Famous german novel “The Rider on a white Horse (Schimmelreiter)” by Theodor Storm draws on a superstition and theme that appears in numerous folk tales from the region of the North and Baltic Sea: In order to build a durable and reliable dyke, a living being has to be built into the construction alive. In Storm’s novel, the local builders try to hurl a dog into a hole in the dyke during construction. The animal is rescued by the main protagonist, the local Deichgraf who is supervising the construction. He later gives his own life by riding on his white horse into the open sea, in an attempt to safe the rest of the community.
There are various stories of towns abducting and killing foreigners – usually homeless people or minorities like Roma – or little children as sacrifices to make their dykes more durable. (Find an extensive comparative essay on the various sources here and another original source here. Both in German).
This superstition is comparable to other builder’s rites. But I wonder if similar superstitions or even customs exist in flood protextion in other world cultures as well?
Germany; 19. Century; Christian; Pagan; Animals; Text