A new fairy tale from the High Middle Ages. Sir Mauzibauz, the talking cat, and his friends save Rosenau Castle. This story takes place around 1200 in the Siebengebirge.
Emperor Henry IV of the Hohenstaufen dynasty had died in 1197, his son Frederick II was still a boy in distant Palermo, and in Germany two kings fought for the crown. Also in our region the local princes and dukes fought one another. It is no surprise, there, that under these conditions might made right.
Rosamund, lady of the castle
“And please, give us our daily bread”, a thin voice begged. Then there was silence in the chapel at the castle Rosenau. Silently Rosamund, Lady of the castle, and her small son Philip prayed for the people and animals who had sought shelter in their castle. Suddenly, they heard a baby crying from somewhere outside the chapel. Rosamund and Philip hurried outside … there was a baby, wrapped in coarse linen, on the floor. Rosamund took the child in her arms and asked Philip to bring some milk. “It’s all right, my boy,” she murmured, thinking “yet another baby, which was dropped the chapel. We have so many people here, and I do not know how we can feed them all.” It was already crowded in the small castle.
A small castle in the forest
The Rosenau was only a small, hastily built castle, surrounded by dense forest. The wind whistled through the cracks in the walls, it did not warm up, and every time a storm came up they feared for the roof. And yet, the Rosenau offered protection for humans and animals, as cramped as it may have been. It was a hard time for most people, and far from the courts of kings and the high nobility, dire poverty prevailed in many places.
The Count of the Rosenau had one day made off. Not that he went to war in the service of the Emperor in the war – no, he was just up and away. That wasn’t too bad about him because he was no good. But he had left a huge amount of debt and now Raffgar, their liege lord, could not wait for the day when Rosenau could not pay their dues, so he could reclaim the castle.
Mauzibauz, the castle cat
Mauzibauz was castle cat on the Rosenau and now felt responsible for everything. Although was no knight on the Rosenau, but he would honor chivalry by living a knight’s values. Now he tried to cheer up his people. “Don’t lose heart,” he purred, “as long as we stick together, we will get by, somehow.”
Yet, things took a turn for worse. A few days later their liege lord Raffgar and his henchmen rode into the courtyard. “You have embezzled some bags of grain”, he yelled, “and now the castle is mine.” “Never,” Philip cried, and jumped at liege lord. Mauzibauz could barely hold him back. Now Rosamund spoke up: “I do not believe a word you say either. We will prove to you that we have delivered what you are entitled to.” “Ha,” Raffgar sneered, “the King’s advocates themselves have my case and decided in my favor. Here are all the documents!” With these words, he threw a pile of papers to the ground and rode away. “You have two days – after that, the Rosenau castle is mine” he shouted on the way out.
Rosamund took up the papers, looked at them and turned pale. They were written in Latin. Although she could read and write, which was unusual for people of her time, she could not read Latin. Mauzibauz rubbed against her legs and purred softly. “I might know someone who could help us – Cervisius. I know, right now he is not in the best condition, but he has had an excellent education, and until recently, he was an important man in the Empire.” “Cervisius,” Rosamund said thoughtfully, “you’re right. But doesn’t he live in the ruined chapel on top of Mount Petersberg?
It is a harsh winter, the hills and valleys are deep in snow, the roads are barely passable and no light is burning. How could we bring him here at such short notice?” “You’re right, Lady,” Mauzibauz said, “it won’t be easy, but I have an idea how to help.”
The earth dragons
Mauzibauz ran to Ruotger, the castle donkey. “My old friend,” he said, “I know, you’re glad too that you have a cozy warm place. But I need your help.” Then he took Philip by the hand and said: “Come, let’s go to the Earth dragons”.
The earth dragons are small, knobby beings who scurry through hollow tree trunks and the caves in the Siebengebirge. Nowadays, we do not see them often. Philip and Mauzibauz, however, were good friends with them. During this severe winter, the earth dragons had also found a safe place in the caves below ground, so Mauzibauz and Philip had to wait quite a while.”Please”, Philip urged, “we really need your help. We have to go to the chapel on Mount Petersberg.” Thereupon the earth dragons came, one by one.
Shortly afterwards, Philip, Mauzibauz and Ruotger struggled through the snowy forest. The earth dragons went ahead and spit fire at full force, and wherever their fire hit the ground, the snow melted, opening a safe way for their three friends. And when a snowflake hit their noses, they sneezed so hard that the snowflakes were whirled through the air, caught fire and were left hanging as shining snow crystals in the air. Suddenly lights were everywhere in the forest!
Finally, Mauzibauz, Ruotger and the earth dragon had arrived at the dilapidated chapel on Mount Petersberg. Now here lived a monk whom they all knew as Cervisius. Actually, he drank a lot. Once he had been an important man in the Empire, but then he was so frustrated by the selfishness of most church and secular dignitaries that he had withdrawn and become a recluse. Mauzibauz knocked on the door, and when he heard nothing, he stepped inside. Cervisius lay on a bed of straw, some empty jugs stood around him. “Cervisius, wake up,” Mauzibauz purred. “Let me sleep,” babbled the monk, “I must be crazy if I hear a cat talk to me.” Mauzibauz shook his head indulgently. “No,” he said, “You’re not crazy. Generally, we cats know how to express ourselves quite well. Please, you must help us.”
