Gather around our Word Press hearth and snuggle up for a ghostly tale just right for Christmas, my little pointy-eared vampire elves. Have you all got a toffee apple and gingerbread man to nibble on, while I tell my story? So here it goes:
As we have already seen, not all ghosts are intent on creating havoc among the living. Since this is my last Willow the Vampire post prior to Christmas and New Year, I thought I’d introduce you to one of my favourite ghosts, as featured in a poem by Theodor Fontane, one of my favourite German poets. I’ve loved this piece since I was Willow’s age, because Master Ribbeck of Ribbeck Manor in the land of the Havel (River) is truly a man and ghost after my own heart. I feel sure, Willow the Vampire will whole-heartedly approve.
So listen up, my fire-side children, for this is Fontane’s story of an unusual creature of the night:
During his life time Master Ribbeck of Ribbeck Manor in the land of the Havel River is the proud owner of a garden, boasting many fine fruit trees and flowers. One tree in particular is his favourite. Every autumn, when the juicy pears are turning golden, Master Ribbeck plucks as many pears as his coat pockets will hold and when the clock tower begins to chime at noon, he steps out of his little realm and offers fruit to every child passing by.
“Boy, do you fancy a pear?” he asks a hungry boy who clip-clops by with his wooden clogs.
And if it’s a girl hurrying past, Master Ribbeck calls her over with a cheerful: “Little girl, come hither, I’ll give you a pear.”
What innocent times Theodor Fontane’s poem describes…today the same kind-hearted Master Ribbeck would be accused of unspeakable crimes just for daring to speak to children, never mind offering them pears! But allow me to transport you back in time, when men were still allowed to show innocent affection and kindness to children without being clubbed to death by outraged neighbours or hounded by social media.
For many years our good Master Ribbeck of Ribbeck Manor in the land of the Havel River continues to delight children with a gift of pears until one autumn day the dear man realises his time has come and he must die. Seeing how the golden, juicy pears in his garden are ripe once again, he asks his servants to bury him with a pear. Three days later they do just that and his heir and neighbours, all peasants and farmers, follow his coffin with sombre faces and a pious psalm on their lips. However, the neighbourhood children scampering after the procession are heart-broken and they join the chorus with a plaintive: “The good man’s dead, who’ll give us a pear now?”
For the poor children knew only too well, the new Master Ribbeck of Ribbeck Manor in the land of the Havel River was a miser and would keep his father’s pear tree and garden under lock and key.
You have guessed right, my festive vampire elves: the children should have had more faith in their old benefactor. When the ghost of good-natured Master Ribbeck senior heard their complaints, he felt a great wrong had been done to the local children. Suspicious of his son and heir’s true nature, good Master Ribbeck senior knew very well what he was about when he asked to be buried with a pear…for in the third year following his demise a tiny pear tree began sprouting from his silent grave and over the years it grew into a tall, strong tree with thick branches shading good Master Ribbeck’s final resting place in summer…
But when autumn turns the leaves red, yellow and gold, the pears begin to glow…
And when a boy runs across the graveyard, the leaves in the branches begin to whisper: “Boy, do you fancy a pear?”
And when a girl passes by, the tree murmurs: “Little girl, come hither and I’ll give you a pear.”
Thus, from beyond the grave our good Master Ribbeck of Ribbeck Manor in the land of the Havel River found a means to give his blessings to all children who pass by in autumn, his favourite time of the year.
My very best wishes for the Festive Season and may all of you children out there in the virtual world meet a kind-hearted Master Ribbeck of Ribbeck Manor in the land of the Havel River when you’re hungry and need a ghostly friend.
For all of you lovely German speaking creatures of the night here’s the original poem by Theodor Fontane, which naturally contains some Plattdeutsch/Low German, since I’m a Northern German child born and bred:
Herr von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland,
Ein Birnbaum in seinem Garten stand,
Und kam die goldene Herbsteszeit
Und die Birnen leuchteten weit und breit,
Da stopfte, wenn’s Mittag vom Turme scholl,
Der von Ribbeck sich beide Taschen voll.
Und kam in Pantinen ein Junge daher,
So rief er: »Junge, wiste ‘ne Beer?«
Und kam ein Mädel, so rief er: »Lütt Dirn,
Kumm man röwer, ick hebb ‘ne Birn.«
So ging es viel Jahre, bis lobesam
Der von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck zu sterben kam.
Er fühlte sein Ende. ‘s war Herbsteszeit,
Wieder lachten die Birnen weit und breit;
Da sagte von Ribbeck: »Ich scheide nun ab.
Legt mir eine Birne mit ins Grab.«
Und drei Tage drauf, aus dem Doppeldachhaus,
Trugen von Ribbeck sie hinaus,
Alle Bauern und Büdner mit Feiergesicht
Sangen »Jesus meine Zuversicht«,
Und die Kinder klagten, das Herze schwer:
»He is dod nu. Wer giwt uns nu ‘ne Beer?«
So klagten die Kinder. Das war nicht recht –
Ach, sie kannten den alten Ribbeck schlecht;
Der neue freilich, der knausert und spart,
Hält Park und Birnbaum strenge verwahrt.
Aber der alte, vorahnend schon
Und voll Mißtrauen gegen den eigenen Sohn,
Der wußte genau, was er damals tat,
Als um eine Birn’ ins Grab er bat,
Und im dritten Jahr aus dem stillen Haus
Ein Birnbaumsprößling sproßt heraus.
Und die Jahre gehen wohl auf und ab,
Längst wölbt sich ein Birnbaum über dem Grab,
Und in der goldenen Herbsteszeit
Leuchtet’s wieder weit und breit.
Und kommt ein Jung’ übern Kirchhof her,
So flüstert’s im Baume: »Wiste ‘ne Beer?«
Und kommt ein Mädel, so flüstert’s: »Lütt Dirn,
Kumm man röwer, ick gew’ di ‘ne Birn.«
So spendet Segen noch immer die Hand
Des von Ribbeck auf Ribbeck im Havelland.