The Black Forest in Germany is known for its haunted dark fairy tales from the brothers Grimm and the magical place has more than one legend about something magical and strange happening. But how haunted is really this place?
The Black Forest in Germany is not really a single forest, but a whole forested mountain range covering a large part of the country of dark fairy tales where around 60 % of the area is covered with some form of woodland. The Black Forest or Schwarzwald in German goes from southwest in Germany, down the Rhine Valley to the west, almost reaching the border to France and Switzerland, covering over 6000 km2.
The place is mainly rural with a few large towns and many scattered little villagers around and has become a place where legends of the supernatural and fables are allowed to live between the brooding thick woodlands with miles and miles of a forestry trail.
The Most Haunted Places in the World?
The place often pops up on lists of Most Haunted Places both in Germany as well as worldwide, but what exactly makes this entire place haunted as it is known as this dark and magical place for any outsiders? Calling the entire place haunted in the strictest sense doesn’t quite cover it all as the world enchanted does, with both the good and the bad.
Read also: Check out all the haunted places around Germany: Here
The Black Forest with its ominous sounding name is said to house everything from wicked witches, hungry werewolf, beautiful nymphs and forest goblins between the dark trees. Many of the stories sound like they come from one of the Grimm brother’s fever nightmare, and a couple of the stories of the Grimm brothers actually take place in a place that looks a lot like the Schwarzwald.
Stories like Hansel and Gretel losing their way in the forest and being captured by a witch, the menacing Pied Piper leading the children away from the urban town into the wild or the Little Red Riding Hood with the wolf knocking on the door. But do they actually take place here like the tourist guides would like you to believe? Have a bite of the Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, and finish your glühwein, because many of these legends is like a super dark fairy tale.
Background of the Black Forest
Walking through the landscape of the Black Forest you will see the romantic part of Germany with stout timber farmhouses and remnants of Baroque fortification from the 17th century, especially on the mountain passes. The highest peak is the Feldberg at 1493 meters above sea level before drooping down with its deeply carved valleys and rivers like the Danube river starts and continues through Europe.
In ancient times, The Black Forest was known as Abnoba Mons after a Celtic deity, Abnoba. She was worshiped in the Black Forest and the surrounding areas and couldn’t encapsulate the spirit of The Black Forest better. She was of course a forest and river goddess, showing just how much of an importance the thick woodlands with its wispy waterfalls and evergreen meadows had for the people living there.
Historically the people living in this forest area were known for forestry and the mining of ore deposits. Today however it is tourism that is the primary industry.
It was the Romans that gave the mountain range the name The Black Forest because of the densely growth of the very dark green conifer trees.
Because of its long history, it is easy to believe like The Black Forest area has been this unchanged and wild place forever without any disturbances. However that is not the case and the area has been through many changes and has been thoroughly cultivated by the human hand.
It used to be a mixed forest until the 19th century, when the Black Forest was almost completely deforested by too much forestry. It was replanted, this time, mostly with spruce as the only type of tree. Then in the 90s, a series of windstorms, among them Hurricane Lothar in 1999, swept over the Black Forest and destroyed much of the replanted forest. Large areas were left to nature and have since grown into a natural mixed forest again, showing how nature always finds a way.
Myths and Legends of Schwarzwald
Deep and dark forest landscapes create mysteries and legends and Schwarzwald is no exception. Legend has it that the forest area is haunted by werewolves and witches and in some cases, the devil himself.
Read more about the haunted forests around the world: Here
There are also stories about a headless horseman riding on a great white steed, a mythical motif we see in many instances in countless ghost stories and written horror like the famous Sleepy Hollow for example.
We can also find dark fairy tales of an evil king who kidnaps women to take them to his magical underwater lair where he lives among the nymphs.
The Black Forest is not short of stories that tell about the dangers of the wild and what will happen to those that step outside from the path. And none more of them than what we can find in the Grimm brothers collected stories. But did the brothers really find some of the stories among the dark pine cone trees?
The Stories of The Brothers Grimm
This is a place where magic is everyday, the birthplace of Cuckoo Clocks ticking away on walls, fairy tale is real life and the people use tarot cards as playing cards. The Black Forest is also were most people connect the often bizarre and dark fairy tales of the Grimm brothers, and many of them can be traced back to the area.
Brothers Grimm set many of their most scariest folk tales to the Black Forest as this was one of the places where they collected them throughout Germany. The brothers didn’t actually write the fairy tales themselves though. The stories themselves had been told orally for ages locally, they simply put them down to paper.
Like Hansel and Gretel’s encounter with the witch were well suited as the place had a reputation for witches and witchcraft long before any of these tales were written down. Fairy Tales like Rapunzel and Sleeping Beauty are also said to have been set inside of the Black Forest. But is this true?
How accurate it is though is hard to say, as many of the stories are also said to be from northern part of Germany, especially around Hesse. Although the fairy tales doesn’t really have a super specific location attached to them, and many are reworks of tales that have been told all over the place, locating these fairy tales to this specific mountain range is difficult.
Although the marketing of the tourism in the Black Forest will tell you another story, because many parts of the area really fits perfectly for the more darker tales.
If you are looking for a fairy tale which explicitly plays in the Black Forest is the more under the radar fairy tale called “Heart of Stone” by Wilhelm Hauff.
The Modern Myth of Der Grossmann
There is a particular creature that shows up today on many listicles online about the Black Forest being one of Germany’s most haunted places. This is the story of Der Grossmann and it looks like it originated online together with the urban legend of Slenderman, not in the forest as a fairy tale to keep children out from the dark forest.
Der Grossmann tells of a tall and ugly man, badly disfigured with bulging eyes and too many arms. He is associated with woodcuts carved in the 1700s by an unknown artist in Germany and has as of today a pretty extensive backstory. According to ‘local legend’ bad children were sent into the forest, and they had to confess their sins to der Grossman. It is said that the worst children never came out from the forest again.
This particular story looks like it didn’t originate in the depth of the Black Forest because all information about it comes from articles discussing the historical aspects of the urban legend, the slender man. And in no place does the old legends from Germany mention a creature like this.
Even though it isn’t necessarily an old folk tale, the story is a pretty good one.
Whether a modern ghost story from one of the small towns, or an ancient legend that over time turned into one of the darker fairy tales, the Black Forest holds the macabre and haunted together with the whimsical and magical.
It has and probably will continue to draw people that wish to disappear in between the trees and off the beaten path that leads into the wild.
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