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Sennentuntschi: A dark legend from the Alps

Sennentuntschi: A dark legend from the Alps

In the Alpine region, where the mountains make people seem small and the mist tells stories, we find a wealth of legends and myths that reveal the heart and soul of the people who live there. One such legend is that of the Sennentuntschi, a mysterious and eerie tale that inspires fascination and fear at the same time. In this comprehensive analysis, we will take a closer look at this dark legend, which is widespread from the Bernese Alps to Carinthia, from Liechtenstein to Upper Bavaria and in Styria.

The legend of the Sennentuntschi, also known as Hausäli or Sennpoppa (Sennpuppa), is about the artificial creation of a female being by the lonely shepherds and alpine dairymen in the high Alps. The story follows how this figure, created out of boredom, develops a life of its own and eventually plunges its creators into a nightmare.

These shepherds and alpine dairymen who worked in the Alps were mostly men, secluded from civilization and isolated in the harsh mountain landscape. To escape their loneliness and boredom, they created a female doll. They fed this doll for fun, talked to it and even took it to bed with them. But towards the end of the alpine descent, the harmless game turns into a nightmare: the doll comes alive and starts talking.

The doll that has come to life, now a being with its own consciousness, demands revenge for the misdeeds committed against it by the shepherds. The legend tells that the Sennentuntschi forces one of the shepherds to stay with her and pulls the skin off his body, a gruesome punishment for the ungodly deed of her creation and the unholy contact with her.

The saga of Sennentuntschi can be compared to the ancient story of Pygmalion, in which a self-created image also gains an existence of its own. This original motif reflects a general human trait that psychology calls the "Pygmalion effect": the tendency to attribute life and experience to a creature that resembles man in stature and behavior.

The gruesome story of the Sennentuntschi sheds light on the deep-seated fears and fantasies that lived in the isolated Alpine regions. The legend probably originated from the ideas about the isolated life of the alpine herdsmen during the summer months and may also contain religious elements. The maltreated alpine dairyman could be a figure to atone for the sacrilege of creating and animating the doll and handling it.

Over time, the Sennentuntschi became a metaphor for an artifice or product created out of desperation, with which decent people should not concern themselves. It is a reminder of the consequences of overstepping natural boundaries and a reminder that every creation, even an artificial one, must be treated with respect and dignity.

The legend of Sennentuntschi remains one of the best known and most fascinating legends of the Alpine region. It embodies the dark side of human nature, the ability to create out of boredom and loneliness creations that transcend us and that we ultimately cannot control. It is a reflection of the fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable and a grim warning of the dangers of exaggeration and godlessness.