Beripeeggi's Adventures in the Silvretta Mountains

Beripeeggi's Adventures in the Silvretta Mountains

Jürg Stahel

EUR 24,90

Format: 18 x 27 cm
Seitenanzahl: 102
ISBN: 978-3-99048-427-2
Erscheinungsdatum: 06.06.2018
Beripeeggi, a cheerful boy from the mountains, trespasses the secret Silvretta fairyland. As a punishment, he has to help the seven dwarves with their duties. He learns a lot about life-threatening situations in the Alps and the delicate balance of nature.

Beripeeggi’s experiences are told through the use of marionettes, carved by the Burmese puppet maker Mynt Htay.
Why does a forester involve marionettes for telling legends, show realistic natural correlation in the high mountains, as well as symbols of life in nature? Puppets in the realms of fairytales and fantasy help to illustrate these extremely difficult events. They also allow the author to tackle complex questions like forest deterioration and climatic change.
Why do these marionettes come from Burma? Burma is the classic country for marionettes, based on the culture of a thousand years. Its rulers behaved like demigods and the subjects were neither allowed to look at nor talk to them. They had to throw themselves on the ground in humility. Since puppets did not have a soul, they were the only ones that could remain standing and address the rulers. Hidden in performances, the marionettes were able to express the sorrows and fears of the subjects, which was important for the nobles to become aware of what was really happening in their empire.
In a similar way this book can be understood. Beripeeggi’s many experiences in the secluded high mountains symbolise part of our daily lives.

Silverthistle, the goddess of fate

Endless flakes of snow kept falling from the skies, covering the Alps in a vast white blanket. Silverthistle, the goddess of weather and fate, sat high up on the Alpeltispitz, a mountain rising behind the little village of Monbiel. Her mantle leaves were tightly drawn around her, as her kind has always done when the weather turns uncomfortably damp and cold. It is as if the silvery shining blossom was hugged by a protective cover. Only when the winds are dry and warm, and the sun shines on cheerfully, does she open her magnificent blossom widely once more. Why is she known as goddess of fate, then? Whenever she hides her blossom with her mantle leaves she seems to be calling the humid winds. It is getting cold, snow starts falling, covering the mountains, painting them white. This peaceful picture, though, is deceptive. In realitiy the wind is the creator of avalanches. So nobody can tell where the snowflakes are blown by the wind. If too many land on one spot, especially in steep slopes, the risk of avalanches rises. Too many layers of snow can suddenly break and flood the area in the form of a disastrous avalanche. Like that Silverthistle has become the weather prophet of the mountain dwellers.
Thoughtfully, she looked down upon the picture-perfect settlement deep down in the valley below and morosely blew vast quantities of snowflakes hither and thither onto the steep avalanche-prone slopes. Her sinister state of mind was caused by the acts of several villagers who had once again defiled small trees above their homes and chopped down numerous young spruces. She knew full well how urgently the farmers need meadows and pastures to feed their families and herds of livestock. But did it really have to be on the slope above the houses? Were there no other, more suitable forests in the broad valley? Because these very spruce trees would mature to later protect the homes from avalanches and landslides.
More and more snow was accumulating on the steep slopes and threatened to soon come crashing down upon the obstinate farmers. Silverthistle knew that the villagers had learned to greatly fear avalanches from the Alpeltispitz from bitter experience. And indeed, the steepest avalanche-prone slopes were right above their heads, flanked on both sides by the most terrifying ravines with fast-moving mudslides. In addition, the brook at the bottom of the valley was gnawing away at the embankment on all sides. Before her eyes, Silverthistle saw how, not very long ago, a foehn storm had felled huge areas of woodland along the side of the mountain. At the time, ominous towering clouds had moved in from the south. The wind kept blowing ever more, until it surged down into the valley like wild waterfalls. Roofs were torn from the houses. And soon, it looked like giant Wildmannli with huge scythes had mowed down one row of trees after another. While Silverthistle was lost in her endless thoughts, night fell. She sensed the fear of the valley’s inhabitants and, the ominous silence that pervaded the very depths of the valley. The people remained in their homes, anxious not to make any noise. They had even wrapped the cowbells in chamois cloth, to prevent their clanging from triggering an avalanche. Then her eyes fell on a window, looking into a room in one of the weathered wooden houses in the middle of the village. In the room, a concerned mother sat illuminated by warm, golden candlelight, holding her child in her arms. Silverthistle sensed how hard the mother tried to calm her child Peeggi. She kissed the child tenderly. Then, she told him a story to reassure him and make him feel safe.

