Bonfire man

KresnikKresnik appears to be the fire god, the son of the sun god, or in a later tradition a powerful hero with magic powers. The word Kresnik derives from kres/bonfire, connecting with the still living Slovenian tradition of bonfires (kresovanje) on the night of midsummer solstice. The name Kresnik therefore means the shining, the sparkling one. There are many tales of Kresnik in Slovenian oral tradition, and undoubtedly this mythical figure originates in ancient pagan beliefs. During a more recent cycle of Kresnik myth he appears also as the mythical Slovenian prince, who fights dragons, serpents and wizards to protect his people and merges with the tradition of the good ruler, represented by the myth of Kralj Matjaž.

I. Kresnik is the goldenhaired and goldenarmed son of the heavenly ruler. Nine years his mother carried him, until her husband, who was all the while under the spell of an evil witch. When Kresnik was young, he grazed his herd on the mountain pasture. He just dozed off, and then the serpent king Babilon, his deadly enemy, arrived from the far lands. He stole all his cows, herded them far away into the hills, and hid them in a cave. Kresnik woke up and found his stock missing; he went on his way to look for it. After a long while he reached the cave and knocked with his great firebrand against the rocky doorway. Instantly thousands of evil spirits bursts out of the cliff; as soon as the spirits show themselves in the light, it began to thunder and lightening flashed as on the judgement day. However, Kresnik knew that these dogheads were evil wizards. He slayed them to the last one and then the weather immediately cleared up. When the king Babilon appeared, ke slayed him also. In the cave Kresnik found his herd and drove it home.

II. It happened long long ago, when princes still pastured their own herds. Kresnik had many cows, and he liked to graze and milk them himself. The milk from his cows smelled so good, that the snake often hid in the stable and suckled all the milk from the cows. Once when the prince slept, Vouvel the giant came and stole his herd. He took it far away into the Pohorje hills and closed them into a deep cave. For a long time Kresnik searched for his stock, but he could not find it. However he had a dog with four eyes and he sent him to search into the world. The dog soon smelled out the cows. He ran back to report to his master, that he had found the herd.. Like a bird Kresnik flew over the mountains. In the deep stillness of the Pohorje forests was the cave, from which issued the sounds of mooing. Kresnik knocked on the door. Tolovaj, half dragon, half man refused to return the cows. So Kresnik killed him with thunderbolts.

III. A better ending has the tale about Vouvel. The giant Vouvel has, hidden deep in the cave of Pohorje Turjak a great herd of stock, that he stole from Kresnik. Kresnik comes to the cave with a thick iron hammer and strikes the door. The White woman inside calls out: “Whoever you are, you won’t be able to open the door! But if you find vouvelica grass and say: Go, cow, back to Kresnik, the earth needs rain! then the door will open at once!“ He searched for a long time for vouvelica grass, but did not find it. Then he saw a black fog, and it was Vouvel riding home. They fought. Kresnik killed the giant and saved the stock.

IV. Once, when Kresnik was far away in strange lands, there came from somewhere a terrible serpent. When it entered Drava, in order to cross the water, the river banked up and flooded the fields; so huge was the monster. Then the snake crawled towards the castle and clasped it with its body, drawing tail into the mouth. In the castle lived imprisoned the beautiful princess Vesina. Six months the dragon lay in wait for Vesina beneath the castle walls. On St.George’s Day came the handsome count Kresnik with bright sword and stood on the snake. But the snake had wings and took to the air. Kresnik also had magic – he grew wings, and Kresnik and Ses did fierce battle in the air. When the serpent saw, that he was the weaker, he spoke to the hero: “No use to you, to take the maiden from me, she is your sister! No use to you!“
The hero answered: “What is fated, will happen; it will avail nothing to resist“, and swings with his arm the last, forceful blow against the snake. The snake fell heavily to the ground; the hero later threw it into the castle brook and chained it with heavy rope to the cliff, where it still lies today. When Kresnik defeated Ses, golden wheat fell to earth. Kresnik took Vesina for a wife and lived happily with her.

I. Kresnik je zlatlasi in zlatoroki sin nebeškega vladarja. Devet let ga ni mogla poviti njegova mati, dokler je ni blagoslovil soprog, ki je bil tako dolgo v oblasti zle čarodejke. Ko je bil Kresnik še mlad, je pasel čredo na planini. Baš je bil malo zadremal, kar pride iz daljnjih krajev njegov smrtni sovražnik, kačji kralj Babilon. Pokral mu je vse krave in jih odgnal daleč nekam v hribe. in tamle skril v veliki gorski votlini. Kresnik se prebudi in pogreši svoje blago; poda se na pot, da bi ga poiskal. Po dolgem času dospe pred tisto votlino in udari s silno baklačo ob skalnata vrata. Mahoma privre na tisoče hudih duhov iz pečine; a čim se pokažejo ti duhovi na svetlem, se začne bliskati in grmeti kakor sodni dan. Kresnik je pa vedel, da so ti psoglavci sami vražji coprniki. Zato je potolkel vse od prvega do zadnjega in takoj se je zvedrilo. Ko se je nato prikazal še kralj Babilon, je pobil tudi njega. V votlini je našel svojo čredo in jo odgnal domov.

