The Legend of Seelaus Hut: where the names comes from

It is said that many moons ago a poor farmer called Joch used to live in the spot where Hotel Seelaus on the Seiser Alm stands today. Joch was an unlucky fellow: everything he touched went wrong.

He was sitting in the hut one evening and had nothing left to eat when the door suddenly opened and a strange man in high riding boots and grass-green clothes with a large black grouse feather on his pointed hat entered. The farmer welcomed the stranger but told him straight away that he didn’t have anything to eat. Thereupon the stranger took some ham, bread and several bottles of wine out of a sack and invited the farmer to eat with him.

The two of them chatted and Joch complained to the stranger that he was so poor and had to do without so much. The stranger reached into his bag and pulled out dozens of ducats. “Good heavens! So much money!” called out the farmer in amazement. He had barely uttered the words “Good heavens” when the stranger let out a terrible scream as two horns sprouted on his forehead as the stranger was in fact the devil. The farmer was of course frightened at this sight but he had already drunk the devil’s wine and therefore he carried on the conversation. Once Joch was drunk, the devil pulled out a contract and forced the farmer to sign it. He placed 100 ducats on the table and left. In the contract it stated that the farmer must pay back the money in five years otherwise the devil would take him and his soul would be lost. Joch only realized what he had signed the next morning when he was sober again.

The farmer built a beautiful hut and bought cattle. The devil reappeared on the dot after five years. Joch could not give him the money back, whereupon the devil announced that he would return in five years to take Joch’s soul. The years passed so quickly and the farmer was very troubled. Once, when he was chopping wood in the forest, his axe got lost. He looked all around him and caught sight of a “Nörgele” mountain gnome quickly slipping behind the nearest tree stump with the axe in his hand. It is rumored that these mountain gnomes are very clever and always find a way to help themselves anywhere; which is why Joch asked why the “Nörgele” needed his axe. The gnome answered: “We always find a way to help ourselves but there are big people who let themselves be led by the devil and cannot find a way out any more.” The farmer grumbled: “You couldn’t find a way out either.” But the gnome explained to him that the devil is very forgetful.

“Whenever he fetches a soul from a house, he writes the words “Seel’ aus” (Soul gone) over the front door. He does this so he doesn’t accidentally come to the house again the following night. However, he always writes these words in handwriting that can only be read by dwarves and lucky fellows.” The dwarf promised to help Joch if he would let him keep his axe. Joch accepted the offer.

The two of them went to the hut, the dwarf took a piece of coal from the stove and wrote “Seel‘ aus” on the wooden planks. In the evening, the dwarf stood behind the front door and spied out of the keyhole. Dead on midnight the devil appeared and he was already looking forward to the new soul. The dwarf called through the keyhole: “You already took a soul from here yesterday, so spare us today.” The devil did not initially want to believe that he had made a mistake but then he saw the words “Seel‘ aus” and disappeared. The farmer and dwarf indulged pleasurably together afterwards before the little one hopped off singing with the axe in his hand.

In his great joy the farmer forgot to delete the two words the next morning, so that the people passing, some of whom were lucky fellows, saw and read those words. This is how the name came about and the hut is still called “Seelaus Hut” today.

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