A broken bargain

There was once a keen and skilful hunter in Unterschächen, who liked nothing better than to go into the mountains and shoot chamois.

One day, out with his gun on a steep mountain path, he suddenly found a strange little man standing in front of him, blocking his way.

“Why do you keep killing my goats?” the little man asked.

“What choice have I?” replied the hunter. “I have a wife and large family at home, and I have to feed them.”

“Let us make a bargain,” said the other. “Take this cheese, and it will feed you and your family for the rest of your lives, as long as you never eat it all up. And in exchange, you must never touch my chamois again.”

And he gave the hunter a small cheese.

“Don’t forget! If you break the bargain, you will be sorry.” And with that, the little man was suddenly gone.

The hunter took the cheese home, and did as he was instructed. It hardly looked big enough for one person, but the hunter put it on the table, and he and his wife and all the children took some and no-one was left feeling hungry. But they were careful to leave just a little bit. And the next morning, they found the cheese was back to its original size.

And so it went for some time. Every day they ate some of the cheese, and every morning it was just as big as ever.

But the hunter began to feel restless. He would look up into the mountains, and look at his gun hanging useless on the wall, and remember the old days. Eventually he couldn’t stand it any longer. But he didn't want to keep the cheese if he wasn’t going to keep his bargain, so one evening he told the family to eat it all up. However, one of the children dropped a small piece on the floor, and the next morning the cheese was back, as big as before.

Then the hunter invited his friends round, and this time they devoured the cheese down to the last crumb.

The next morning, the hunter took down his gun, and went up into the mountains. Up and up the almost sheer path he climbed, and there on the rocks above him he saw a beautiful white chamois, something he’d never seen before. He took careful aim - and just as he was about to fire, the little man of the mountains sprang onto his back and rolled him over the precipice into the emptiness below.