Sagas, myths and legends continue to fascinate us to this day – so it’s no wonder that the adult education center in Vaterstetten has now chosen them as the main topic for the next semester. One of the people who is very familiar with these often very old stories is Thomas Warg, district local curator and head of the city guide. In the interview, the historian explains what inspires the creation of such stories, why people still love them today and how to get to their true core.
When reading the announcement of your lecture, could the impression arise that the district of Ebersberg is particularly rich in myths, sagas and legends…?
Yes, there are an incredible number of them here – but this is by no means an isolated case, it’s actually the case everywhere. The only difference is that we intensively collect and research these stories in Ebersberg.
We – that are?
Me and my large team of city guides. We all have shelves full of books at home and are constantly on the lookout for new legends, written sources and eyewitnesses. Again and again we meet old people and let them tell us about the good old days, because that is very important for the preservation of local history.
But don’t regional features like a forest or a monastery inspire the formation of legends?
Yes, of course, such a forest is creepy, especially at night, and crossing it used to be dangerous. You can get ideas about what could have happened there. That’s why there are countless legends about the forest, from the will-o’-the-wisps of deceased souls to a headless horseman to poacher tales. And a monastery like the one in Ebersberg, for example, suggests that there might have been medieval witch hunts here. According to our findings, however, it was not intensive here, only a few times it was pointed out: A suspicious woman from Wind, a hamlet near Markt Schwaben, was to be tortured in the Falkenturm in Munich – which would certainly have resulted in widespread denunciations. But before it could get that far, she took her own life.
For what purpose did people invent or tell sagas and legends?
As bad as it is: In the past, it was all about naming those responsible for famines, epidemics or wars. to find explanations for the inexplicable. That is why, for example, there are countless legends surrounding the 30-year war. But even today, in our supposedly enlightened world, there is a desire for horror and a great longing for the supernatural in the broadest sense. People read horoscopes, wear a talisman, are afraid of Friday the 13th. The need to understand the world, to be able to see the future and to invoke luck: all this is as relevant as ever. And we don’t want to destroy this magic with our guided tours.
Does that mean that the old myths are still of interest today?
Yes, absolutely, we see that in our guided tours. Appointments on such topics are not only booked up very quickly for Halloween and Walpurgis. Above all, children and thriller fans run into our booth, so to speak – although it is of course difficult to serve these two groups equally in a joint tour. For some, the horror of the “Blair Witch Project” is just beginning, others like to dress up as Harry Potter, but then just want to be a little scared. In this respect, it is better to separate children and adults here.
So your tours don’t follow a rigid concept, but are each individually tailored to the audience?
It is exactly like that. Depending on your needs, we shift the scary factor up or down a gear. Because, first of all, you can tell one and the same legend either way, and we also have so many of them in stock that we can spontaneously choose a different one at any time.
You write: “Myths, sagas and legends are never entirely true, but they are never entirely wrong either.” How and how often can the true core be scientifically distilled out?
As? Thanks to the historians and the archaeologists. But you only get real results from time to time, depending on the sources. Some things remain inexplicable. You have to know that many stories change, there are different variants, because every narrator wants to make them a little more beautiful. There are also several variants of the legend of the white woman in the forest . They all state that a ruthless accident driver left the woman dying in the forest and that she is now – as a hitchhiker – looking for her killer. But sometimes not only she but also her child died.
And what have you found out so far about the veracity of this famous tale?
We know that it probably didn’t come into being until the mid-1970s. None of the older forest rangers or forest workers had heard of her before. In addition, this accident probably didn’t really happen, at least we haven’t found any evidence of it so far. And: The same story is rampant in Canada – but ours is older.
As a historian, what sources do you use when researching legends?
To many, of course. However, one must approach the sources critically, the older it is, the more. If there is talk of 10,000 horses somewhere, one can only assume that there were many. The number itself is mostly irrelevant. For the Ebersberg stories, for example, there is a book by a pastor named Franz Xaver Paulhuber from 1847 and a collection from 1972: “The most beautiful legends from the east of Munich”. But our greatest treasure is the chronicle of the Ebersberg monks, it is a unique source and has already been very well researched. This is a fairly good way of working out scientifically what is true and what is not.
For example the story that Count Sieghart once founded Ebersberg because he wanted to put an end to a devilish boar?
Yes, exactly. Until then, this count had his seat in Sempt, i.e. north of the forest. In this he is said to have encountered a huge boar while hunting – without being able to kill it. So wise hermits whispered to him that we were dealing with the living creature here – and that he should destroy the animal’s cave and build a church and a castle in its place. This is the only way to break the evil spell. A wonderful founding myth. In reality, however, the Count von Sempt’s move to Ebersberg had purely pragmatic, economic reasons. That means: the legend is often much more beautiful than the truth.
What is your personal favorite legend?
Well, actually, myths often tell of enchanted places that need to be sought and found, such as Atlantis or Eldorado. But with us it’s the other way around: We have a mysterious place, but no story about it – at least not yet. We’re talking about the centuries-old fountain in the middle of the Ebersberg Forest , that’s a fact. But who built this when and for whom: That is my favorite story. Here we are in the middle of the detective work.
Some legends are also about untraceable treasures…
That’s right, on the Schlossberg near Aßling, for example, treasure diggers from Munich were busy trying to find gold and were allegedly prevented from doing so by ghosts. The corresponding castle stables can still be seen. And in the Ebersberg monastery, too, a box with valuables is said to have been hidden somewhere, or to be more precise, walled in. But nobody knows where exactly. So the search goes on.
Lecture at the adult education center in Vaterstetten : Thomas Warg will speak on Wednesday, October 12, at 7.30 p.m. in the education center, Baldhamer Straße 39 (concert hall) about “Says, myths and legends in the area around the Ebersberger Forst”. Admission is free, but advance registration is requested. The lecture can also be followed online. Guided tours can be booked by sending an email to email@example.com .