HIGH up in the Tyrolian Alps formerly stood a fine city, called Tannen-Eh’, whose inhabitants for ages past had led honest and God-fearing lives. There used to be a Paradise of peace and happiness; no one ever thought of hunting or killing any game; domestic animals, and Alpine plants and fruits being sufficient for the wants of the good-hearted simple people. There were never quarrels or disputes about “mine or thine,” the rich man willingly helped his poorer neighbour, and there was no extremity of wealth or poverty at Tannen-Eh’.
But in course of time all was altered. With increasing wealth the lust of gain approached, which brought vanity and luxury in its train. They said, like the people of Babel, “Let us build a tower whose top shall reach the skies, so as to gain ourselves a name, and in the tower there shall be a bell, whose sound can be heard by all those who live on mountain or valley; and at every christening, wedding, and burial, the bell shall sound, but only for us, the rich, and for the poor it shall not sound, because for them it is of no use.”
And this wicked plan was executed. The complaints of the oppressed rose through the skies to Heaven, and in the autumn a great famine fell upon the city. The poor suffered dreadfully, whilst the rich locked up their treasures and store-rooms, and only gave the poor people, who came to beg for bread, insolent words, telling them that, after all, they were but a miserable lot, and the best thing they could do was to die in God’s name, and go straight to Heaven. In this fearful dearth numbers died of absolute starvation.
Towards the end of the autumn, snow began to fall, and rose higher and higher, up to the windows up to the roofs, and then far above the roofs. In this extremity the rich people of Tannen-Eh’ began to toll their bell for help, but its sound could scarcely penetrate through the thick walls of snow, and no help arrived, for down in the surrounding valley poor people alone were living, who had been cruelly treated and oppressed by the rich citizens above. So the snow fell thicker and thicker, just as long as it rained in the days of the Flood.
After this, Tannen-Eh’ with its inhabitants had disappeared, but the tower of the church, together with the city, is still to be seen from an enormous distance, though deeply covered with everlasting ice. The tower reaches like a silver needle to Heaven, from whence the Divine punishment had fallen. This ice-covered needle-rock is the Oetzthal-Ferner, and the city itself is now the “Oetzthal-Gletscher” (Oetzthal Glacier).
Even up to the present day the following song, illustrative of the fate of the city, is sung in the Tyrol:--
“In the city of Tannen-Eh’,
Oh woe! Oh woe!
Fell a snow,
Which never thaws again.”