Legends & Myths

This content was published on October 11, 2006 - 12:41

The alphorn was a gift from the spirits – or so the legend says.

Long, long ago, a young herdsman named Res – short for Andreas: Andrew, in its English form – was guarding the cows on the Bahlisalp above the Haslital. One fine summer's night the lad was woken from his sleep in the hayloft by three strangers in the dairy. A giant was busy doing something with the cauldron that was used for making cheese. A pale, fragile-looking herdsman with golden hair was bringing small wooden pails full of milk from the milking parlour. A huntsman, dressed in green, sat by the fire looking darkly at the embers. He took a small bottle from his pocket and poured blood-red rennet into the hot milk. While the giant busily stirred the mixture, the pale one took a strangely shaped wooden staff and played music outside the hut – but such music as Res had never heard before: long, drawn-out, melancholy notes, from the deepest bass to bright, clear notes of rejoicing. The cattle awoke, and all around the cowbells started to sound in mellifluous accompaniment to the fading tones of the strange instrument.

Res didn't know whether it made him feel happy or sad in that still, starlit night.

Meanwhile the huge herdsman had filled three bowls with the whey, and told Res to choose one of them and to drink it. Strange to say, the whey in the first bowl was as red as blood, in the second bowl it was as green as grass, and only in the third bowl was it as white as snow. The giant explained that the red whey would give him strength, courage and power. But the huntsman advised him to drink the green whey, for then he would have finest alpine meadows for his own. But the pale one held out the white whey, and promised to give him the horn. Res remembered the magical sound and chose the white one. It tasted like the best milk, and when he put down the bowl the trio had disappeared. The fire flared up once more and went out. But by the hearth lay the alphorn. Dawn was breaking, and Res went outside and blew the horn. After playing a few notes he paused, and heard how they returned in the echo like spirit voices.

Down in the Haslital far below the people marvelled at the majestic sound, and asked each other whether the mountains had not started to sing.

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