The Devil’s Bridges
Almost every country has its own Devil’s Bridge (and an obvious rational explanation). Perhaps the explanation for this is that The Devil has fallen for exactly the same trick so many times, for almost all follow the same plot, as in the following example. In the Austrian valley of Montafon, a village’s bridge was washed away in a flood, and the villagers were forced to offer a carpenter a fortune if he could build a new one in three days. He accepted the challenge, but even after a long night’s studying could not work out how he could do it.
Suddenly, a little man in a green hat (guess who?) appeared, offering to do it for him, provided that the first soul to cross the bridge from the carpenter’s house would be his. The carpenter agreed, but when the bridge was finished, he sent a goat across the bridge. The Devil, who had waited for many days, was outraged, but outfoxed. The Devil made the same mistake again and again, becoming a veritable Noah with his cargo of dogs, goats, and chickens to take back with him to hell. So much for Satan being nicknamed ‘the Father of all lies’.
They say that The Devil takes many forms, and this daft bridge-builder is the folkloric image of him. For throughout folklore, Satan is presented as something of a pantomime villain, grandiloquent and dangerous yet easily tricked. Perhaps his nearest modern cognate in this form are the villains (usually with English accents) of Disney films. But behind the folkloric Lucifer lies the innate fear of the Evil One. Mocking The Devil is a way of defeating him, much as children will poke fun at things they fear the most. Fear not – we will get on to The Devil’s less humorous forms.