The Grim from Lake Jocher

Autor Anonym
The men stood motionlessly around the lake. Quietly, almost cautiously they had made their way as lumbering shapes here, one after the other, sometimes alone or in small groups. Even from Pawigl and naturally from Partschins they had come up here, whispering or murmuring to themselves, with earnest expressions full of fear and awe and their looks carried the mark of the unknown.

Something was bubbling in the middle of the lake quietly and constantly, and had been for days. The men stared continually at the velvety black surface out of which small bubbles rose. When they burst, they let out a unique smoke whose smell no one could connect with anything they had ever known before.

This is how my grandfather told this story. He in turn had heard of this from his great-grandfather, but under complete confidence, for the events that had taken place on that lake had become shrouded with an unwritten law of silence. Only on Sundays did the men break this silence, like old war veterans, when they sat together in the tavern and struggled to wring out consolation and understanding from the faces of others present.

The farm labourers of Count Fuchs, the lord of the castle Lebenberg, were the first to notice the rancour of Lake Jocher. The count, an unscrupulous, lecherous man, had ordered them to drown the castle chaplain in this once peaceful lake surrounded by reeds. This priest had sought to convert the count to attend church services and to repent. The drowning itself was a piece of cake for the labourers; the old believer disappeared quickly under the surface. The labourers did not have to wait long until the last bubbles from his lifeless body rose up to the silvery green mirror of the lake. Nearly enraged, because the old gaffer had not put up a fight at all, they could not move away from the spot even as they quivered with shame for having taken the life away from the highly revered chaplain.

They were still standing there when much later – how much later no one exactly knows anymore – the Count rode up and, with affected, taunting sneers, accused them all of being effeminate. It could by no means take hours to drown the priest and their shame was absolutely out of place here, since the old bugger was not long for this world anyway.

The Count yelled at them to get back to work and wanted to spur his white horse on to return to the enjoyment of his hunting. No one had noticed the Grim who had slipped out of the nearby woods and now with glowing green eyes was walking slowly towards the men.

What happened then, as improbable as it may sound in my grandfather’s description, corresponds exactly with what took place and which he swore by his very own life as being the absolute truth.

The horse caught the scent of the Grim before anyone else and backed up frightened in the direction of the lake which itself drew back as though to do the animal a favour by offering an escape route along the bottom of the lake. As both reached the center of the lake, the water rose up higher and higher and suddenly, like a huge hungry mouth, it swallowed them up. Through the roaring of the angry water were heard the screams from the count for the mangy pack of labourers to rescue him from the flood. The Grim, with wise foresight, and the workers, paralyzed with fear, remained on the shore until the water had resumed its usual calmness. In the corner of their eyes, they saw how the Grim moved to lay down on a nearby cliff. There the Grim remained for many days without moving, all the while watching the surface of the water which, having absorbed the horse and its rider, had turned from a crystal clear lake into a dark broth from which ghastly smelling bubbles emerged.

The first men, worried about the labourers, who arrived at the lake from nearby villages, were able to witness hours later how the white horse rose snorting out of the water, disappearing quickly between the larch trees. Hour by hour, the silent group grew on the shore of the black lake.

Days passed. The Grim seemed to be waiting for something and the men followed, as though someone had ordered them to witness something which they could neither expect nor anticipate. Then one day, as dusk fell, suddenly the bubbles stopped. The Grim lifted himself and looked out intently across the water which started to turn, swirling ever more quickly and quickly until an enormous whirlpool formed that began to consume itself.

What is left over is a small, nearly dried out pond, known today as the “Black Pool”. And the Grim, according to my grandfather’s story, left wagging his tail happily after witnessing the revenge of Lake Jocher.

Published in "mountain stories 2010/11" edition
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