II. To je bilo v tistih davnih časih, ko so še knezi pasli svoje črede. Kresnik je imel dosti krav, ki jih je najrajši sam pasel in tudi molzel. Mleko njegovih krav je tako dišalo, da se je bila kača večkrat skrila v hlev in izsesala kravam mleko. Nekoč je knez zaspal, kar pride velikan Vouvel in mu pokrade čredo. Odvede jo daleč v pohorske hribe in jo zapre v globoko votlino. Dolgo je Kresnik iskal svoje blago, pa ga nikjer ni mogel najti. Imel pa je psa s štirimi očmi in tega pošlje po svetu iskat. Hitro je pes izvohal kravice. Zbeži nazaj, poročat svojemu gospodarju, da je čredo našel. Kakor ptič zleti Kresnik čez planine. V globoki tišini pohorskih gozdov je bila votlina, iz katere se je čulo mukanje. Kresnik potrka na vrata. Tolovaj, napol pozoj, napol človek, mu noče dati krav. Kresnik ga ubije s streli.

III. Popolnejši konec ima povest o Vouvelu. Velikan Vouvel ima globoko v votlini pohorskega Turjaka skritega dosti blaga, ki ga je ukradel Kresniku. Kresnik pride pred votlino in z debelim železnim kladivom udari na vrata. Bela žena se oglasi od znotraj: “Bodisi si, kdor si, ne bodeš mogel odpreti! Pa če vouvelico najdeš in rečeš: Hajd krava, nazaj h Kresniku, zemlji je treba dežja! tedaj se bodo vrata hitro odprla!“
Iskal je dolgo trave vouvelice, pa je ni našel. Tedaj zagleda črno meglo, v kateri je Vouvel jahal domov. Vname se boj. Kresnik ubije velikana in reši blago.

IV. času, ko je bil Kresnik daleč nekje v tujih deželah, je prišla odnekod strašna kača. Ko se je spustila v Dravo, da bi prelezla vodo, se je reka zajezila in poplavila polje; tako velike je bila nakaza. Nato se je kača vlekla proti gradu in ga je oklenila s truplom, rep v gobec potegnivši. V gradu je živela zaprta lepa kraljična Vesina. Šest mesecev je pred grajskim zidovjem prežal zmaj na Vesino. Na Jurjevo je pa prišel lepi grof Kresnik s svetlim mečem in stopil na kačo. Ta pa je imela peroti in je zletela v zrak. Pa tudi Kresnik je znal bajati – zrasla so mu krila in v zraku sta se Kresnik in Ses hudo vojskovala. Ko kača vidi, da je slabša, ogovori junaka: “Ne bo ti v prid, da mi jemlješ devico, ker je tvoja sestra! Ne bo ti v prid!“
Junak odvrne: “Kar mi je usojeno, se mora zgoditi; zastonj se je temu upirati“ in zamahne z zadnjim silnim udarcem po njej. Kača telebne ob tla; on jo kesneje vrže v grajski studenec in jo priklene s silnim lancem ob pečino, kjer še danes leži. Ko je Kresnik premagal Sesa, padala je sama zlata pšenička na zemljo. Kresnik si je Vesino vzel za ženo in je srečno živel z njo.

Jakob Kelemina, Bajke in pripovedke slovenskega ljudstva, (first printed in 1930, publ. Humar 1997)

Translated into English by Aleksandra Ceferin



Zmago Šmitek

Dr. Zmago Šmitek was born in 1949 in Kropa, Slovenia. He graduated in 1973 at the Faculty of Arts in ethnology and history of art. In the same year he was appointed to the Department for Ethnology and in 1974 was elected assistant. In 1979 he completed the degree of Master of Arts (“Division of work as a part of social culture of Vitanje”) and in 1983 the PhD (“Horizon of Slovenes in the field of non-European cultures”). In-between he spent one year (1979-1980) on professional development in New Delhi. He was nominated Associate Professor and in 1995 Professor for non-European Ethnology and Ethnology of Europe. For several years he acted as Chairman of the Department. Prof. Zmago Šmitek lectures on Religious Anthropology and Ethnology of Asia, and conducts seminars in both fields. His fields of study are History of Slovenian Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, religion, comparative mythology, culture of Slovenes and Slavs, Slovenian links with non-European cultures, cultures of Asia. He has published several books and a number of articles in his field of studies, notably Slovenian folk narratives: Myths and Legends (2006) Most recently the exceptional Slovenian mythological series of eight books The treasury of Slovenian Tales, in cooperation with Roberto Dapit and Monika Kropej.