Variations: Butatsch-ah-ilgs (erroneously, apparently a typo in Rose’s encyclopedia)
The Lüschersee, a small Swiss alpine lake nestled in the heather-covered hills of Graubünden, seems tranquil enough on the surface. Yet it is said that the lake’s waters reach down to the center of the Earth, where eternal fires rage. This is the home of the Butatsch Cun Ilgs, the “Cow’s Stomach”.
Long ago, during a more feudal time, the shepherds of Graubünden were in a constant struggle for freedom from the cruel barons and lords of the land. Their masters were prone to treating them unjustly, and even harming them for sport. A group of noblemen once returned from an ibex hunt to find herds of cattle and sheep grazing peacefully by the Lüschersee. Naturally they decided to kill them. With loud whoops and peals of laughter, they drove the animals before them, hacking at them with their swords and forcing them into the lake to drown. The peasants could only watch as the lords mocked them.
It was then that the water started to foam and bubble, and the Butatsch cun ilgs heaved itself onto the shore. It had the appearance of an enormous cow’s stomach, and was covered with thousands of eyes. The eyes had hypnotic powers, and if they focused on one point, bone-melting flames would erupt.
Mesmerized by the Butatsch cun ilgs, the lords stood dumbly as the enormous mass trampled and crushed them. Butatsch cun ilgs slipped back into the water after killing them all, leaving the shepherds terrified but unharmed.
Since then Butatsch cun ilgs has only reappeared twice, in 100-year intervals. The second time it came out of the Lüschersee, it gouged the rapids of the Nolla along its path. The third time was during a terrifying thunderstorm, when the monster of the Lüschersee slithered through a rivulet, tearing out the banks, causing massive landslides, and creating ravines.
After this last appearance – the starmentusa notg or “Night of Terror” – the Butatsch cun ilgs was not seen again. Yet sometimes a distant, unearthly bellowing can be heard over the still waters of the lake… “The Lüschersee roars”, say the shepherds, and bring the hay in.
Burde-Schneidewind, G. (1977) Historische Volkssagen Aus Dem 13. Bis 19. Jahrhundert. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin.
Derichsweiler, W. Das Safiental. In Schweizer Alpenclub (1919) Jahrbuch das Schweizer Alpenclub. Stämpfl & Co., Bern.
Jecklin, D. (1874) Volksthümliches aus Graubünden. Orell Füssli & Co., Zürich.
Rose, C. (2000) Giants, Monsters, and Dragons. W. W. Norton and Co., New York.