This is a retelling of a story from an old book of German folktales called, Folk-lore and Legends: German by Anonymous. In that book the story was called called The Dancers and tells of divine punishment called down for disrespecting the Sabbath. In many of these stories punishment for transgressing the Sabbath or disrespecting God was to be turned to stone. In this case the transgressors received a very different form of punishment.
The Sabbath-day had come and the folk of Ramersdorf proceeded to organize a dance in the monastery courtyard to entertain themselves as was their long held custom. It was a tradition they had enjoyed for years beyond count and had never once been spoken against by any of the long line of abbots who were now dead and gone. The world turns and change comes for good or bad and the monastery now had a new abbot by the name of Anselm von Lowenberg, who frowned upon all popular activities and recreations that the people enjoyed. He was a strict and austere man who saw pleasurable pursuits as being nothing but frivolities and self-gratification and as such the work of the devil. Nevertheless, despite the stern warnings of the angry abbot the people continued, after all it was their greatest pleasure.
It had been a beautiful, sunny, spring day and the evening was very pleasant and folk dressed in their best clothes and began to gather at the courtyard to join in the fun. Those who were too old or infirm to dance were given seats where they could watch and clap. In front of these sat an old blind fiddler who had provided the music to these events for three generations. The dancers lined up and the fiddler began and the dancers began to dance and a few monks looked down upon the merry scene from the dark windows of the monastery.
Abbot Anselm von Lowenberg
Halfway through the first reel the none other than Abbot Anselm von Lowenberg, marched into the centre of the courtyard and demanded that all dancing and entertainments cease immediately, crying,
“Stop your shameful dancing! Stop all of this fun! Stop your unholy activities and stop profaning the Sabbath! You are wicked and full of sin, therefore go and pray to the Lord for forgiveness and cease these frivolous activities!”
Although he waved his hands and shouted and roared the people took no notice of him and the dancers continued dancing round him and the the blind fiddler played on and the audience sat and clapped and his ire grew greater.
“Sinners, get ye gone from this place immediately or I will place a curse upon you to punish you!”
he cried angrily, but still no one took any notice, the fiddler played on, the dancers danced and the people clapped in time.
You ignore me, therefore I curse you that you shall dance continuously without rest for one year and one day from this day forth!”
And as he cursed them he lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven imploring the Lord to fulfill his curse and then he stormed out of the courtyard to seek solitude in his dismal cell in the monastery.
With the curse cast the dancers found they could not stop dancing and danced all evening without rest. At first they were delighted with their new found energy and as night fell they began to think about stopping the dance and going home, but to their bewilderment they found they could not. The blind fiddler continued to play, the dancers continued to dance and the people who sat watching continued to clap. Night came and still the dancers danced, the fiddler played and the audience clapped and so it continued day after day in all weathers without rest.
The weeks past and spring gave way to summer and summer gave way to autumn and the dance went on. Autumn gave way to winter and the fiddler continued to play, the dancers danced and the people clapped. Round and round and round they danced with the same energy and strength they had began with, never tiring one little bit.
The Dancers Danced On
At times people who had not been present on the day of the curse came to stare and wonder at them They tried everything they could think of to stop the strange dance. They tried to stop the music but the blind fiddler just played on. They tried to move the audience but the audience remained clapping in their seats, They tried to stop the dancers but the dancers danced on.
The strongest men could not pull the dancers from the circle, take the fiddle from the fiddler or stop the audience from clapping. Even when Abbot Anselm von Lowenberg came and tried to lift the curse but still the blind fiddler fiddled, the dancers danced and the people clapped. All those under the curse seemed oblivious to the outside world and continued with their activity with the same enthusiasm and gusto with which they had begun.
A Disturbing Warning!
At last they had danced for one year and one day and the curse expired and they fell exhausted in a deep sleep upon the ground. Where the dancers had danced their constant dance steps had worn a deep hole in the earth beneath them. It was a long time before they awoke but when they did it was found their reason had been taken from them and leaving them witless and stupefied for the rest of their lives and providing a disturbing warning for those who would violate the Sabbath.
© 30/01/2019 zteve t evans
References, Attributions and Further Reading
Copyright January 30th, 2019 zteve t evans
- File:Pieter Bruegel II – Peasant Wedding Dance – Walters 37364.jpg From Wikimedia Commons – Pieter Brueghel the Younger [Public domain]