“A d’eira üna volta …” With the Romansh words for “Once upon a time…”, local storytellers would take their enchanted listeners on a journey into bygone ages and a world of myths and legends. The Diavolezza and the Munt Pers have also given rise to various mysterious tales including the two best-known, which we retell here.
Once upon a time there lived a young herdsman who spent the summers up on a magnificent alpine pasture, whose lush meadows lay where the Pers Glacier and Morteratsch Glacier meet today. The handsome lad’s name was Aratsch. One day, he fell in love with Annetta, the daughter of a wealthy Pontresina farmer, and she, too, gave him her heart. But her parents refused his request for marriage: they said their beautiful daughter deserved a prosperous man for a husband rather than a poor dairyman. However, if Aratsch were to become well-off, they would consider his request once again. The young couple took sad leave of one another and Aratsch travelled abroad as a soldier: after all, quite a few men from the Engadin had previously made a name for themselves, and a fortune, too, in military service. And so it was that after a few years, he returned as a captain and called at the house of Annetta’s parents – only to find his beloved laid out on her deathbed. She had died of a broken heart, and lay there, pale and silent, in front of the horrified Aratsch. Racked with grief, he rushed out, jumped on his horse and galloped up to the alpine pasture where they had once enjoyed such happy times. But instead of stopping, he continued climbing higher still as far as the glacier, urged his faithful steed on one last time – until a dark crevasse swallowed up horse and rider. They were never seen again.
Back then, an old dairyman called Barba Gian was spending the summers up on the alpine pastures, and from that time he started hearing strange sounds at night from the milk cellar. It was as if someone was moving around in the milk vat as a woman’s voice gently wailed: “Mort Aratsch, Mort Aratsch!” – which means “Aratsch is dead!” Indeed, it was Annetta’s ghost, still restless following the death of her lover. It so happened that from then on, the cows produced more milk, richer in fat; when the time came for Gian to hand over to his successor, he recommended him to leave the ghost in peace. But the new dairyman was a hard-hearted man and drove away Annetta’s poor soul with a terrible curse.
From then on, the Morteratsch Glacier advanced steadily, and soon the great river of ice had buried the alpine pastures and the whole side valley until high up the slopes of the neighbouring mountain, which ever since has been known as the Munt Pers. Only the Isla Persa (the “lost island”) that lies between the two glaciers, and the Boval SAC mountain hut opposite, serve as a reminder of the once fertile pastures here.
Once upon a time there was a beautiful mountain fairy who lived high up between Chapütschöl and the Munt Pers. Rocky pinnacles and fields of scree surrounded her high stronghold, but beyond them lay beautiful meadows. Alpine flowers shimmered in the bright sunshine that sparkled on the surface of the sapphire-blue lake as agile chamois, cackling grouse and inquisitive snow hares cavorted on the lush pastures. Occasionally the beguiling creature left her refuge to enjoy a refreshing dip in the lake. If ever hunters spotted her as she bathed, they would be enchanted and follow the fairy – or rather, the beautiful she-devil (La Diavolezza) – across the rocky slopes to her castle… never to be seen again! As a result, the lake is still known to this day as the “Lej da Diavolezza”.