The Legend of God and the Blueberry

On the steep slope across from Monbiel, the Miesboden lay hidden in a large forest clearing. There the Blueberry Woman lived surrounded by an ocean of blueberry bushes. When the weather was at its hottest, stately spruce trees cast a circle of soothing shade, where she tended each bush with devotion. No one could have claimed to have seen larger or more beautiful blueberries. The flavour of the blueberries was so unforgettable that whoever had tasted them, never again wanted any other berries but these. So it came to pass that a busker arrived at the Miesboden at the time the blueberries were ripe for picking. He ate some of the magnificent blueberries, grew to treasure the Blueberry Woman’s warm spirit, and spontaneously decided to stay with her for a little while. The Blueberry Woman, for her part, enjoyed his enchanting melodies, which drove away all her small, everyday concerns. The music’s particular intimacy was ultimately due to the fact that the musician crafted all his own violins with great care, paying particular attention to the sound quality of the wood he was using. Thus, he was seen walking from tree to tree with a small silver hammer in his hand, tapping on the trunks and waiting attentively for their reverberation. With particular spruces the hammer’s echo sounded like a chorus of golden bells, as if they reflected the entire life of the soul. From this wood he crafted himself a new violin, on which he played enchanting melodies to delight all of the mythical creatures living in the Silvretta Alps. And he knew that his future rested with the Blueberry Woman on the Miesboden. The sweetness of his melodies was such that the Blueberry Woman used them to water her blueberry bushes.
This did not go unnoticed, even by God. One day, he was seen walking slowly and immersed in devotion towards the Miesboden. As he walked, the treetops of the beech groves turned into cathedral vaults and the powerful tops of mighty spruce trees became church spires. Behind him, his faithful servant St. Peter followed at a respectful distance. St. Peter, too, felt the secret effect of the blueberry, and the closer they both came to the Miesboden, the more the aroma pricked at his nostrils. St. Peter really couldn’t be blamed for bending down furtively to try one of the dark blue berries. He enjoyed them so much that he was tempted into bending down again to pick one, two, or even three more of them. They all disappeared in his mouth. God noticed full well what went on behind his back. He turned around solemnly and asked, “St. Peter, why are you bending down so strangely, first to the right and then to the left, instead of focusing on our divine obligations?” St. Peter replied somewhat sheepishly, “Oh, Heavenly Father, I am blessing the blueberry bushes on both sides!” To this God replied, “St. Peter, you should be ashamed of your worldly desires! From now on, the blueberries will no longer satisfy anyone’s hunger, regardless of how many they eat! And to add to this, in autumn, before the snows fall, the leaves of the blueberry bushes shall turn a deep red. Thus, the glowing, red hills will remind the valley’s inhabitants to live in harmony with nature, and take care of the forests that protect them.”

Beripeeggi’s Longing

The little fellow lying in his mother’s arms listened attentively and calmed down visibly. This was not just because of the simple legend. His mother made the most delicious cakes out of blueberries, flour, eggs, and milk, and as long as he could remember, Peeggi had been surrounded by the delicate aroma of blueberries. And so it seemed to him that he had fully devoted himself to blueberries, and within him grew the profound desire to visit the Blueberry Woman at the Miesboden. His mother had to answer countless questions. “Where exactly is the Miesboden?” or “Do you think St. Peter would take me there?” Again and again, Peeggi begged to soon be allowed to go with her to the Miesboden, only to always be given the same answer, “My good boy, no human being has ever succeeded in entering the world of the Silvretta legends. Not because the way there would be hard to find, but standing at the entrance to that mysterious land are two incredibly strong Wildmannli guards, who ensure relentlessly that no human ever enters their realm.
“As a sign of their power, they clutch a massive club representing destruction in one hand. And in the other, they hold its counterpart, a spruce, healing with this hand the destruction the clubs have wrought in nature. Their bodies are covered all over by a fur of lichen. And they look at the world through wild eyes.”
It was hard for the little boy to imagine this invisible border into fairyland. And his desire to visit the Blueberry Woman only grew stronger. Even the villagers knew about this dream he was harbouring.
They enjoyed his droll, open manner, his spontaneous, natural spirit, and so they affectionately called him Beripeeggi, “Beri” means blueberry in the Alpine dialect. High up on the Alpeltispitz, Silverthistle, the goddess of fate sat among the snow flurries, and she, too, had taken a shine to this endearing human child. And while she observed his lively activities, her bad mood began to lift, until she happily chased away the ominous snow clouds.

