The Berchtesgaden Watzmann Legend

Berchtesgaden Watzmann
Berchtesgaden Watzmann

The Watzmann mountain is not only Berchtesgaden’s landmark, it is also shrouded in famous legends and myths. Even today, the peaks of the massif are referred to as a family

The Watzmann itself, with its 2713 meters of the middle peak, highest inner-German peak, as well as the Kleine (small) Watzmann known as the Watzmannfrau, and its 2307 meter frame with the smaller peaks, the so-called Watzmannkinder (children). According to legend there were seven children, only five “children” are actually recognizable as independent peaks.

Southeast of Salzburg and covered with eternal snow, high above seven lower prongs, a mountain stretches with two huge jagged horns towards the sky. That is the Watzmann mountain, which is over nine thousand feet high. Locals tell a legend from the dark times.

Koenigsee boat ride, Berchtesgaden Watzmann
Königsee Watzmann

Once, a long time ago, a rough and wild king, who was called Watzmann lived and ruled in these lands. He was a cruel wretch who had already drunk blood from his mother’s breasts. Love and human mercy were alien to him, only hunting was his pleasure, He saw the trembling of his people raging through the woods with the noise of the horns, the barking of the dogs, followed by his equally rough wife and his children, who were brought up to evil lust.

By day and by night, the king’s wild hunt roared through the fields, the forests, the chasms, pursued the shy game, destroyed the seeded fields, and with it the hope that God’s patience allowed the king’s evil deeds to be granted.

Berchtesgaden, Bavaria
Berchtesgaden, Bavaria

One day the king was hunting again with his troop, and came to a forest where a flock of goats were grazing and where a shepherd’s cottage was standing. The shepherdess sat quietly on fresh hay in front of the hut and held her slumbering child in her arms with motherly joy. Next to her lay her faithful dog, and in the hut rested her husband, the shepherd.

Now the roaring noise of hunting interrupted the natural peace of this forest solitude; the shepherdess’s dog jumped up barking, and the king’s pack immediately threw themselves upon him, and one of the dogs bit off his throat, while another drove his sharp teeth into the child’s womb, and a third tore the frightened mother to the ground. Meanwhile, the king came close, saw the disaster, and stood and laughed.

Suddenly, the shepherd, awakened by the barking of the dogs, the cry of the woman, jumped out of the hut door and killed one of the males, which was the cruel king’s favorite animal. Enraged by this, the king rose up and set with devilish hussa servants and dogs on the shepherd, who had raised his fainting wife and pulled her to his breast, and looked desperately first at his mangled child on the ground facing the sky.

Berchtesgaden mountain range, Koenigssee, watzmann
Berchtesgaden, Watzmann mountain

Soon they both sank down to the child, torn apart by the monsters; with a terrible cry and curse to God in heaven by the shepherd. Again the bloodthirsty king laughed and rejoiced.

There arose a dull roar, a thunder in ups and downs, a wild howl in the chasms of the mountains, and the spirit of vengeance drove into the king’s dogs, which now attacked him himself, and his queen, and his seven children, and choked them all down, so that their blood ran down into the valley. They then they threw themselves furiously from the mountain into the abysses. Those bodies grew into huge mountains, and so he still stands, King Watzmann, staring at ice, a marble-cold mountain giant, and beside him, a rigid spike, his wife, and around both the seven prongs, their children.

In the valley, at the foot of the mountain, rest the basins of two lakes, into which the blood of the cruel rulers once flowed and rests. The great lake still has the name Königssee, and the Alp where the dogs plunged down is called Hundstod. King Watzmann won the worst reward for the worst deeds with all his own, and his kingdom came to an end.

Reference: Ludwig Bechstein,  Deutsches Sagenbuch (German Book of Legends)

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