• Stifter Statue in Linz

    Adalbert Stifter and Peter Rosegger: Literature between Snow and Ice

    Adalbert Stifter and Peter Rosegger’s stories focus on people experiencing the beauty and the challenges of winter in the Alps. The natural phenomena of the coldest season and their effects on the human psyche are motifs both writers were fascinated with.

    Stifter Fotografie


    Adalbert Stifter's „Rock Crystal“

    The story “Bergkristall” (“Rock Crystal”) by Adalbert Stifter is a masterpiece chronicling the hostile yet fascinating snow and ice landscapes of the Alps in the 1800s. It tells of the fate of two children who lose their way in the dense snowfall on a Christmas Eve in high Alpine territory. Their path leads them across the Gars, a snowy mountain with caves and crevasses. The two end up having to spend Christmas Eve under open skies, cold and scared. They are rescued the next day by the villagers who bring them back home. 

    The story is more than just a Christmas story. Its outstanding descriptions of nature follow Stifter’s “gentle law,” which ranks nature’s will above that of humans, whereby the “the magnificent is no more important than the minuscule, the violent no more than the peaceful.”

    Stifter Statue in Linz

    The Signs of Nature

    Salzkammergut, Literary Role Model

    Stifter set his story in two fictional villages which are separated by a mountain. The two siblings Konrad and Sanna have to pass the mountain on Christmas Eve to get to their home. It is not hard to guess that Stifter had Hallstatt and Gosau in Upper Austria’s Salzkammergut in mind when he created these fictional locations. 

    When you visit the villages at the base of the Dachstein mountain in winter, you recognize Stifter’s archaic nature descriptions in the bizarre rock formations, in the “steep walls, covered with a white frost, and like a varnish, glazed with the thinnest ice …“ The children’s hike from their grandmother’s house back to their parents in the opposite valley becomes a dizzying odyssey, leading through a menacing landscape of ice which Stifter describes as “singular white darkness.”

    The monumental happens as simply as the trickle of water, the streaming of air or the growing of wheat.

    Stifter Fotografie
    Adalbert Stifter (1805-1868), österreichischer Schriftsteller

    Stifters Friendship with the Naturalist Simony

    • Adalbert Stifter, who was born in the Böhmerwald, was heavily influenced by the research of alpinist and geographer Friedrich Simony. The mountaineer who first accessed the mountain region in the Salzkammergut, published the accounts of his expeditions to the glaciers of the Dachstein mountain. When Simony charted the vast area in1843, he made his “base camp” exactly where today mountaineers find refuge in the Simony-Mountain-Hut at the foot of the Hallstatt glacier. In 1845, Adalbert Stifter travelled to Hallstatt with his wife and went on a hike with Simony to the nearby Echerntal near Hallstatt in Upper Austria.

    • On their tour, the men met two children who mentioned that they found refuge from a storm in a nearby cave. The anecdote might have inspired the final structure for the “Rock Crystal” narrative. In the literary pendant to this event, Conrad and Sanna, the boy and his sister, also seek shelter under a roof of rock and warm themselves with the coffee their grandmother has given them to bring home to their parents. At night, the children hear the creaking of the ice and observe northern lights in the night sky, a natural spectacle that keeps them awake and safe from certain death.

    • In the early morning, they continue on their way and soon see the warm torchlights of a search party. Men from both villages had started a joint rescue mission, and upon hearing the children’s cries, were able to bring them back safely to their parents.

      The successful rescue leads to a reconciliation of people on both sides of the mountain, removing differences between villagers who were used to viewing each other as strangers before. Finally, the Christmas spirit sets in.

    Winter magic, Styrian thermal region, Vulkanland region

    Peter Rosegger’s Magical Winter Wonderland

    Christmas in the Waldheimat

    Through the eyes of a child, Peter Rosegger (1843-1918) recounts the beauty and the hardships of winter. Having grown up on a farm in the mountains of Styria - the poet will later call it his “Waldheimat” (forest home) - he became one of the most celebrated writers of the German-speaking world around the turn of the last century. Especially his three-volume story collection “Als ich noch ein Waldbauernbub war,“ published between 1900 and 1902, became a bestseller. 

    In the age of industrialisation, Rosegger’s stories met the yearning for authentic village life and a positive counterbalance to the hectic machinations of the big cities. The genre “Heimatroman” was born. Yet, Rosegger cannot be regarded as a literary representative of idealistic, bucolic kitsch. He chronicled deprivation, poverty and the stark imbalance between wealthy landowners and the needy.

    •                         Winter landscape on the Schöckl in Styria
    •                         Winter landscape on the Schöckl in Styria
    •                         Winter landscape on the Schöckl in Styria

    Everything important which mankind has ever brought forth has sprung from solitude, from the deepening of mental insight.

    Winter landscape on the Schöckl in Styria
    Peter Rosegger (1843-1918), österreichischer Schriftsteller

    Peter Rosegger's „Als ich noch ein Waldbauernbub war“

    • The quiet magical world of winter, combined with the hardships of Alpine farming, can be experienced in two Christmas stories of the now-famous collection of short stories “Waldbauernbub.“ In „Als ich Christtagsfreude holen ging,“ Rosegger describes the endlessly long walk from his farm on the Alpl to the far-away Mürztal. There, he had to get the ingredients for the Christmas dinner for the family. Hours of walking across slippery slopes and snowy woods were part of the taxing everyday life in this remote part of the world. In another story, “In der Christnacht,“ Rosegger describes the hike through the night to attend Midnight Mass.

    • You can get a sense of the effort the hike through the steep and snow-covered terrain required when you take a winter hike from the Kluppeneggerhof, Rosegger’s well-preserved birth-place, to St. Kathrein am Hauenstein. Rosegger’s Christnacht-story takes a similar dramatic turn as Stifter’s “Rock Crystal” when on the way back, little Peter loses sight of the accompanying farmhand and suddenly finds himself alone in the woods. He comes close to freezing to death when an old beggar woman called Mooswaberl finds him and takes him to his parents.

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