|One day, a Count, out on a hunt, rode through the Nahe river valley when he came upon a scraggy mountain, shining red in the sunlight, the sides reaching almost straight up, seemingly touching the sky. He thought to himself, what a splendid place this would be for a castle, but he could think of no way this would he humanly possible. Only the devil himself could build a castle upon this magnificent red rock!
He had barely finished the thought when close by, out of the bushes, crawled ... something. A scary creature indeed, rusty-red, neither human nor animal, sporting huge batwings with a beak like a raven. It was none other than the Devil himself! He was willing to build this castle for the Count, he said, overnight even ... but there would be a price: The first soul that looked out of a castle window would be his to take to hell, lost for all eternity.
At that moment, this sounded pretty good to the Count, and he agreed. But as he made his way home, he started to think about what he had done, soon regretting his rash decision. He told no-one and by next morning, he hoped it had all been a bad dream.
No such luck. Next to his breakfast bowl lay a brand-new key. Moreover, word came that overnight, a magnificent castle had appeared upon the red rock, reflecting in the sun like a crown. His wife urged him to go check it out, so finally, he told her the truth about the castle and the cost should they ever plan to occupy the building. Many weeks passed as they tried to figure out what to do. Finally, the Countess had an idea.
So it came to be that one morning, the Count and his retinue rode down into the Nahe valley. As the procession neared the castle, they could already see the devil, at the highest peek, eager for his prize. The Count bade everyone to dismount and on foot they went on, except for the Countess who was riding on a donkey. They were led by a chaplain carrying a crucifix. The devil saw this; he sharpened his claws and decided that crucifix or no crucifix, that preacherman's soul was going to be his.
As the procession reached the safety of the castle walls, out of sight to the devil, the Countess was lifted from the donkey, whereupon she bade the chaplain to give her his grey, hooded robe. This robe was then pulled over the donkey, the hood hiding his head and large ears. Then the animal was led to the window.
As soon as the devil saw the grey hood, he swooped down and before you know it, he was in the air again, something large and grey dangling from his talons. At that moment, the terrified donkey let out a cry as could not have emerged from a human throat. By the sound of it, Satan recognised the nature of the soul he was carrying. He opened his claws and with a resounding splash, the animal disappeared into the Nahe river. The devil, however, sped off in a huge yellow cloud reeking of phosphorus and pitch; it would take weeks for the stink to disappear from the valley.
And so the Count and his court made themselves at home in the castle.
|A picture of the real Castle Rheingrafenstein, almost invisible atop the craggy mountain, just about lends credence to the story.|