THE DEVIL’S SLABS IN GALTÜR

Paznaun is a region full of history and wild stories about clever people, visionary deeds, good and bad figures – and the devil is normally never far away. At least not in the legends. He’s haunting Galtür today, gathering in a lost soul.

Many, many years ago, two farmers in Galtür were fighting over a lovely, lush meadow. They each claimed to be the owner, and as neither of them was willing to give in, the local village community, as the owner of the neighbouring meadows, stepped in to arbitrate the dispute. The clever community leader wanted to solve the problem with a competition: both farmers should stand on a rock above the meadow and throw down a ring from above. The meadow would belong to the one who could throw the ring the furthest. And the village went further, too: if the ring was thrown beyond the disputed meadow, then the victor should also be granted the part of the other meadows the ring had flown over. But if the ring didn’t reach the meadow at all, then the meadow would belong to the village.

Both farmers agreed. But one of them didn’t play fairly. He called on the devil for help, and entered into an evil pact with him.

So when the day of the competition arrived and both farmers climbed up onto the rock with the arbitrator, they were truly amazed. The ring they were supposed to hurl down weighed several tonnes – of that the devil had made sure. One of the farmers couldn’t even lift up the ring. The other, however, picked it up and threw it. He threw it so far that it flew not just across the meadow, but also over all the neighbouring village meadows.

The defeated farmer and the village arbitrator were stunned, but the farmer who had made a deal with the devil rubbed his hands together in glee. He had become immensely rich at a single stroke.

But he didn’t have long to enjoy his victory. Like everyone who makes a pact with the devil, he soon became miserable and gloomy, too. He grew lonely, lost all his friends, and suddenly suffered all the bad luck in the world. When a huge storm broke over Galtür a few months after the competition, a bolt of lightning struck his farm. Everything went up in flames, and when the neighbours came to help the farmer, they just saw how the devil picked the farmer up by the collar, rose into the flames and took him away, never to be seen again.

When the storm was over, you could see that not only was the farmer’s house destroyed, but also his meadows. And where the farmer had lived and ploughed there now stood, suddenly, huge slabs of stone, making the fields and meadows completely unusable.

Photo: Vorarlberg State Library, Risch-Lau collection