Devil: The Life Story of a Chamois in the Austrian Alps

Publication Year: 1937.

Devil: The Life Story of a Chamois in the Austrian Alps, by Waldemar Schmidtman. Translated by the author. 214 pages, with numerous drawings by W. von Freyschlaz. New York: D. Appleton-Century Co.. 1936. Price $2.00.

As a small boy the reviewer vividly recalls excursions in the Bavarian foothills, and especially days spent on the alplands of the royal hunting preserves near Kreuth. It might be a misty morning when one stepped out of the forest glade, no sounds save rushing water and the pattering of falling pebbles. The mist might lift and one would see an old buck chamois high on a point of rock, sentinel for those below ; a sharp whistle and away they would race. Sometimes by chance one might encounter them at close quarters, and they would dash across the trail with all the rushing power of an avalanche. In later years we knew them in the Zillerthal and other Austrian valleys, silhouetted on little pinnacles against the rising sun; and there are recollections of a quiet evening in the Bernese Oberland, when a lonely buck stood besides the Strahlegg hut and would not go away.

Those who know their Theucrdank (1517) will be well aware of the adventures with chamois of Emperor Maximilian, and those who are fortunate enough to see publications of the Gesellschaft Alpiner Bücherfreunde (Munich) will recall their reprint of Adam Lebwald’s Damographia (1750). In recent years, however, Baillie Grohman and others have noted that, aside from Charles Boner’s Chamois Hunting in the Mountains of Bavaria (1853), there are not half a dozen books in the English language dealing with the chamois. Schmidtman’s book, translated by himself from his well- known Der Alte vom Steinernen Meer, is the thing we have been waiting for.

Born in England, the author was brought up on his father’s estate in the mountains of Salzburg, and he has chosen to tell the life story of Teufel, lord of all he surveys, from the time of his birth among the rocky fastnesses until he meets a noble death at the hands of the hunter. How skillfully this has been done the reader will easily discover, for here is the mountain world recreated, with its beast, bird and human inhabitants, presented simply and with sympathetic feeling. The illustrations are utterly charming.

J. M T