With an effort Cervisius got on Ruotger’s back, and they headed back to the Rosenau. Still, the snow stars shone along the way, and so they got home sound and safe. Although Ruotger did his best to make the ride as comfortable as possible for Cervisius, the monk felt quite battered, sat down by the fire and fell asleep almost right away. “Rosamund,” he muttered, “please forgive my very inappropriate appearance. I promise you, tomorrow morning I’ll be back to my senses, and of course I will help you.”
Scrutinizing the books
The next morning Cervisius scrutinized the liege lord’s documents and the castle’s account books. He read and read and compared long columns of Roman numerals. Suddenly, he ran out into the courtyard and held a document against the sun. “Yes, yes, it is …” he exulted, “I knew that Raffgar’s statement could never be true. Just look, here you can see it quite clearly: here a Roman numeral was scraped away, and so it reads as if you had not delivered enough bags of grain. That’s a bloody injustice!”
The next day, as announced, Raffgar and his henchmen stood in the courtyard and came pounding into the castle. “Well, have you packed?” he sneered. Rosamund, Cervisius, Philip and Mauzibauz stood firmly together and looked at him coolly. Cervisius was carrying a large stack of account books. Now he stepped forward and opened the general ledger. “This is Cervisius, now I recognize him,” whispered one of the henchmen to Raffgar, “I’ve seen him speak at the last imperial diet to the King”. Now, realizing that he was not dealing with helpless people, Raffgar sounded a little less arrogant: “I have a demand on you and if …” “You don’t have anything,” Cervisius shouted, his voice like growling thunder, “this document is a forgery! Name and shame on you! Robber-barons, that’s what you are!”
Some bags of grain
Now Rosamund spoke up: “Nevertheless – if you insist that some bags of grain were missing, you shall have them.” At this moment Philip came into the yard, riding on a cart pulled by two old oxen. It was loaded with some sacks of grain. “Take them, and don’t come back.” Raffgar and his men left. Suddenly, there was an enormous bang – the bags burst, chestnuts and acorns whirled through the air with a sickening smell. Raffgar and his men did not know what had hit them, in their horror they left the car in the courtyard and disappeared into the woods.
Philip cheered. Previously, he had actually collected all horse and ox dung he could find, mixed it with acorns and chestnuts, filled it in the bags and covered it with a thin layer of grain. Since it was bitterly cold, one did not smell it. But as soon as the carriage had set in motion, the earth dragons showed up, spit fire on the bags and made them blow up.
Now they had so much fun that they together with Philip and Mauzibauz jumped around the castle. They threw snowballs at each other and shove each other in the snow. Wherever the little earth dragons fell in the snow, they “rubbed off”. Now earth dragons come in many colors … where the green dragons fell in the snow, in the dead of winter lush grass grew, the dark red one made a blackberry bush appear, yellow one lemon tree! Shortly afterwards, the oxen were back and were warmly embraced. “I know we asked a big favor of you”, Rosamund said, “but now all will be well.”
Finally, Mauzibauz had time to think about himself. He quickly ran down to Mount Drachenfels and climbed onto the window sill of his lady, after all he was a minstrel. His lady was Ysabeau, castle cat on the Drachenfels. She also had her troubles, because her Count of Drachenfels did not allow anyone to get close to him.
Unfortunately Mauzibauz was not the best interpreter of his songs, and so it was that he also attracted the Count with his singing to the window. “What are you doing, stop already!” he yelled, but then he had but to smile when he saw the two cats caught in the act, as they lay and watched with a blush on his face to the ground. “Oh, sorry,” he pleaded, “it’s almost Christmas. You came despite the adverse conditions, and I’m such a bad host. Come in by the fire and tell me how you are doing up there on the Rosenau.”
Christmas at Rosenau
Christmas Day at the Rosenau. They had sealed and decorated the castle as best they could. The snow stars of the earth dragons were still shining. There was not much there, yet to them, it was all the delights of this world. The sheep had eaten their fill of the green grass and bleated with pleasure, there was fresh milk and fresh cheese, the blackberries were delicious and thanks to the fresh lemons no one had fallen ill.
Everyone had gathered in the castle courtyard: Rosamund, Philip, Cervisius, the oxen, Mauzibauz, Ruotger and all their people. Suddenly Cervisius said, “You know, it’s almost like Christmas Eve in Bethlehem. Let us be glad we have a roof over our heads at all.” Maybe they would have to give it up soon, but not this Christmas. “Not just a roof over our heads, Cervisius,” Rosamund replied, “a home. Look at all the people here, big and small, for them, you are a hero. Please stay with us.”
Suddenly, there was a knock at the door. The Count vom Drachenfels and Ysabeau had come. “Thanks to the earth dragons and their snow stars, we found the way quickly,” the Count said, “A merry Christmas, and please forgive me for being such a bad neighbor for so long. And with a glance at Ysabeau and Mauzibauz, he added: “But that will change, these two here will see to that. You are all always welcome here.”