unique. varied.

The uppermost residents of the Aaretal.

MYTHS – A tale of the Oberhasli people's nordic origin.
«During this emergency, the rural community decided that every tenth citizen would have to leave their home territory according to a lot draw – and that's what happened! And they moved out, wailing, men and women, a huge procession, walking towards the midday sun, with sword swinging, fighting their way through the German countryside, all the way to the highlands of the woody mountains (Friedrich Schiller, William Tell).» People swore that the words of Stauffacher were true to history. Where? On the Rütli of course. For us, it's much more important that Friedrich Schiller makes unmistakable reference to the Hasli people's tale of immigration in «William Tell» – and therefore to the nordic origin. So, what's this tale all about?

They came here from nordic lands far away.

Every tenth man was displaced. Without mercy. It was the time of King Cisbertus in Sweden and Earl Christoffel of East Friesland. No fear – it doesn't matter if we don't know these men. What's more important is: there was a famine, a terrible one. Whether rich or poor, every tenth man had to take his belongings and seek a new home . The drawing of the lot decided.
At first the lots were drawn each month – that was tolerable. The terrible famine didn't get any better though. Awful. Then, the lots were drawn every week. If luck was on their side and they survived that long.

Die Nornen

The Norns, beings from Nordic mythology who determine fate, will have received quite a lot of post during this period.

men from Sweden and 1,200 men from Friesland (women and children not included in the count) sought a new home and had to feed themselves somehow. Robbery was on the daily agenda.

With time, loyal groups of people formed, who attracted ever more displaced and unhappy people. A huge army of people was born.

One thing was clear: it needed leaders. Swicerus and Remus, both from Sweden, and Wadislaus, from the town of Hasli (which allegedly lies between Sweden and East Friesland) took on the challenge. OK, good luck. Under the leadership of the new main men, the crowd marched along the Rhine. They were awaited there already – without hospitality. Two French dukes blocked the refugees' route. But the French had no chance. The hike went on victoriously.


On the «Säumer» (freight hauler) hikes which are still offered today in Haslital, we get a good feeling of what it means to travel with kit and caboodle – of course without the constant danger of dying of hunger or being attacked by a hostile army.


Wadislaus made his way to the «tal enent den swarzen bergen»

Unstoppable as a freight train, they reached the land at «brochen birg» or «Freckmünd». Today, better known as: «Pilatus». Back then it belonged to the duchy of Austria – according to the tale. The region reminded the refugees of their homeland so much that they stayed. The earl of Habsburg granted them permission. A good-natured guy.

Wadislaus however, took his army of men and moved to the «tal enent den swarzen bergen». Or, in other words: he chose the path over the Brünig and took the land above the Aare. He named his new home after his original home. Namely: Hasnis. Nice memories. And that's where the name Hasli came from later. What a surprise. Absolutely no one could have understood that connection.


On the Ballenberg we're thrown back in time. Wadislaus would have felt at home in this open-air museum.

Hans Dauwalder,
has been interested in the history of Haslital his whole life

«The term Oberhasli, as it is used today, actually came much later. In this way, the Bernese rulers differentiated the Hasli on the Aare from Hasle near Rüesgau or Hasli near Riggisberg, which were both situated closer to Bern and lower.»

The tale still hasn't come to an end. Years flew by. The scene is now set in Rome. That's where the pagans revolted against the Pope and the Roman emperors. There were two at this time: Theodosius II and Honorius. Messengers were sent into Aaretal in order to request assistance. There are supposed to be courageous Christian people who have settled there. The answer: the Oberhasli people marched to war.


Praiseworthy feats in front of the gates of Rome: not even Hannibal with his elephants would have had a chance. The Hasli warriors push forwards from the Milvisan bridge to the Castel Sant'Angelo and claim the Tiber bridge. A heroic deed.


There's a juicy reward for that. The holy empire called to service and the Hasli people are followed. They demanded that they would be given the sign and banner of the imperial eagle with the colours of the empire as a reward. But they didn't demand the double-headed eagle, just the crowned, one-headed heraldic bird. The wish was hesitantly granted by both emperors. The freedom of the Hasli people was also recognised and documented officially. And, of course: there were plenty of presents.

Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

Even if not everything happened exactly like that, the story is well told. Let's see where the historical core is. Or is everything rubbish?

Who doesn't ask? The question of the people's origin. That's just human.

The Oberhasli people would always value it most. The dear history of origin. During their visit in 1505, the Hasli people read to the Frutigen people from the book of chronicles, «wie sy daher kommen sygen uβ dem Land Schweden und Norwegen, von groβem Hunger alweg der X. Man mit synem Huβ’gsind us eignem vatterland schweren müssen, kamint jn das Land Haβle.» («As they came here from the countries of Sweden and Norway. Expelled by the famine, every tenth man had to leave his country with his belongings. Finally they reached Haslital.») Cool story. The Frutigen people thought so, too. They were so impressed, that they began to call themselves former Frisians.

Otto Waalkes

The ultimate East Friesland people. Were the Hasli people related to Otto Waalkes? Academics were said to have discovered similarities in the facial features, head shape and clothing of the Hasli people to certain nordic provinces. Hasn't a preconceived opinion been underpinned here?

