This is my entry for the "Local Folklore" contest held by
Of the stories and legends I came across growing up on the North Sea, the one that always fascinated me most was that of Hauke Haien, the Dyke Master, and his white ghostly horse. It's also a novel by Theodor Storm.
The people in Northern Germany have always lived near the sea, and known of its dangers. In the eighteenth century, there lived a Dyke Master (in charge of building and maintaining dykes) who had revolutionary ideas about how dykes should be built – ideas the people were sceptical about, but not nearly as sceptical as they were about the white horse he rode.
This horse had been given to him by a mysterious stranger, more dead than alive; Hauke had nursed it back to health. Around the same time, however, the skeleton of a horse that had lain for ages on a Hallig (an island just out to sea) had suddenly vanished. The people were convinced that Hauke’s horse was a ghost, even the devil himself.
When the next great flood came, Hauke, riding along the toiling men on the dyke, realised that the old dyke was giving way to the waters. The dyke finally broke, and Hauke had to watch his young wife and their little daughter dying in the floods.
Seeing this, he forced his horse into the water, crying, “O Lord, take me, spare the others!”
The storm let up, the water went back. Neither Hauke nor his horse were ever seen again. But the next day, the horse skeleton was found lying on the Hallig once more.
Hauke Haien’s new dyke still stood a hundred years later, with a wide, softly rising slope facing the sea, which the water could not break.
And whenever a flood threatened to break the dyke, the people on land would swear they saw a rider on a white horse, riding along the dyke in the storm.
Watercolours and white marker on Hahnemühle paper, A3 size.
Original will go to my dad for his seventieth birthday. ^^