It's no joke: when a tatzelwurm crawls through the sand, the sand directly turns into glass. Crazy, the amount of heat this worm must radiate. Quite a big glow worm. It's also related to the dragon and lindworm. Let's call it a «half dragon», with a snake-like belly and front legs full of claws. Scary.
A tatzelwurm is made like a Basilisk. Fans of Harry Potter know this creature all too well. Lord Voldemort is back. Come on, what do we mean? A chicken lays a black egg in a lake. This egg then is quite literally incubated by sunbathing. Et voila: a tatzelwurm.
Dragons, snakes and worms appear in manifold stories. In Greek mythology too: here, Hercules is slaying the nice Hydra. Captain America couldn't have done it better himself.
Dragons are ever-present in the middle-ages. St. George is finishing off the baddie in this picture.
In nordic Mythology, Thor fights the Midgard serpent heroically. The avengers take him on after that.
Of course Perseus is a must here. He heroically defends Andromeda from the sea monster Ketos. That's so romantic.
The battle between Sigurd and Fafnir. An epic duel.
This terrifying «watersaur» is well-known. It lives in Scotland. More precisely: in a lake called «Loch Ness».
There he is – just sitting there, on a mountain of gold treasure, probably waiting for Bilbo. Our smaug.
Even George R. R. Martin, and later HBO, make the dragon (almost) real in «Game of Thrones».
When a «half dragon» doesn't want to breath fire or fly over the mountains and scare people, he lives hidden under the water. The Aare Gorge is the perfect place for this of course.
Until the beginning of the 19th century, the waters of the Aare Gorge could only be crossed by boat. Hard-going. It's not uncommon that the Aare Gorge is associated with Acheron, Dante's underground river of death which Charon tirelessly rows across. The ideal place to reinforce the legend of a water beast.
Really narrow. The Aare Gorge has the width of just a metre in some parts.
It lies between Meiringen and Innertkirchen. No one has dared to enter this gorge for centuries. Fear of the unknown is just too big. Who knows what monsters can be found there...
With the increase of tourism in the Alps in the 20th century, the community decided to build walkways above the water. A monster hype like this was certainly not an inconvenience for the marketing people.
What a sensation. In 1935, a Russian photographer called Balkin succeeded in photographing the monster. Unbelievable. The photo was published in the «Berlin Illustrirte Zeitung» newspaper. The whole of Europe was in uproar.
There it is. The Meiringen tatzelwurm. Its home: the Aare Gorge.
(in the: «Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung», No. 17, April 1935)
The visitors can find a green tatzelwurm without any problems today. It's made of wood, nevertheless, it greets all visitors in a very friendly manner at the entrance of the Aare Gorge. A beautiful memory of the legend.
The reward is 1,000 Reichsmarks. Not bad. Now we just have to find this damn worm. Whoever manages this and brings the tatzelwurm to a scientific institute to be examined gets the jackpot. Come on, off we go.
Josef Viktor Widmann,
author, on the Aare Gorge
«The huge effect of the propaganda on the Bernese Oberland has been confirmed», wrote «The Bund» in 1935, raising awareness of the monster hype.
They're still waiting there for the tatzelwurm now. To no avail. It's not coming.
It just won't leave the people of Berlin in peace. A year previously, a prehistoric monster had been sighted in the area of the Grimselsee. No one believed the rumours though. The cleverness of the tourism agency was said to have been behind this. No idea. The whole thing was quickly forgotten.
Even the NZZ covers this topic: «The fact that something (a monster) should be living near the Aare Gorge of all places, which is already a popular sight, after doing its duty last year for the tourists of the Grimsel is somewhat strange. The Berliner Illustrirte doesn't seem to have noticed this though», this was the NZZ's ironic stab at the Berlin colleagues in 1935.
Even the Aare Gorge and the tourist office in Meiringen and the surrounding area distance themselves from all publications on the appearance of a tatzelwurm. Nevertheless: they are sure to be secretly having a good laugh. The project is a complete success.
Hmm, I wonder whether the photo was faked? The prize money was never awarded. That animal just does not want to be found. The fact is that the film wasn't developed by the photographers themselves, it was done at an official office in Berlin.
(from: Nebelspalter, No. 25, 1935)
S.J. Blaupot ten Cates,
has seen a tatzelwurm himself
Of course. The tatzelwurm has stood the test of time – in a seductive manner. There's valid evidence in the shop windows of Meiringen. Just waiting to be eaten, covered in chocolate with a marzipan tongue.
Who can resist these sweet little monsters?
They are particularly attractive when the last dragon in the Bernese Oberland finally passes on: the Aare Gorge and Grimsel world. Open your eyes on the hike. There's loads to see.