Ancient Bohemian Legends

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Ancient Bohemian legends (Staré pověsti české in Czech) is a book by Alois Jirásek written in 1894. It includes legends such as Maidens' War, Libuše and Přemysl, Krok's Daughters, Bohemian Arrival and Golem of Prague.

The legends[edit]

Bohemian Arrival[edit]

According to myth, some Slavic people from an area between the Vistula River and Carpathian mountains set off to the west in search of plentiful lands. They were led by Forefather Čech and his brother, Lech. After a long time (perhaps years) of traveling, they arrived to busky land.

Forefather Čech climbed Říp Mountain and looked around the land. Then he allegedly said: "Oh, comrades, you've endured hardships along with me, when we wandered in impassable woods; finally we arrived at our homeland. This is the best country, predestined for you. Here you won't miss anything, but you'll take pleasure in permanent safety. Now that this sweet and beautiful land is in your hands, think up a suitable name."

The Bohemians named their homeland after their leader and forefather: Čechy. Čech means "one of us".

Touched, Čech replied: "God bless our Promised land, by thousandfold wishes wish-ful from us, save us scatheless and breed our issue from generation to generation, amen".

Then some Slavs around Lech rose up and left Bohemia; they settled in Poland.

Čech was duke (vojvoda) of his land for a long time. There was peace in his land, nobody thieved, and all was well. But after Čech's death, morals soon declined.

Krok's Daughters[edit]

Duke Krok with his daughters: Libuše, Kazi, and Teta

Krok was the ruler of a Bohemian tribe, that today would have been located in the Kladno district. He was just and kept his tribe at peace. When the Bohemians recognized his wisdom and fairness, they elected him as their new judge.

Krok and his wife, Niva (literally Lea, Mead) had three daughters: the eldest daughter, Kazi, knew every herbaceous plant and was a healer, a pythoness and Fate[clarification needed]; their second daughter, Teta, taught Bohemians how to worship their deities, idols, and nymphs; the youngest daughter, Libuše, was a prophetess. She was so chaste and kindly that the Bohemians elected her as judge after Krok's death.

Přemysl and Libuše[edit]

Princess Libuše prophesies the glory of Prague

Libuše was a wise and just judge for several years. In her free time, she used to ride her white horse to a nearby village, where a young man called Přemysl lived. Then one day two men came to Libušin (Libuše's seat) with a dispute - they were in disagreement as to where one's lot ended and the other's began.

Libuše judged them, but the loser was angry and exclaimed: "Why must we have a female judge? Every nation is ruled by a man - what a shame! Long hair means short reason!"

She listened to their protests and send men to find her a suitable husband, saying, "Find yourself a duke and myself a husband, if you will. But beware, a man will be a stern ruler, harsh upon you, unlike I was. If you are unsure about what man to choose, take my white horse and go wherever it goes, until it stops in front of a man. You will know that it is the right man by these signs: he ploughs with two oxen, and he eats from an iron table. If you like, take horses, a robe, a cloak and shawls and go give that man a message from me and my people and bring a duke to yourselves and a husband to me."

They did as told; the white horse went for three days, looking neither right nor left, not stopping for a graze, not letting itself to be disturbed by other horses playing in the pastures by the path. Finally, it stopped in front of Přemysl, who was just ploughing his field with two oxen. To welcome the delegation, Přemysl turned his plough upside down and served some bread with salt on top of the iron part of it. Then they brought him back to Libuše, who married him with great joy and made him the first Duke.

Later, during her life with Přemysl, it is said she had a long vision of the future capital Prague. "...I see a great city, the glory of which touches the stars."

The Maidens' War[edit]

As long as Libuše lived, women in Bohemia had many rights. But once Přemysl came into power, he started promoting male rights at the expense of female rights. This led Vlasta (Libuše's chambermaid) to rebel against Přemysl in the Maidens' War.

Most of Bohemia's women started conspiring, and they murdered men and waged war against them. The best-known tale is about Šárka, the noble maid, who baited a trap for Ctirad. She pretended to refuse to join Vlasta, tying her to a tree and leaving her in the centre of a deep forest. Ctirad then untied her and drank Šárka's poisoned mead. He fainted and Šárka captured him. After he woke up in the maidens' base, they tortured him to death. This provoked Přemysl to storm their castle and put an end to the horrific war.

Seven mythical dukes[edit]

Nezamysl was a son of Přemysl (the name translating as the literal opposite of Přemysl - "one who thinks a lot"). His son was Mnata ("one who doesn't forget"), whose son was Vojen (literally "the soldier"). His son was Vnislav (unknown meaning). Vnislav's son was Křesomysl - most wealthy and powerful of the seven, having discovered silver mines in the borderland. His son, Neklan, was a weakling.

Film adaptation[edit]

An animated film based on the stories, directed by Czech animator Jiří Trnka, was released in 1953.