, so I shall fight them both at once.”
The fight then began, and Bartl instantly seized upon the two Dornerberg giants by the collar, held them up, beating the air with their hands and feet, until their eyes streamed with water; he then dashed them on the ground where they lay stunned, and it was only with the greatest trouble that they were restored to life. When they came to their senses, they stole away from the scene of the fight quite ashamed of themselves, and made up their minds never again to have anything to do with Bartl, whose fame, after this tremendous victory, spread far and near through the country; for the Dornerberg giants were in no way weak, since each of them carried seven to eight centners (600 to 700 pounds) from Zell, in the Zillerthal, up the Dornerberg, where they lived in a deep cavern. With this huge weight they sprang lightly from stone to stone in the river which runs through the valley, and even stooped down and caught the trout in their hands as they passed over.