Demons On the Alp?
This exhibit was found in 1978 in an Alpine cabin („Maiensäss“) in the Calanca Valley. This wooden figurine, the size of a child’s doll, is partly wrapped in cloth and painted brown. However, the fact that it has real human hair on its head, with clearly fashioned sexual characteristics, as well as its facial expression and opened mouth does not at all suggest this merely to be a child’s doll. Rather, one is reminded of the eerie creature of the so-called „Sennentuntschi“. In this and similar stories, Alpine herdsmen created an artificial feminine dummy and brought it to life in order to abuse it. In the end, the terrible puppet takes murderous revenge on its creators.
The motive of the Sennentuntschi and other Alpine legends do not hail from some long lost time but are rather based on literary traditions. Their roots may go back to the Middle Ages, but it was mostly in the 19th and 20th centuries that such legends were recorded. The background to these stories is really found in the daily lives of the local people: their work and conflicts, fears and instincts, needs and hopes. All combined, they formed fertile soil for legends about encounters with supernatural beings like ghosts, witches or devils. The stories deal with good and evil, justice and injustice, guilt and punishment. Most of these legends end unhappily and many have a strongly educational character, influenced by Christian moral values.
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