The Maiden of Morteratsch

As beautiful as the Morteratsch glacier is, what is told about its formation is tragic. The Legend of Annetta and Aratsch.
Picture of Miri Roth

Miri Roth

Swiss Landscape Photographer

Tragic and picturesque

The Morteratsch glacier is one of the landmarks of the Engadin and a popular subject for many photographers, especially in autumn.
The glacier is located between the Bernina Pass and Pontresina. A valley with a river and many larches leads to the foot of the glacier. The path to the glacier is beautifully designed, with lots of information about the melting of the glacier and takes an hour by foot.
Many know the beautiful view, but few know the tragic saga that gave the glacier its name.

The Legend of Morteratsch

Once upon a time, the rich farmer’s daughter Annetta and the poor cattle herder Aratsch fell in love on an alp. But Annetta’s parents did not aprove of the relationship as long as Aratsch did not find prosperity. Determined to marry his love one day, Aratsch left to become a proud soldier.
The years went by and Annetta was so grief-stricken by the distance and uncertainty that she got sick. Her parents were so worried about her, they would have let her marry Aratsch to make her happy again, but nobody knew where he went and eventually, Annetta died of a broken heart.
Shortly after her dead, Aratsch returned as a rich military officer and learned of his beloved’s fate. He rushed his horse up to the alp where he and Annetta had spent their summer in love.
At the top, he spurred his horse to jump into the gorge.
Annetta’s spirit had witnessed everything and could not believe that her beloved was dead.
Since then she has wandered around the alp, where the herdsmen heard her lament: «Mort es Aratsch» – Aratsch is dead.

«Mort es Aratsch» – Aratsch is dead

The old Barba Gian, who was managing the alp in the meantime, let the unfortunate woman wander around his alp unbothered and quickly noticed that since she was there, the cattle gave more milk and the pastures became fatter.
When he handed over the alp to his successor, he advised him to let Annetta stay there, but the new alpine dairyman didn’t think of it and drove Annetta away from the alp the first time he saw her. With an evil look she called out:

«Schmaladida saja quaist` alp!»
– Cursed be this alp!

And a mighty thunderstorm announced itself with a roar of thunder.
The pastures became thinner, the alp deserted and was finally swallowed up by ice – the Morteratsch glacier.

Even today, Annetta’s lament can be heard in the wind blowing down from the glacier.
«Mort es Aratsch» – Aratsch is dead.


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