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Valley of the Sieg
The Heathens of Lüderich

     In the country where the Stilz joins the Agger, a mountain rises some distance from Bensberg, called Lüderich.

     Among the people round about, the story is current that long centuries ago Lüderich was twice as high as it is now. How it happened to be reduced to its present size is the subject of the following legend.

     The people who once lived at the foot of Lüderich were heathens, while the neighbouring population had already become Christians. The heathens were true children of this world, and loved beyond measure all the luxuries and comforts that could make life agreeable.

     They were principally miners, and brought forth precious metal in large quantities from the depths of the mountain.

     Cunning goblins are said to have been their diligent helpmates.

     Thus it was that the interior of the mountain was crossed by innumerable shafts, while the summit was crowned with splendid buildings that looked proudly down into the valley of the Sieg. But the heathens led a wild and reckless life.

     Covetousness and other deadly sins were rampant on Lüderich, and the Christians who dwelt in the neighbourhood saw with anger and grief how the wicked inhabitants of Lfiderich paid homage to the devil, and scorned Our Lord and His cross.

     One day it happened that another of these terrible orgies was held in their splendid city, at which festivity they vied with each other in imitating and mocking the sacred ceremonies of the Christians.

     Suddenly a stag of uncommon size appeared ill their midst.

     He thrust back his head as if in defiant challenge, then fled as swift as an arrow into the principal shaft of the mine.

     The heathens, smitten with curiosity, ran after him in frantic haste.

     Just at that moment a pious shepherd was watching his flock in one of the mountain glades. The sounds of a great far-off tumult fell on his ear, and he wondered what it could mean. Suddenly he heard the clear voice of a tiny bird singing on a branch overhead:

"Haste! to the valley lead thy flock,
The Lüderich is doomed to fall."

    The shepherd, pale and trembling with terror, hastened with his flock into safer regions.

     He had scarcely arrived at the foot of the hill when a tremendous peal of thunder made the earth shake. A huge crack suddenly split the mountain from top to bottom, and the air was filled with yellow, sulphurous flames.

     The shepherd fell on his knees in awe, and hiding his head in his hands prayed fervently, thinking the day of the Last Judgment was at hand.

     When he at last looked up, he saw the mountain like a huge smoking heap of ruins, all the splendid dwellings of the heathens crushed, and they themselves buried in the mountain.

    The red blood of these accursed men is said to have come forth from the depths of the earth in a spring. It is still called the "Rothbach", or "red brook", and has retained its reddish hue to this day.

     After this awful catastrophe the country round Lüderich was filled with the wailing and weeping of those who survived.

     They are said to have tried to dig out the dead, but the mountain never gave up its victims.

     A clear well springs there, and still bears the name of "Thränenbach" or "brook of tears," from the many tears that caused it to flow.

     The tourist is also shown a deep ditch which the heathens are said to have dug, and which is known in popular traditions as the "Heidenkeller" or "the heathen's cellar".

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