The Edelweiss

It has been 35 years this month since I have been to Germany.  The memories are as fresh as if I just stepped off the plane yesterday.

We traveled to Germany to visit my mother’s family in Frankfurt, Bad Soden and Koblenz, in 1977.  It was there that my Onkle Frantz introduced us to the Edelweiss Flower.  Next to the Rose it was also one of my mother’s favorite flower.

Not much is known about the Edelweiss flower here in the United States.  Most people when the think of Edelweiss, think of the song made famous by “The Sound Of Music”.  But there is a romantic story behind the lovely flower.

“In German, “edel” means noble and “weiss” means white.  The symbolic meanings of the edelweiss flower are daring, courage and noble purity. These meanings are derived from the plant’s ability to grow in harsh mountain climates and from its pure white coloring.” {1}

Edelweiss is a protected plant in many countries; including Poland, Italy, Serbia, Austria and Germany.  My mother explained the reason the flower is protected is because it is only grown in inaccessible places, in many dangerous alpine regions.  Young men would climb the Alps often in the most dangerous paths to bring some edelweiss to their special girl.  It was a symbol of true love.  For the lucky young women whose handsome man would return with a flower, she would dry and press it and often times frame it to be used as a pendant – to remember the man who had found this flower and presented it to her to show his devotion. Mom said there were many stories about these men who died while climbing the mountains in search of this romantic flower and their abiding love and devotion for their one true love. It was these stories that created the romantic myth of the Edelweiss. 

My Onkle had a patch growing outside of his little camper trailer and gave  me and my sister, each an Edelweiss flower.  I still have my dried Edelweiss upstairs in the attic in my treasure box.  We admired the love he felt for Tante Bille that would have him climb the dangerous heights of Austrian Alps to pick the Edelweiss for his one true love.  We were never to tell anyone that he had the flowers, since it was (and probably still is) illegal to have them.  But since he is gone now, along with his campsite and most likely the flowers I guess it is safe to tell the story.  Or perhaps there is a bunch of wild beautiful Edelweiss growing at the base of a mountain somewhere in Germany at an old campsite that are still blooming for a love that is forgotten except for the two people whose hearts became one and are now forever united in eternity.

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The Legend of the Edelweiss

The Snow Queen

There is a legend that, once upon a time, a beautiful fairy, the Snow Queen, lived on the highest, most solitary peaks of the Alps. The mountain folk and shepherds climbed to the summits to admire her, and everyone fell head over heels in love with her.

Every man would have given anything, including his life, to marry her. Indeed, their lives are just what they did give, for Fate had decided that no mortal would ever marry the Snow Queen. But in spite of that, many brave souls did their best to approach her, hoping always to persuade her.

Each suitor was allowed to enter the great ice palace with the crystal roof, where the Queen’s throne stood. But the second he declared his love and asked for her hand, thousands of goblins appeared to grasp him and push him over the rocks, down into bottomless abysses.

Without the slightest emotion, the Queen would watch the scene, her heart of ice unable to feel anything at all. The legend of the crystal palace and the beautiful heartless Queen spread as far as the most distant alpine valley, the home of a fearless chamois hunter. Fascinated by the tale, he decided to set out and try his luck. Leaving his valley, he journeyed for days on end, climbing the snow-clad mountain faces, scaling icebound peaks and defying the bitterly cold wind that swept through the alpine gullies.

More than once he felt all was lost, but the thought of the lovely Snow Queen gave him new strength and kept him moving onwards. At last, after many days climbing, he saw glinting in the sunshine before him, the tall transparent spires of the ice palace.

Summoning all his courage, the young man entered the Throne Room. But he was so struck by the Snow Queen’s beauty that he could not utter a word. Shy and timid, he did not dare speak. So he knelt in admiration before the Queen for hours on end, without opening his mouth. The Queen looked at him silently, thinking all the while that, provided he did not ask her hand in marriage, there was no need to call the goblins.

Then, to her great surprise, she discovered that his behaviour touched her heart. She realised she was becoming quite fond of this hunter, much younger and more handsome than her other suitors. Time passed and the Snow Queen dared not admit, not even to herself, that she would actually like to marry the young man.

In the meantime, the goblins kept watch over their mistress; first they were astonished, then they became more and more upset. For they rightly feared that their Queen might be on the point of breaking the Law and bringing down on the heads of all the Mountain People the fury of Fate.

Seeing that the Queen was slow to give the order to get rid of her suitor, the goblins decided to take matters into their own hands. One night, as dusk fell, they slipped out of the cracks in the rock and clustered round the young chamois hunter. Then they hurled him into the abyss. The Snow Queen watched the whole scene from the window, but there was nothing she could do to stop them. However, her icy heart melted, and the beautiful cruel fairy suddenly became a woman.

A tear dropped from her eye, the first she had ever shed. And the Snow Queen’s tear fell on to a stone where it turned into a little silvery star.

This was the first edelweiss … the flower that grows only on the highest, most inaccessible peaks in the Alps, on the edge of the abyss and precipice (cliff ) .

{pictures courtesy of google search}

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About Patty B

My life centers around my faith in God and my family. www.thoughtsfromanamericanwoman.wordpress.com
This entry was posted in Family Life, Home, Reflections and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

53 Responses to The Edelweiss

  1. Heather says:

    Thank you for sharing that! What a sweet story. I had no idea of the edelweiss had such romantic significance.

