The Schnanner Drajer

Life at the end of the Schanner Gorge was a constantly harsh and tedious undertaking, with every moment of happiness first involving real hard graft. Even today, many dream of simplifying the drudgery and toils of everyday life and wish they had only the merest fraction of the skills which the Schnanner Drajer seemed to possess in abundance:

In ancient times, a sorcerer called the „Schnanner Drajer“,who was known and feared throughout the area, lived here in Schann. Born in this village, he spent his childhood and visited school in Schnann, where he went astray to such an extent that he made a pact with the Devil, while another school colleague became a revered priest.

The following accounts are told about the magical powers of this sorcerer:

A farmer from Landeck herded an aggressive breeding bull up to the “Alpe” (alpine summer grazing pastures) in Verwall, which was so wild that it constantly attacked the shepherds and milkmaids, who were often lucky to survive the ordeal. News filtered down from the Alpe that the farmer should come and get his bull, or the beast would be shot. The farmer set out and met the Drajer in Schann, who asked him about his business. As the sorcerer heard of the wild bull he laughed out loud, purchased the bull from the exasperated farmer and sent a boy up to the Alpe to bring the animal back. The shepherds believed the boy would be trampled to death by the wild bull, as not even they were able to get it under control. As the boy approached the bull, it calmed immediately, was as docile as a lamb and followed the boy back to the Drajer’s stable.

A number of farmers were having great difficulty transporting a huge larch trunk down from the “Hochwalde” (high forest). They needed the long trunk to build a bridge over the River Rosanna, so there was no way they could shorten it. Despite all precautions, the tree slipped over the icy wood ream and down into a ravine. Even by combining forces, they were unable to budge the tree by even an inch. One of the men involved was a master wood turner, under whom Drajer was serving an apprenticeship. As it became apparent that there was nothing more they could do, he said: „If only my apprentice were here, he would know how to get this larch trunk back on the right track.“ The boy was sent for. When he arrived he only asked where they wanted the tree trunk to be put, after which he picked it up, placed it on his shoulders and carried it up the steep hill to its rightful position. Everybody was shocked and taken aback by the apprentice and decided to keep out of the creepy sorcerer’s way in future.

On another occasion, some carpenters were supposed to be building a bridge but the colossal larch logs with which it was to be made from, were too short. Good advice was dear, and the workers speculated back and forth about what to do. To piece them would cost time and money, and the strength of the bridge would suffer. Fortunately, the Drajer was passing, who heard the carpenters’ problems and offered to help. He grabbed the too short trunks with his strong hands and stretched each one a few centimetres, so that all were amply long enough. The carpenters, who had chills sent down their spines by the the Schnanner Drajer’s exploits, were able to easily complete the bridge. (According to Rudolf Kathrein, this occurred during building of the bridge over the Rosanna in Strengen. Heimat Flirsch, page 153)

Another time, the farmers of Schnann had divided up a forest, in which each farmer was eager to fell his wood and get it home via the river. Only Drajer had his wood felled and left it untouched on the ground, jeering at the farmers when they reproached him. He had his own special form of transport:

One evening, he left his house and took a whip into the forest. He cracked the whip over his logs a number of times and in an instant, they flew like a flock of geese back to his hut.

Yet times of change were coming for the Drajer. Every year he went to the Stanz parish festival, not to fulfil any religious duties, but to play bowls and amuse himself. The owner of the inn had often banned him from the house and locked his doors during mass, only to find the Drajer sitting comfortably next to the stove on his return. One year, his old school colleague, the widely respected priest also returned to Stanz Fair to officiate at high mass and visit his old school colleague, about whom he had heard a number of strange things. He started to talk to him and a ray of divine grace fell into the soul of the sorcerer. The Drajer came to himself, renounced his evil life and ended his days as a hermit, living in strict penance in the solitude of the forest.

The Schnanner Drajer became gravely ill and lay helpless in his bed. Nothing was able to ease his agony. As his body was wreaked by painful cramps, he called his son, gave him the spell book and told him to throw it in the Rosanna River. The son took it away, but thought the precious magic book may still be of some use to him. He could benefit from it just as his father had. So he hid it in a safe place and returned to his father’s sick bed. „Did you throw the book in the water?“ cried the dying man to the boy. „Yes“, he answered. „What happened to the water, which way did it flow?“ asked the sick man. „Downwards, as usual“, lied the son. „Then you didn’t throw it in“, said the stricken old man. With a pleading voice he now begged his son to throw the book in the water so he could finally be released. The son realised that he could not lie to his father any longer and felt compassion for him. He retrieved the book from its hiding place, thought for a while, before throwing it close to the banks of the Rosanna. And look! The water turned bloody red, dammed up and started to flow back upstream. Shocked, he returned to his father and told him that the water had turned blood red and flowed back upstream. „Then it is right“, answered the old man with a satisfied look on his face, „I can die now.“ Almost immediately, the Drajer collapsed and died.