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About the Night Folk

by Theresa König last modified 2007-11-08 10:47

None of the other legendary figures are mentioned as much as the Night Folk in Vorarlberg’s legends.  This wild band races without a leader, back and forth throughout the valleys, comparable to a skittering army of the dead.  On the other hand, the Montafon legends never explicitly mention the dead.  In one report for example, we are given the impression that they are talking about “the damned”.
The preferred nights of the Night Folk are during the weeks between Christmas and Epiphany on the 6th of January.  During that time they make certain paths unsafe with the twanging of chords, the sound of flutes, drums and the beating of the bass drum.  The ringing of the music is, a least partly, supposed to be unearthly.  That is why there are people who are so fascinated by the eerie goings-on that they wait for them, which, by the way, is very dangerous.1  According to legend, the people that waited had unexplained pains that wouldn’t go away.  The only way to get rid of the pain was to stand at the exact same spot at the exact same time at least one year later – if they had the courage to do so.  The behaviour of the Night Folk is ambivalent.  Sometimes they are friendly and if a person can get along with them, in some circumstances they learn how to play an instrument.  If a person doesn’t get out of the way, or they are nosy or mocking they are punished with otherworldliness, blindness, sickness or a blow with a hatchet.2  Unless of course you had blessed yourself with holy water beforehand, then the Night Folk couldn’t do anything to you.
In Vandans it is said that the Night Folk used to have their permanent dwelling place close to the Venserbild Chapel.  At night you could see lights burning and a holy plaque was put up on a stable to keep the wild folk away. 3


1 vgl. Elsensohn 2006: 260ff


3 Elsensohn  2006: 259


P11-1_The Night Folk.mp3

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