    Like

  2. Andrea Kelly says:

    I have never heard this legend before! Now I think it just might be my favorite…
    Beautiful story about your aunt and uncle as well 🙂

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  3. I couldn’t read this without having that lovely tune (from Sound of Music) humming through my noggin. Let the legends begin.

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  4. tbnranch says:

    Great story, all of your effort to write this is quite appreciated! Thank you.

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  5. Hmm, never heard the story before. Heard the song called Edelweiss, but not the story 🙂

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  6. russtowne says:

    Thank you for sharing both stories, Patty. Enchanting.
    Russ

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  7. How romantic! I have a book called “The Language of Flowers” from the 1800’s. Every flower had a special meaning. When a young man was courting a young woman, he had to be careful about the flowers he picked for the bouquet. He wanted to send the right message.

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  8. Patty B says:

    That is an interesting tidbit. I did not know that, I guess it would be important to what flower was chosen, boy one wrong flower and the romance could be off or a feud started!

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  9. gpcox says:

    Sad story, guy had to die to give us a flower – but I’ve always liked the song ‘Edelweiss’ featured in ‘The Sound of Music.’

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  10. cindy knoke says:

    Despite all the time I have spent in wonderful Germany (back next year), I have never seen Edelwiess! Thank you for posting~

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  11. Mustang.Koji says:

    Patty, this aging mind KNOWS I made a comment but… it appears that through an (aged) operator’s error, it never posted.

    How enchanted your heart must be to still have that edelweiss in your treasure box. You must beam and perhaps shed a tear or two just remembering it. So precious…

    In contrast, I know now the significance of a tragic scene in “Band of Brothers”…. It makes so much more sense now…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IUdDm_6gQxc

    Thank you for a moving story…

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    • Patty B says:

      I forgot about that scene, I often wondered whenever I see it if he was also saving it for his sweetheart when he would return home. Women see things differently I guess.

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  12. Lori Lipsky says:

    I never knew Edelweiss was protected or so challenging to obtain. I’m amazed that you still have your pressed flower from your uncle from so many years ago. Very sweet, Patty.

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  13. Dilip says:

    Beautiful and touching! Many good wishes to you.

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  14. russtowne says:

    I love this post, your story, an the ancient one. Thank you for sharing both.
    Russ

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  15. Thank you Betty both for your affirmation on Lauriann’s Blog and for the Edelweiss Stories. I remember when I was like the Snow Fairy, cold as Ice, I couldn’t cry, I had been hurt so much and so I had repressed my feelings and than along came the One I Love passionately now, The King and I found out He died for me too and I cried.

    Christian Love from the King and I – Anne

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  16. Just stopped by to say thanks for following http://www.christiancounselorpastor.wordpress.com We look forward to your return visits and comments.

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  17. As soon as I saw the title of this blog, the song Edelweiss began playing in my head.
    Now, in addition to the melody, I know the beautiful story that goes along with this flower. Thank you!

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  18. royalparadigm says:

    I wonder if you have heard the song Es war ein Edelweiss. It’s in german but the english lyrics are easy to find if you need them. In my opinion, it’s more beautiful than the song from “The Sound of Music” just for the lyrics alone.
    I was inspired by your post, so I searched the internet for a poem about Edelweiss but I couldn’t find one that I liked so I wrote one of my own.

    Whipping winds and snowy peaks
    Won’t deter me from my climb,
    For my heart is warmed by the memory of a maiden
    Whom I would hold for all of time.

    I seek the flower, brilliant white
    Which every woman’s heart does cherish,
    Because the trek a man must undertake
    His true love’s kiss will merit.

    A glinting light! The flower I see!
    High upon a rocky ledge,
    But to reach this symbol of devoted love
    I must walk a dangerous edge.

    As I reach for the noble blossom’s stem
    An eagle sounds his mournful call.
    A boulder tips, the gravel slips
    And into the abyss I fall.

    Death has caught my foolish youth
    As on the valley floor I land,
    With a perfect sprig of Edelweiss
    Grasped tightly in my hand.

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  19. I love your story; please write more.

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  20. quilt32 says:

    This is a wonderful post with so much information. I visited Germany and Austria in 1991 – a memorable trip.

    Like

    • Patty B says:

      I love Germany – never been to Austria, but hope to someday. My grandmother came from Austria then settled in Germany so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Thanks for stopping by!

      Like

  21. Pingback: I see an Edelweiss flower | daisydesk

  22. Thank you for your like of my post on An Apostate Church, The PCUSA, “You’ve Lost Your Way.” You are very kind.

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  23. Thank you for your like of my page, “About Equipping The Saints.” I greatly appreciate your kindness.

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  24. Fascinating. Shared the post with my 8-yr-old boy, incl the legend. =)

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  25. Thank you for your like of my post, “Proclaim A Solemn Assembly.” There is a great need around our world for believers in Christ to realize the need for confession of sins, personal and national, repentance, and holiness. I trust that many bloggers who will read my post will turn to God for such purposes. Please have a wonderful day.

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  26. bjsscribbles says:

    Beautiful story, thank you so much for praying for me, I have so learned the power of prayer, this year it lifts me so much

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  27. lorelei says:

    my grandfather gave me the edelweiss necklace for my 16th birthday. it has special meaning since i was very close to him and that same year he died. i cherish my german heritage and wear the necklace with the real white little flower encased in a round crystal pendant on special holidays. and yes, my real name is lorelei. peace n blessings to all !

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  28. JanBeek says:

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful stories, Patti. Bob & I love edelweiss, too. They grow profusely in the Alps above our daughter’s home in Sierre, Switzerland.

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