German Winter Lore—Brownies

I am digging up old blogposts from when I was writing to improve my English. I was curious to see how my English has changed. Besides I thought the long winter nights are a good time to retell some of these stories. 

German Lore: Brownies

’twas the times before even dial up modems!

When I was a teenager, I became really interested in exploring where family (and local) traditions and superstitions came from. Luckily with a historian mum and a well-stocked library at home, there were plenty of resources available. There was a whole set of old ‘historical society’ magazines from the the early 1920s where I found a small reference to Kuppelchen (Unfortunately this was before I learned how to reference)

The Kuppelchen

The Kuppelchen or Kupelchen seems to be a Saxonian dialect derivative from the word Kumpel, which means pal.  The Kuppelchen is a house spirit (a puck or brownie)—not entirely sure which classification would be the most appropriate. 

A Kuppelchen very much reflects the character of the inhabitants of the house it lives in, so it can be mean-spirited and evil, or caring and nice. If you have a Kuppelchen you leave a little bit of food over after dinner, or never entirely finish your drink. The lore goes that if you are a good person the Kuppelchen will protect your home from burglary and fires. However, if you are a mean bean grump-machine the Kuppelchen will cause you all sorts of serious trouble.

I was told that the farmer’s wives, when making the rounds from farm to farm, during feather stripping season would tell tales and determine if there was a Kuppelchen in someone’s house. Abilities such as second sight, and healing hands would usually mean you were likely to have a Kuppelchen. Apparently, Kuppelchen, if they like you will also move house if you move.

Now the all-important question is: How do you know you have a Kuppelchen? So the lore goes: if you regularly ‘lose’ objects although you exactly remember that you placed them in their usual place, and went searching high and low, only to find it exactly where you left it; that’s a sign of a Kuppelchen. Are things going bump? Not necessarily at night, and preferably in the kitchen. Are things falling over, or toppling down, without nosy cats being the culprits? Are small things moving about (without draft, or any other logical reason)? Then you just might have a Kuppelchen, according to Saxon lore. 

I have some family examples: 

The Student Dorm Disappearance Paradox

Roomie and me made midnight pasta, as so often when assignments were due or exams to be sat. Before calling it a night we brought all the dishes and cutlery to the kitchen, including our big sauce ladle. The next morning the ladle was gone, we searched for it everywhere—and this is important, we searched our whole room, under beds, desks etc thinking it had fallen down. But the ladle was lost, we could not find it anywhere. Three weeks later, I vacuumed under the bed as usual, and bumped into something. The ladle was right there, peaking out from under the bed. And it was all clean and shiny! No, we checked it was not a joke from another flatmate. Secondly, no one could have accessed our room while we were out. Besides, neither of them where practical jokers, or had any sense of humour we would know off. 

The Right in Front of you Paradox 01

I have to run to school and am looking for a paper I have to hand in. I cannot find it, despite having it placed on top of the pile the night before to make sure I won’t forget. I am searching for about 20 minutes, went through the pile 5 times, it was not there. I was stressing out and running late. Close to tears I sat on my bed saying out lout, I really, really need this paper. I go to the desk intending to sort through the pile one more time, the paper is right on top.

The Right in Front of you Paradox 02

Mum’s car keys are not in the key basket, she is tired and exhausted and has to leave. So she sits down perplexed as what to do next. Mind you this was after granny and her sorted this key basket (which has no more than 5 keys in it to begin with) several times together. Then each on their own, while the other one was running around trying to find the keys elsewhere. After her exhausted sit-down mum decides to try again and the keys were in the basket, innocently as if they had waited for her all along.

The Scottish Spooky House Paradox

A friend and I met up in a B&B on the Outer Hebrides, the B&B must have had some very active Kuppelchen. When we came up the landing my room was to the left and my friend’s room to the right, in the middle between the both rooms was a small bathroom. No one could have come up without us realizing it. While I took a shower, my friend unpacked his stuff. He had his room door open, no one came up. When we went into my room (which was the bigger one) to have our dinner, the knives all had fallen off the tray and lay in the middle of the room on the floor. Mind you several meters away from the tray, too far to simply have dropped down. Also the tray had a lip so the knives could not just have slid off. There were no cats in the house, either.

My friend became really spooked, while I thought it was funny. Kuppelchen have the reputation of being cheeky and they like to play tricks—never anything serious (if you are a good person). After he had his shower, he came out really angry with me, asking me what I did do this for. ‘Did what?’ I asked. He said that while he was showering someone was constantly opening and closing the bathroom door. Which I had not heard, because I was rummaging in my room unpacking. He got so freaked out that he left the light on sleeping. Mind you the weirdest is yet to come. During the night there were strange noises, which I was still not concerned about, because I thought these were seagulls on the roof or mice or something. After all we were in the country side and I grew up on a farm so I am used to noises and wee gritters bobbing about. I just fell asleep.

Yet, my friend spend the rest of the night wide awake, and when we went to breakfast the owner of the B&B asked us expectantly, if something had disturbed us during the night. My friend looked at me questioningly but I said innocently: No. Upon which she looked at us astounded asking: Really, are you sure that no one disturbed you? – That was the point I got suspicious. No one?

Kuppelchen tend to be what we call Schlawiner (little rascals), whilst they love to hide things and play little tricks; these tricks are never mean (as long as you are not mean either).