Christmastime in the Land of the Belsnickel by Matthew Burns

 

I came across this Belsnickel story on the Appalachian Lifestyles blog by Matthew Burns. He was gracious enough to grant me permission to repost it here. Enjoy.

Christmastime in the Land of the Belsnickel

There is a land
Of wilderness glades, and craggy cliffs,
Of hidden coves and ancient forests.
Home of the Belsnickel.

Among this dark forest
Under the roots of a great oak tree
There is a limestone cavern
That is completely hidden from view.

In this dank cavern, Belsnickel makes his home,
He is hairy and covered in animal pelts,
With moss in his hair and lichens on his skin.
He lives in the cave, with his loyal servant Rupert.

Rupert is donned in the same manner as Belsnickel,
Only he is even dirtier,
Blackened from the soot of many fires
And smudged with the grease of many meals.

Every year, when it gets to be about this time of year.
When the leaves have been shed, the winter winds start to howl,
And the forest creatures prepare for winter in their own way.
Belsnickel and Rupert start plotting….

Plotting mischief and mayhem, of wreaking havoc
On the intruders who live in their valley.
They regale in events of seasons past, when they scared cattle,
Carried away children, and spread fear throughout the countryside.

A favorite pastime of Belsnickel and Rupert is tossing dried leaves and moss.
Down the chimneys of the valley homesteads,
Causing flue fires that sometimes engulf the home.
And laugh as the intruders frantically try to save their belongings.

Belsnickel has also been known to feed wild onions to the dairy cows,
So their milk will taste of onions and will be unfit for use by the intruders.
But most of all, Belsnickel and Rupert await Christmas Eve.
When everyone is indoors, reveling in the merriment of the season.

That is when Belsnickel becomes most embittered for being disturbed.
He loves the Winter Solstice, but can’t even bay at the moon,
Without the intruders hunting him with their ferocious hounds.
Belsnickel reckons that if he can’t celebrate, neither will they.

Late in the night, he and Rupert go from house to house,
Prying open the windows and breaking down doors.
Seeking vengeance they will yank children from their slumber,
And beat them with switches. Rupert hopes to toss a few in his sack, as well.

At these thoughts, pure joy shows on the face of Belsnickel and Rupert,
Primitive chuckles erupt from Ruperts snaggled mouth.
They are both anxious for night to fall,
And to begin their night of havoc.

Hours later, the forest is again quiet and Belsnickel and Rupert,
Having returned to their lair, await morning.
Fulfilled with their accomplishments, they celebrate.
They are the protectors of the forest, and without them, all would be lost.

In the valley, the bewildered & fearful intruders tell their children,
“Der Belsnickel punishes you for being bad. Next year you must be better.”
Through the giant roots of the oak tree, Belsnickel glances at the moon,
And breaks into a sorrowful and celebratory howl.

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