The Dancers of Ramersdorf: To the day of their death they remained helpless idiots

At Ramersdorf every Sunday afternoon the lads and lasses of the hamlet gathered on the village green and danced gaily through the sunny hours. But wild prophecies of the coming end of the world, when the year 1000 should break, were spreading throughout the countryside, and the spirit of fear haunted the people, so that music died away from their hearts and there was no more dancing on the village green. Instead they spent the hours praying in the church for divine mercy, and the Abbot of Löwenburg was well pleased.

The dreaded year came and went, yet the world had not ceased; the sun still rose and set, life went on just the same. So fear passed from the hearts of the people, and because they were happy again the young folk once more assembled to dance the Sundays away on the village green. But the abbot was wroth at this. When the music began he appeared among the villagers, commanding them to cease from their revels and bethink themselves of the House of God. But the lads and lasses laughed, and the music went on as they footed it gaily. Then the abbot was angered; he raised his hands to heaven and cursed the thoughtless crowd, condemning the villagers to dance there unceasingly for a year and a day.

As they heard the dreadful words the young folk tried to stop, but their feet must needs go on to the endless music. Faster and faster in giddy round they went, day and night, rain and shine, throughout the changing seasons, until the last hours of the extra day, when they fell in a senseless heap in the hollow worn by their unresting feet. When they awoke to consciousness all reason had passed from them. To the day of their death they remained helpless idiots. Henceforth the village green was deserted; no more were seen the lads and lasses dancing there on the Sabbath day.

(Lewis Spence: Hero Tales and Legends of the Rhine, London; New York: 1915)


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