GNOMES UNDER KAŠPERK
Many years ago there lived in the ruins of Kašperk a woodcutter and his wife. They had no children, and so they earned enough to live on. Once the lord of the manor who owned the forests ordered them to cut trees on a steep slope. One falling tree killed the wife.
The husband remained alone, did not fare well, because four hands can do more than two hands. He often complained about his loneliness and misery and many times tears prevented him from seeing his work.
Once, when he went to the forest once again, he found a cut tree on the path, cut so clean of all branches that he would not do it better. He set to work and cut and split the log. This would happen day after day.
Once at night a thin voice woke him up: ˮLook where your saw is !ˮ The man got up, went to the chamber where he kept his tools – the saw was gone; however, it was replaced in the morning. The following night the voice woke him again: ˮGet up and search for the saw in the wood.ˮ So he got up, took a lantern and went to the place where he had worked.
He saw a large number of tiny lights popping up and down around a tree, and he heard the whistle of a saw. He came closer and saw nothing but gnomes. Each had a small lantern on chest. The tree was already half-cut.
As soon as the creatures saw the man, they disappeared into the forest. The last one called: ˮCut the tree completely, this will bring you happiness!ˮ The woodcutter waited until daybreak. He did as the gnome told him, but found nothing. Neither gold nor silver and so he just collected a few dry twigs, to light a fire to cook his soup for lunch.
When he broke the twigs at home and made to put them into his stove, his hand held solid gold.
A farmer’s wife from Žlíbek sent her children-a little girl and boy-to Kašperské Hory, to bring some things to her sister.
The children lingered a little more than necessary, and when they had to return home, darkness slowly started to set.
They entered a forest road under the trees of old beeches and were looking forward to being soon below Kašperk, and that was just a small bit from home.
They walked for a long time, the moon rose, and in its light the children saw they were back on the road with the beeches whence they started. They tried another road, but it also led them back to the start. Complete darkness set in by then.
ˮFrankie, we stepped on an errant root, and now we have to walk in circles until morning,ˮ cried the girl.
The children started to cry for help. Suddenly they saw a weird creature stepping out of the darkness of the forest. An ancient tall woman, gray lichen for hair. She wore a garment of moss and birch bark.
ˮTwilight witch, old hag!ˮ cried the children. ˮDon’t be afraid of meˮ said the woman in a voice reminiscent of rustling trees. ˮI am the forest mother, I am more than a thousand years old. I will do you no harm since you have no guilty conscience. This is also the reason why you can see me. I walk around the forest and see to it that people do no damage to trees and animals. Whom I catch red-handed I punish severely. He can never know where the punishment came from as he cannot see me. ˮ
She bent her tall figure to the children, took them by hands and said: ˮI know that you stepped on errant roots. These have already killed many people, led them astray to swamps or to rocky cliffs. Come with me, I will guide you home. ˮ
In a while, the children saw their hamlet and recognized the family house. When they wanted to say hello to their guide they saw only a shadow. The forest mother disappeared into the forest as quietly as she emerged from it.
A traveller once entered the castle tower to spend the night there. He put his bundle under his head, his stick into a corner and slept. Ruckus woke him up at midnight, he looked out of the window and saw above himself a white ghost climbing up the tower wall.
He hollered: ˮHey, you, get down ! ˮ The ghost immediately turned upside down and climbed down towards the window. The traveller saw the white skull, empty eye sockets. Waiting for nothing more, he left the bundle and the stick lying there and took to his heels.
He did not get far, got a thump on his back and remained prone. He never recovered from the fright, forgot his name as well as where he came from.