"The Silver Rose"

I translated this particular French version of the tale from the Castles of France website, and this version has been frequently posted in other folktale centers around the Internet. Other versions were collected by or referenced to Auguste Stoeber, either in the Revue d'Alsace (1851) or Die Sagen des Elsasses nach Volksuberlieferung, gedruckten und handschriftlichen Quellen gesammelt und erlautert, mit einer Sagenkarte. (1852)


In the heart of the Vosges mountains of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, there lived an entire nation of dwarves. These dwarves had built a subterranean city of shining beauty.

This city of crystal and silver was a permanent Gate between the two worlds. The dwarves dug into the earth and shadowed the men from whom they learned the arts of mining, of the forge, of gold and silversmithing.

But despite the good relations between humans and dwarves, skepticism and wariness began to increase in the hearts of man. Disputes, conflicts, and jealousies multiplied.

Then, it happened one day that the King of the Silberzwergen1 came up out of the mountain to contemplate the moonlight of the world of men. Near a stream, he saw a young woman who was the daughter of a rich miner and who had just departed from the cloister where nuns had raised her.

The young damsel was radiantly beautiful, and the king fell desperately2 in love. He revealed himself to her in order to confess to her his love, but she was frightened by the sight of this small, ill-formed creature, believing she had before her one of the demons the good sisters had spoken of. She fled without saying a word.

The King of the Dwarves was seized with a great passion for the damsel. He made a thousand attempts to seduce3 her, showering her with magnificent gifts. But she, terrified, always fled.

Mad with love, the King of the Dwarves no longer knew what to do. In the end, he offered the young woman the most wondrous treasure in his possession: the Silver Rose. It was the only one of its kind and held great power, crafted by the Ancients and the Goddess of the Moon. The Rose rested at the heart of the underground city, and it was the Rose that bound the two worlds permanently together by way of its magic.

But once again the young girl refused the dwarf's advances. She fled, shouting hurtful words to the king as he held out the Rose to her in a gesture of supplication. As she ran, she had a terrible accident: she tripped on a root of a tree in the darkness of the night and fell into a river. Not knowing how to swim, she drowned.

The king of the dwarves felt an immense sadness after having learned of the young girl's drowning. He returned to his mountain home and had all the mine's tunnels collapsed behind him. As for his magical powers, the miners of the Valley of Sainte-Marie-aux-mines were no longer able to discover the veins of gold or silver flowing within the mountain. The King, still unhappy, took the magic Rose and departed for lands far away, in the regions to the east of the Waldwelt woods.

This unfortunate event had immense repercussions within the Waldwelt: upon learning what happened, its inhabitants felt it was no longer possible to maintain relations with humans if humans would only flee. Everywhere, faeries, elves, dwarves, and lutins4 disappeared little by little, leaving only a variety of legends and tales behind them.

As for the king of the Dwarves, he returned to his native land, in the mountains which arose at the castle of the Unicorn and the Forest of Shadows. There, he made a gift of this Rose to the Unicorn's Lady, and this queen of the Elves accepted the guardianship of the treasure and cast it into the deepest well of her domain. The unhappy dwarf left to return to his dear mountains and died of grief....


1. German for "silver dwarves."

2. The word in French is "éperdument" which is most often used in the context of love, as opposed to translation of "desperately" which can be used in many contexts. But this is a love that's consuming, violent in its power and force, and may lead to destruction.

3. The French word "séduire" (seduce) didn't gain a positive subtext ("entice") until the late 18th century. If this tale were recorded as a 17th century fairy tale, I'd automatically assume, from this word, that the dwarf king's intentions were less than noble. But instead all known recordings of this tale date from the 19th century, leaving us with the question: did the dwarf king only mean to entice her, win her over with his gifts? Did she run solely because she was afraid of how he looked?

4. Lutins are a French kind of hobgoblin.


Auguste Stoeber's version of "The Silver Rose" folktale, from the Revue d'Alsace collection:

La rose d'argent. - The king of the dwarves who headed the exploitation of the siver mines of Sainte-Marie and of Eschery, once so abundant but today abandoned, held a great friendship for the habitants of those lands who saw him as their master teacher.

One day, at the very moment he left the mountain grotto to breathe the air made sweet with spring flowers, he saw the daughter of the miner whose work he had longtime favored. Captivated by her charms, he offered her all his riches if she would consent to love him and to follow him into his mysterious abode. The young girl, a little wary of living out her days in the depths of the earth and becoming the companion of a dwarf, frankly refused his offer.

In the days following, the powerful spirit, seeing his love disdained, collapsed his vast tunnels, shut away the rich veins of silver, and retired to the interior of the mountain, cursing the ingratitude of men.

Nevertheless, tradition adds that the dwarf, wanting to leave the young girl a token of his love, emerged from his retreat one last time and gifted her with a silver rose, artistically wrought; then immediately disappeared.

This rose, which has remained till this day in the possession of the descendents of the miner's daughter, has the virtue of blooming every time a happy event must take place within the family and closing if some misfortune must strike.

Sometimes, at the back of the mountain, the hammerstrikes of the king of the dwarves can still be heard, and the inhabitants of the valley maintain the conviction in their hearts that a day will come where the spirit, reconciled to the human race, will reopen the source--too long withdrawn--of their prosperity.

Final note in this collection:

The disappearance of the giants and dwarves marks the end of the "fabled time" of the Alsace region.

Although the region's traditions are still aware of an infinite number of fantastic beings, such as faeries, white ladies, sleeping knights in the ruins of their manoirs, the feral hunter, spirits of the damned wearing the body of some animal or appearing in the form of a "wild flame": all these fantastic beings which still prick the imagination of the people in our day, belong to a time long past. They are the heritage of the Celts and Germanic tribes, our ancestors, and of the religious myths they melded together, much later, with the superstitions that arose from a christianity disfigured or misunderstood.

-Auguste Stoeber, regent at the College of Mulhouse, 1851