In Germany, the Wichtlein (singular: Wichtlan) are little old long-bearded men, about 60 cm high, which haunt the mines of the southern land.
Witchlein means little Wights. The Bohemians call the Wichtlein by the name of Haus-schmiedlein, little House-smiths, from their sometimes making a noise as if labouring hard at the anvil.
Witchlein are not so popular as in Wales, however, as they predict misfortune or death. They announce the doom of a miner by knocking three times distinctly, and when any lesser evil is about to befall him they are heard digging, pounding, and imitating other kinds of work.
Witchlein also like to hinder the miners in their work by undoing their labor or hiding/sabotaging their tools.
There is, chiefly in Southern Germany, a species of beings that greatly resemble the Dwarfs.
They are called Wichtlein (Little Wights), and are about three quarters of an ell high. Their appearance is that of old men with long beards. They haunt the mines, and are dressed like miners, with a white hood to their shirts and leather aprons, and are provided with lanterns, mallets, and hammers. They amuse themselves with pelting the workmen with small stones, but do them no injury, except when they are abused and cursed by them.
They show themselves most especially in places where there is an abundance of ore, and the miners are always glad to see them; they flit about in the pits and shafts, and appear to work very hard, though they in reality do nothing. Sometimes they seem as if working a vein, at other times putting the ore into buckets, at other times working at the windlass, but all is mere show. They frequently call, and when one comes there is no one to be seen.
At Kuttenburg, in Bohemia, the Wichtlein have been seen in great numbers. They announce the death of a miner by knocking three times, and when any misfortune is about to happen they are heard digging, pounding, and imitating all other kinds of work. At times they make a noise, as if they were smiths labouring very hard at the anvil, hence the Bohemians call them Haus-Schmiedlein (Little House-Smiths).
In Istria the miners set, every day, in a particular place, a little pot with food in it for them. They also at certain times in each year buy a little red coat, the size of a small boy’s, and make the Wichtlein a present of it. If they neglect this, the little people grow very angry.
THE FAIRY MYTHOLOGY BY THOMAS KEIGHTLEY (1850)