Bad Fairy Case File #306: The Rübezahl

Offenses: vengeance, trickery, weather manipulator. 

Description: giant, moody. 

Alias: Number Nip, Ribicinia, Ruebezahl, Master Johannes.

Provenance: German folklore from the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Though frequently portrayed as friendly and helpful, the Rübezahl’s stubbornness, protectiveness, and vanity cause him to be fiercely vengeful. The Rübezahl is a master of disguise, but he is often a giant, unkempt man with very green eyes. He dwells in mountains and is respectful of the earth, sometimes keeping a garden. Despite his love for and proficiency with the land and animals, he will often use these powers to cause natural disasters in the name of seeking revenge against humans who have hurt or betrayed him.

In many tales, he holds special powers, including being able to control weather and cause natural disasters. His first appearance in literature was in 1565 a poem by Franz von Koeckritz called Ribicinia.

Johann Prätorius (originally named Hans Schultze) (1630-1680) was also a catalyst for the Rübezahl legend, having written over 250 stories based on the creature. Many of his stories were based on common folklore motifs, such as magical bodily transformation and turning objects into gold.

The Rübezahl has been of particular interest to German composers, who have featured him in a number of operas and songs, such as August Conradi’s “Giant Mountains,” Carl Maria von Weber’s overture, “Rübezahl,” and Hans Sommer’s “Giant Mountains and the bagpipers of Neisse,” which was later renamed, “The Ruler of the Spirits”. The Rübezahl is a musician himself – he plays string instruments, most often a storm harp.

More about the Rübezahl:

  • An art museum named for this mountain creature, the Rübezahl Museum, opened in Gorlitz, Germany in 2005. The museum provides artistic and literary context supporting the legend of the Rübezahl.
  • Pictured below are two works based on the Rübezahl by deviantART artists. Follow the links for specific artist information. From left:
    Cornelius Likantrop, “Rubezahl,” drawing
    Hauke Vagt, “Good Morning Ruebezahl,” digital illustration