Hiddensee Island

To the northwest of the island of Rügen lies the island of Hiddensee. This island was connected to Rügen in old times. Nobody knows anymore when they separated since it was so long ago, but there is still a tale of how the separation occurred.

In this time of antiquity there were two women who lived on the island of Rügen, of which one was devout and charitable, but the other was evil and miserly. One evening, when there was very stormy weather, an old, strange1) man visited the evil woman. He looked hungry and ragged like a beggar, and was nearly frozen from the cold and the rain. Some say that he was one of the monks of Corvey who owned the island of Rügen at the time2). He asked her to give him a place to sleep in her house and a piece of bread so that he could dry outand wouldn’t starve. The miserly woman however did not want anything to do with this beggar, scolded him, and drove him back outside into the storm with evil words.

Then the old, strange man came to the devout woman, and as he told her his plea she immediately offered her hospitality and helped him recover, and shared her last piece of bread with him, for she was poor and didn’t have much to eat herself. This the man ate with relish and became strong and hale again, and it was clear that he very much enjoyed his stay.

When the old man left again in the next morning, he thanked her kindly for the generosity she had shown to him, and told her she would receive something in return - for the first thing she would attempt next would be something she would succeed all day at. But the woman was merely happy that she had done a good deed and paid those words no further heed, for she thought him for a simple beggar.

The same morning she had to make a shirt for one of her children. She thus went to her chest in which there was a small roll of linen left, and she took her measuring stick in order to measure whether there were still three lengths of linen left3), for she needed this much to make the shirt. But as she started to measure the linen she discovered that it was more, for she had already measured three lengths and the roll still did not get smaller. She was astonished at this and wanted to see how much linen she had actually left. Therefore she continued to measure three lengths more, and again as much, and the linen still wasn’t at its end. And the marvelous thing was that she had to continue measuring and was unable to stop even if she had wanted to. Thus she had to stand and measure, the whole day long, and she now remembered the words of the old man whom she had thought to be a beggar. She thus continued to measure with great enthusiasm as the mountain of linen she had measured grew larger and larger until it finally had no space inside the house and she had to go in front of the door and far into the fields - and it all came from a small roll that had been lying in her chest. This continued until the sun went down and only then she was able to stop - but now she was a rich woman.

This story soon spread, and the miserly woman heard of it as well. She grew quite upset at this missed opportunity. But she had seen the old beggar go away and remembered the area into which he went. Greed and envy thus drove her to run after the beggar despite the nasty weather. She managed to find him still on the island, for nobody had wanted to ferry him away during this storm. She thus talked to him with duplicitous words and asked him for forgiveness that she had not taken him in during the previous evening, and invited him to spend the next night at her house. The old man was content with this offer and returned with her, and she looked after him and gave him the best food she had to offer. For she thought in her two-faced way that he would also tell her that she would succeed all day at the first thing she attempted in the morning. And she would think of a task that would make her the richest woman in the world. The old man was content to experience the hospitality, and when he moved on the next morning he thanked her as well and told her - just like with the devout woman - that the first thing she would attempt next would be something she would succeed all day at.

The evil woman became very happy at these words, and when the man was gone she had already thought of a task which she would do and which would make her a very rich woman, for she wanted to count her savings in her pot of money. But so that she wouldn’t be disturbed at this task and work at this all day she first went out of the door to answer nature’s call. But what a miracle! Once she had squatted down, she was unable to stand up and had to continue all day in what she had started. In this manner a lake was formed which became greater and greater, and finally so large that it flooded a vast stretch of land, and thus separated the area which is now known as the island of Hiddensee from Rügen. Only when the sun went down the miserly woman could come to rest.

In this manner the island of Hiddensee came into being.

Source: J. D. H. Temme. Die Volkssagen von Pommern und Rügen, 1840. p. 166ff.

Notes & Commentary: Crouching Woman, Hiddensee - A Tale of the Islands

The German word here was “fremd”, which merely implies that the man was not from out here, not necessarily that his behavior or appearance was bizarre.
Presumably from the Princely Abbey of Corvey in Höxter. The Princely Abbey was allegedly gifted Rügen and its surrounding areas by Holy Roman Emperor Lothair I in 844 (thus giving us a possible “earliest date” for the legend), but the document donating the island may have been a forgery, and thus they were never able to make their claim stick.
The German term used here was “Elle”, short for “Schneiderelle” - a wooden staff a bit more than half a meter in length that was a traditional tool of tailors for measuring linen. The term was also used as a unit of measurement - thus, three “Ellen” (translated as “lengths” here) would be a bit more than 1.5 meters.