Swiss Legends: 10 Fascinating Stories That Never Get Old

swiss legends

Switzerland has a long cultural heritage and a large part of Swiss culture is Swiss folklore. Swiss fairy tales, which usually took place in the Swiss alps feature everything from evil spirits to dragons, witches, and lots more.

Join me as I run through some of the most famous local stories of Swiss legends and Switzerland myths so next time you’re in Switzerland you can imagine how these stories came to be.

William Tell

William Tell
William Tell

One of the most famous Swiss legends is William Tell and it is a story you have probably heard or are at least aware of.

It is said that William Tell was from Uri in Central Switzerland, an area governed by Gessler, a tyrant. When Tell stood up to Gessler, refusing to greet his hat on a rod, he was taken captive and forced to shoot an apple on his son’s head.

William Tell made the perfect shot and even had an extra arrow ready for Gessler in case he harmed his son. Luckily he didn’t need it but still ended up killing Gessler in the future.

This story became a symbol of Swiss independence of standing up to one’s oppressors.



The story of Heidi was written by Johanna Spyri in the late 1800s and has become a world-famous tale about the Swiss Alps.

The fictional book tells the tale of a young orphaned girl growing up in the Swiss mountains and the amazing life she ended up living thanks to her love of nature and staying positive.

It has inspired every generation of Switzerland as chances are this was one of their bedtime stories while they were growing up. Today, the book has been published in multiple languages and both movies and cartoons have been made about the story of Heidi.

Vogel Gryff Basel

Vogel Gryff
Vogel Gryff

Vogel Gryff is a story about the rivalry between Klein Basel and Gross Basel that dates back to the 1200s.

Vogel Gryff, a griffin or strange creature made up of half lion and half eagle along with Wild Maa (wild man) and the Leu (lion) all represent the three guilds of Klein Basel.

It is said that on a day in January, these three creatures danced on Mittlebrücke, a bridge connecting each side of Basel, in a way to show their spite and disdain for Gross Basel.

Vogel Gryff became a symbol of freedom for the people of Basell, and the dance is still done each January to this day.

The Child Eater of Bern

Kindlifresser fountain statue in Bern
Kindlifresser fountain statue in Bern

If you are in the city of Bern you will probably stumble upon the Kindlifresser, a statue of a horrible man that is eating babies. This is the child eater of Bern. No one knows why the statue was made or put in Bern and there are numerous tales as to why.

One of the scarier stories is that the brother of the founder of Bern went mad and ended up roaming around the city eating children and that is how the legend of the Child Eater Of Bern was born.

But, there is no proof this actually happened and lots of other theories about the statue.


The Dwarfs of Switzerland also known as “earth men” were thought to live in the mountains and prefer high altitudes.

The Dwarfs of the mountains are thought of as kind beings, always there to help animals, and lost children, and assist in agriculture too. They would also mine for gems, craft tools out of metal, and work hard. They sound a lot like the Dwarfs in “The Hobbit” & “Lord Of The Rings”.

There is a story that the dwarfs raised chamois and made a special cheese from their milk. The cheese would grow back after being cut, so long as you left some cheese for it to grow from.

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The Devil’s Bridge

The Devil’s Bridge, Andermatt – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The Devil’s Bridge is located in the canton of Uri and the story goes that the local villagers wanted to build a stone bridge across the Schöllenen Gorge.

It is said that the bridge was so hard to build that the Devil himself appeared and offered to build it in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge.

Once built, the villagers sent a goat over the bridge which made the Devil very angry. He took a huge rock and attempted to destroy the bridge, but missed. You can still see the huge rock close to the Gotthard Tunnel.

The Witch of Belalp

aletsch glacier
Aletsch Glacier

Switzerland executed “witches” for a lot longer than any other country in Europe and the story of “The Witch of Belalp” is one of the most famous.

It is said that the witch was cheating on her husband with a sorcerer and they used to turn into ravens and fly to the top of Aletsch Glacier to meet.

On her way to meet the sorcerer, she saw her husband picking cherries from a tree and dropped bird droppings in his eyes calling him to fall and die. She was accused of murdering her husband and was burned at the stake.

Every year in Belalp a load of skiers join the “Witches Descent” which is a 12 km race where participants dress up as witches and wear masks.

The Basilisk

The Basilisk statue in Basel
The Basilisk statue in Basel – Image courtesy of Wikimedia

The story of the Basilisk of Basel was born in 1474 when a cockerel laid an egg that had been incubated by a snake to create a creature with the body of a dragon, the head of a cockerel, and the tail of a snake – the Basilisk.

It is said the Basilisk is so poisonous that it can kill you with its breath, glare, and grass would die as it walked over it. The only way the Basilisk could be killed was by the crow of a cockerel, a weasel, or by seeing its own reflection.

The Basilisk has become a symbol of Basel and you can see it in lots of places around the city.

The Dragons of Mount Pilatus

mount pilatus
Pilatus & Lake Lucerne

Mount Pilatus sits on the shores of Lake Lucerne and is known as the “Jagged Mountain” due to its peak. But, it is also referred to as Dragon Mountain due to the tales of “The Dragons of Mount Pilatus.”

It is said that Dragons with healing powers lived in the mountain. One of the stories goes that a farmer saw a huge dragonfly into the mountain in 1421 and crashed causing an onlooking farmer to faint. When the farmer woke he found the Stone of the Dragon which was said to have healing powers.

St. Gall and the Bear

St. Gallen
St. Gallen

St. Gall and the Bear has a few different stories associated with it, and it dates back to the 600s when bears still used to roam the alps.

One story goes that St. Gall, an Irish missionary came across a bear one night and gave it some bread as it was hungry. The bear then helped St. Gall build a hut that then became the St. Gallen Monastery.

The other story says St. Gall gave the bear some bread to say thank you to the bear after it helped him collect firewood. Gall then asked the bear to leave the area and promise not to return.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Switzerland have mythology?

Yes, Switzerland has a lot of mythology ranging from stories of dragons to dwarfs and child-eating tyrants as well. With such a diverse cultural heritage and mystical landscapes, it is the perfect place for cultural myths and legends.

What is the creature in Swiss folklore?

The creature in Swiss folklore can refer to a lot of things but the most common are the kobolds of which there are three types.

One type of kobold are house spirits that not only help with chores but also play mean tricks on you if you insult them. Another kobold is said to haunt mines and the last lived on ships to help sailors.

What is the Swiss folklore of gnomes?

The Swiss folklore of gnomes is that they are elemental spirits (Earth, Fire, Water, and Air) that live underground guarding the earth and plants around them.

This is a Swiss folklore story of gnomes creating a vein of liquid gold that poured into the Swiss village of Plurs.

The villagers then became rich from the gold mine as the gnomes intended but the wealth corrupted the village and this upset the gnomes who then destroyed the village in 1618 by causing a landslide.

What are the Alps myths?

The Alps myths describe a very scary creature, usually a dark shape in male form. The alp would come over to people while they were sleeping and stop them from moving or making noise.

The alp would then create nightmares and steal the spirit and life force from the person sleeping.

Talking about a mythical creature that can cause nightmares.

Written by Ashley Faulkes
As a twenty-year resident of Switzerland, I am passionate about exploring every nook and cranny of this beautiful country, I spend my days deep in the great Swiss outdoors, and love to share these experiences and insights with fellow travel enthusiasts.

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