Back to the Future

I think we all agree. Even without a sound knowledge of history: the tale includes a whole series of impossibilities. We've read about battles against the pagans in the late Roman period, ergo around the year 400. So far so good. But assigning roles to the French dukes and an earl of Habsburg at the same time? That's getting complicated. Was there a time machine involved? Probably not. Marty McFly was definitely not there yet – not even in black and white.


The region around the Vierwaldstättersee and of course the Haslital also belonged to the duchy of Austria. We won't question the refugees' Christian belief and their great numbers. It fits so nicely into the scheme of things. And there's till the Friesland people. A Germanic clan who didn't like walking much and so stayed in north west Germany.

But anyway, quite apart from the tale: when and thanks to whom did the settlement of Oberhasli take place?

Some say that Haslital was constantly populated long before the mass migration. That's bold. There were even bronze objects, a coin from the Celtic period and Roman emperors' coins found – although only sparsely. A hunch, that's all. The findings do show though, that even in the earliest periods, transit over the Alp passes took place. A Germanic immigration definitely took place at a later point in time, that's for sure. Celts and Romans may have been settled in Aaretal, but it can clearly be seen from the place names that the settlement is a Germanic one in Haslital.

Kirche in Meiringen

If we look at the farms, hamlets and villages, it's clear that they date back to the Germanic settlement. How can we see that? In the place names which have particular endings like «ingen», «hausen», «wil» and «wiler». «Meiringen» seems to be the best example.


From the valley, the mountains to conveniently situated ledges and hillsides. Forest was cleared and hamlets created, also with Alemannic-sounding endings: rüti (Reuti), schwendi (Schwendi), weid (Urweid), maad (Obermaad). The place names like Bidmi, Sattel or Hohfluh sounded typically Alemannic too.


The well-known, oldest Hasli man is a pure-bread Roman. This doesn't change anything in the later settlement of the Germanics in the Haslital. The modification of the Romanesque wind name «favonius" is not enough of an argument.


Another ancient Hasli citizen can also do nothing about it: the Kirchet. He's also Romanesque. It's not the church in Meiringen who is the name-giver. It also had its name long before Innertkirchen (inside the church) had a church built. Kirchet means «winding path». The word «zirka», which is pronounced «kirka» (all around) can be found in it. Finally, it evolved from «via circinans» or a similar form.


Aare, Fontanen and Rüsch (which the Gadmerwasser was called earlier) are also well-known Romanesque names for bodies of water. The Grimsel was crossed even in Roman times. It kept its Romanesque name. Susten is also a Romanesque term, common to the freight haulers.

Which Germanic people settled in Haslital?

The tale of immigration tells of the Swedes and Frisians.


They probably came from the north – the ancestors of the Oberhasli people. We can safely assume this. That's why we speak of an Alemannic immigration (with East Frisian influence) over the Brünig.


But we also have to consider an Alemannic-Burgundian immigration up through the Aaretal.


A Lombard-Burgundian immigration over the Grimsel could also be possible – but this is less likely.

The Aare and both lakes have numerous municipalities ending in «ingen».

From MünsINGEN, LeissINGEN, DärLIGEN, MerLINGEN, WilllGEN, MeirINGEN, BrünIGEN, over to Upper Valais, to ReckINGEN, GlurINGEN and SelkINGEN. There are many more examples. The beloved language research makes it possible. We can follow the path of the Alemanni. And this path came from the north. Why? Because Upper Valais is German-speaking. We know that, of course. It's not exactly THE discovery. This country on the Rhone borders on Romanesque (in other words: French-speaking) territory everywhere.
Funny. The only explanation: German settlers occupy Upper Valais – from the north and over the Grimsel. Et voila. There we have the historic core of the tale.


The names ending in «ingen» conceal a Germanic settler's name. «Hilterfingen», for example, means «with the people of Hiltolf». Hiltolf gained a settlement at the lower Thunersee.

Meiringen im Sommer

The origin is not clear with Meiringen. The name can mean «with the people of Megiher». Professional designations can also be hidden within such names. Here with the meaning «with the Meier's people (court-masters)». The «Meier» took care of high jurisdiction.

Hans Dauwalder,
has been interested in the history of Haslital his whole life

«The history of Meiringen is, to a great extent, also the history of the Haslital. The oldest documents – originating from the years 1231, 1234 and 1244 – concern our church; dedicated to the holy Michael, and which was and remained the only church in Hasli until 1722.»

Let's protect the Americans. They are not the only ones who can't differentiate between Switzerland and Sweden. That might have been a big problem at the time of the Council of Basel (1431– 49).


The country and colony names sounded similar, even in the Latin script of the middle-ages: Swicia: Sueca / Switenses: Swetenses. And then there's still this tale of the nordic origin... confusing.

Our tale is a myth to a large extent.

Nevertheless: the regional and self-awareness of the Oberhasli people has been greatly strengthened by the tale. And that's what counts. Not everything has to be historically proven.

Additional information


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Aare Gorge

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Photos: Jungfrau Region
Story: André Wellig
Spring 2018


Haslital Tourismus

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