“Frau Perchta” – the beggar woman near Radstadt
The roots of this legend can be found in various parts of Salzburger Land. It is said that there was once a woman, known as Frau Perchta, a kind and charitable figure, who would appear in various guises and reward people for their goodness. If you approached her with good intentions, you could reckon with her help and even gifts.
Once upon a time, a poor farmer was making his way home from Radstadt. On the way, he encountered a small, old woman who was sitting on the side of the path, leaning against an old basket and sobbing pitifully. “So, what’s wrong, od lady?” the farmer asked kindly, pausing next to the old woman. “Was your basket just too heavy for you? Don’t worry, come with me, I’ll carry it for you!” “Indeed it is”, sighed the woman, “the basket is very heavy, but I can’t expect you to carry it for me. What would people say if they saw you lugging along the basket of an old beggar woman like me?” “Don’t let that worry you”, responded the farmer, slung the basket over his back and slowly began to walk, with the small woman gasping along at his side.
When they reached Altenmarkt, the people weren’t a little amazed to see the farmer with a tatty basked on his shoulder, walking along side-by-side with an old woman dressed in rags. Some stood there, laughing as the odd couple passed them by. Yet the farmer paid no attention to the words of mockery that followed them, and strode calmly towards his own house. Catching sight of him from a distance, his wife called out to him: “So, husband, who are you dragging along with you?” “Just a poor beggar woman”, responded the farmer, “who sorely needs a place to spend the night.” “Well, if that’s all she needs”, said the kind-hearted farmer’s wife, “please step inside, old lady, and let’s see if we can rustle up a bite for you to eat as well. You must be hungry.” She showed the old woman to a seat next to the stove, set a bowl of milk and a plate of noodles in front of her, and told her to dig in. After she had eaten, she showed the tired woman to a small room, where a bed had been prepared for her. Then they all laid down for the night.
When the farmer got up the following morning and wanted to see how the woman was doing, he discovered she had disappeared. Only her basket was left behind. The farmer and his wife thought she would return before long to collect her possessions. But days and weeks past, and the old woman was not to be seen. At that point, they gave up hope of her showing up again, deciding to take a look in the basket she had left behind in case there were any clues to her identity or where she lived. Curious, the farmer reached into the basket, but only pulled out old rags, which he immediately tossed on the floor – but then he heard a remarkable sound. He investigated the bundle of rags more closely, and a silver coin gleamed out at him, then another, then another, until a considerable pile of coins greeted the eyes of the virtuous farmer. With this, the poverty of these good people had come to an end, and both thanked the good fairy, whom they now realized was in fact Frau Perchta, from the bottom of their hearts.
Source: “Die schönsten Sagen aus Österreich, o. A., o. J.”, page 372