Beripeeggi Trespasses the World of Legends

Years later, Beripeeggi had already been to school and learned the ABC’s of knowledge, when he again experienced a deep longing for the Blueberry Woman and the Miesboden, with its aromatic blueberries and enchanting melodies. So there he sat, looking longingly at the rugged Silvretta Mountains, and wondered how he might outsmart the two Wildmannli at the portal. One day, he saw the wild maiden Vereina walking up the valley, back towards her mountainous home in the heart of the Silvretta world of legends. He remembered exactly what his mother had once told him about this wild maiden:
A long, long time ago, an Italian nobleman named Alfonso di Beretto lived in a cave created by a landslide. Even today, this bare, not particularly inviting hideout is known as Beretta Balma, “Balma” meaning cave in his language. It was not clear how and why Beretto had appeared there. Most people claimed that he had fled from the disfavour, greed, and malice of his fellow human beings; others said that pestilence or the turmoil of war drove him into reclusion. Whatever the case may have been, he brought along his two daughters, the maidens Silvretta and Vereina. Strangely enough, very little was known about the wild maiden Silvretta. They said she gathered a lot of knowledge about nature, and that she has since been floating through the world of glaciers. Ever since, the entire mountain range has been called Silvretta. Her sister Vereina though, was altogether different. The most beautiful of the Alpine valleys was named after her and for a reason, too. The inhabitants of Monbiel greatly valued her sociable manner, even though her habits seemed rather strange. Her hair was wild and shaggy. In the village inn, she did not hesitate to put her tanned legs onto the table and scratched herself continuously, which must have been due to the fleas. It was also common knowledge that she often lived with the mountain goats high up in the maze of crags on the Fergenkegel. She drank goat’s milk there, and as a result, she had no fear of heights. However, bartering for goods remained the underlying reason for her visits to the small village. She brought healing herbs - the much coveted fat of the marmot which was used to fight rheumatism, berries of all kinds, mushrooms, and, on occasion, an impressive ibex horn. All this she traded for flour, cheese, butter, and all manners of tools needed for daily living. Another important item on her list was salt for her beloved goats - the goats could hardly wait for her to return from Monbiel to the world of legends.
One day, Beripeeggi observed how Vereina walked briskly homewards towards the Silvretta Mountains, stopping only to load young trees from the nursery across from Monbiel into her basket. She planted these every year, so enough wood would regrow for her everyday use. Beripeeggi saw how she took hold of the basket, strapped it to her back, and stalwartly marched off in the direction of the Silvretta Mountains. His hour had come. He knew that the two Wildmannli guards would allow Vereina to pass unquestioned on her way home. So he climbed up a tall mountain maple near the entrance portal and hid among the branches in the crown of the tree. When the wild maiden appeared, he was unseen as he boldly jumped onto the basket and hid between the young plants. Unaware, the guards allowed Vereina to pass. No sooner had Vereina crossed the border, than the stowaway felt secure enough. He gave way to temptation and sat on the branches of the young trees, feeling profoundly pleased about his successful prank. Far behind him, Beripeeggi saw the two unsuspecting Wildmannli. He looked around enthusiastically at the massive mountain peaks. Suddenly, he noticed two excited dogs at the edge of the path who were happily and frantically wagging their tails, welcoming him warmly, as if they had been waiting for him. As Beripeeggi looked into the dogs’ encouraging eyes, he noticed with amazement that he was able to read their facial expressions: ‘Welcome to our spiritual mountain world and to the realm of the Silvretta legends. You’re surprised that you understand our language? Didn’t you know that the language of animals and plants is not that different from the language of people?’ The wild maiden Vereina kept walking along without noticing anything. She was intent on her goal of reaching the mountain goats on the Fergenkegel. But as she huffed and puffed up the steep path, and painfully placed one leg in front of the other, she began to notice that today’s load seemed particularly heavy. She still had no idea that she was carrying a stowaway who was hidden on her back. Finally, she had to set down the basket. She carefully removed the heaviest species of wood, the beech, and placed it gently by the side. Ever since, beech trees no longer grow at higher altitudes. Soon after, her load was too heavy once more. So she removed the small number of white pines she had brought. Soon afterwards, even the numerous spruces became too heavy for her. She also laid these gently next to the basket. To this day, this is the very spot where spruce forms the upper boundary of the tree line. When she reached the top of the Fergenkegel, only larch trees, as well as a few brightly glowing lichens remained, and, under these, Beripeeggi was hiding in the basket. As the mountain goats gathered around her, Vereina whooped with joy and placed her load onto the ground. She was quite flabbergasted when Beripeeggi jumped out of the basket, hopped around, and delightedly joined her in her whoops of joy.

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