The Goldenhorn

ZlatorogThe legend of Goldenhorn/Zlatorog, the white steinbock with golden horns, is one of the best known Slovenian tales. His realm are the heights of Slovenia’s legendary mountain, Triglav, where tended by White women or Vile (fairies), he guards great treasures.

The Goldenhorn
Lake valley and rocky Komna were a mountain paradise long ago. There lived White women, goodhearted beings, that the people still remember with gratitude. They appared in the valley, gave help to the poor in dire straights, especially women giving birth; such a child was then all its life under the protection of White women. They taught shepherds to recognize medicinal herbs and their power, on naked rocky edges they wakened to growth juicy grasses, so that the poor manč‡s goat would find their pasture there. They avoided the thankfulness of the valley people, and if anyone dared to come near the high valley, they turned him from the path with threatening gestures. If anyone came either by mistake or on purpose boldly into the vicinity of their dwellings, they were forced to turn back by rocky landslide, heavy rainfalls and hail from the mountains.
On the rocky face, which ends in in Soška Valley, grazed the white goats of the maidens; if anybody came near, they threw stones at him. These goats were led by Goldenhorn, marvelous he-goat with golden horns. White women made him invulnerable. If a shooter wounded him, there grew from his blood, no matter where it felt, magic herb, called maguc balsam or Triglav rose. If Goldenhorn ate only one leaf of this herb, he immediately healed, even the hunter shot him in the heart. His gold horns wwere the key to the gold on the mountain Bogatin, which is guarded by the hundred-headed dragon.
Where rivers Soča and Koritnica merge, there stood long ago on the road to Trbiž an inn. The daughter of the inn-keeper had many suitors, but she loved the hunter from Trenta, son of the blind widow. This young man was known far and wide to be the best hunter, and he was said to be under protection of White women. He knew all paths, and he had no fear of rocky landslides.
In spring one year traveling merchants stopped at the inn on their way to the north. Among them, a young wealthy Italian, spoke sweet words to the inn-keeper’s daughter, and he was not backward with lovely gifts. So it happened that the girl and the hunter of Trenta quarrelled and the girl said to him, that Italians are fine gentlemen, and not like him, who knows all the riches of the mountains, but had not yet brought her the Triglav rose., while the Italian had given her a pearl necklace at their first meeting.
Then the hunter said, raging: “I know where the key to the Bogatin is hidden, and if I get it, I will be king in comparison to your traders, whom you can wait on as you like.”
Offended he left the inn and then met up with the Green hunter. This man did not have such a good reputation. He told tales about the wealth of Bogatin mountain and talked him into going with him to stalk the Goldenhorn. They came onto his spoor, the Trenta hunter shot him and then they followed the wounded animal along a narrow path, which ended at a sheer rock. At that moment the Trenta hunter saw between the snow and ice the most beautiful Triglav roses, among them the planika, which he used to make medicine for his motherč‡s eyes. The young man remembered his poor mother and was about to abandon his pursuit, but the Green hunter began to taunt him with mocking words, and so the young man continued to follow the bloody spoor.
In the meantime the Goldenhorn reached the spot where grew the bloodred Triglav roses and ate some. Immediately he regained his strength; in big jumps he ran towards the Trenta hunter on the narrow path, splendidly glowed his horns in the sun. At that moment the hunter lost his nerve: before him the proud Goldenhorn, coming nearer in threatening attack, beneath him the bottomless depths, behind him the skyhigh rocky face; he was overcome by dizziness, and fell into the depths. Next spring the water brought his body past the inn. In his hand, the hunter held a bunch of Triglav roses.
And when in summer the shepherds returned to the Lake valley, they found a rocky place instead of the paradise; White women had left the place forever, with them went the white goats. Goldenhorn had in his rage completely destroyed and buried the meadows, and today you can still see traces of his horns on the rocks.


Jezerska dolina in skalna Komna sta bili nekoč planinski raj. Tam so bivale Bele žene, mila dobrosrčna bitja, ki se jih narod še danes s haležnostjo spominja. Prikazovale so se v dolini, pomagale siromakom v stiskah, posebno še ženam pri porodu; tak otrok je bil potem celo življenje pod zaščito Belih žen. Pastirje so učile spoznavati zdravilna zelišča in njih moči, ob golih skalnih robovih so prebujale k rasti sočno travo, da bi našla koza uboščeva tu svojo pašo. Izogibale so se zahvalnosti dolincev in če se je kdo drznil, približati se preblizu visoki dolini, so ga odvrnile od nadaljnjega pota z grozečimi kretnjami. Če je prišel kdo pomotoma ali v nalašč iz drznosti v bližino njih bivališč, so ga prisilili kameni plazovi, nalivi in toča prihajajoča iz gor, k povratku.
Na steni, ki pada strmo v Soško dolino, so se pasle bele koze teh devic; če se jim je kdo približal, so spuščale nanj kamenje. Te koze je vodil Zlatorog, krasen kozel z zlatimi rogovi. Bele žene so ga naredile neranljivega. Če ga je strelec zadel, je iz njegove krvi, pa naj je kamorkoli padla, zraslo čudovito zelišče, imenovano čudežni balzam ali triglavska roža. Ako je zlatorog použil le en list tega zelišča, je takoj ozdravel, pa naj ga je lovec zadel v samo srce. Njegovi zlati rogovi pa so bili ključ do zlata v gori Bogatinu, ki ga čuva stoglavi zmaj.
Kjer ste stekata Soča in Koritnica, je stala nekoč ob cesti v Trbiž krčma. Hčer krčmaričina je imela mnogo snubcev, ljubila pa je le Trentarskega lovca, sina slepe vdove. Ta mladenič je slovel daleč naokrog kot najboljši lovec, splošno se je govorilo o njem, da je pod zaščito Belih žen. Poznal je vse steze in ni se mu bilo bati kamenih plazov. Neko spomlad so prišli na svojem potu v severne kraje zopet beneški kramarji in se ustavili v krčmi. Eden med njimi, mlad in bogat Lah, se je s sladkimi besedami dobrikal domači hčeri, tudi z lepimi darili ni skoparil. Zato sta se deklica in Trentarski lovec sporekla in dekle mu je sponesla, da so Lahi fina gospoda, ne pa takšni kakor je on, ki pozna vsa bogastva gora, pa ji doslej še ni prinesel triglavske rože, dočim ji je Lah že ob prvem svidenju podaril biserno ogrlico. Nato je lovec togotno odgovoril: “Vem kje je ključ do Bogatina, in če ga dobim, sem kralj v primeri s tvojimi kramarji, ki jim potem tabernaj, kakor hočeš.”
Užaljen je zapustil krčmo in se nato sestal z Zelenim lovcem. Ta mož ni bil baš na najboljšem glasu. Pripovedoval mu je mnogo o bogastvu v Bogatinu in ga pregovoril, da sta šla še isti večer zalezovat Zlatoroga. Res sta mu prišla na sled, Trentarski lovec ga je s strelom pogodil in potem sta sledila težko ranjeni živali po ozki stezi, ki se je končevala pred strmo pečino. Tedaj zagleda Trentarski lovec med snegom in ledom najlepše triglavske rože, med njimi tudi planike, ki je iz njih kuhal svoji materi zdravilo za oči. Mladenič se je spomnil uboge matere in že je hotel opustiti svoj namen, a Zeleni lovec ga začne zbadati s porogljivimi besedami in tako je šel lovec dalje po krvavi sledi. Zlatorog pa je medtem pritekel do mesta, kjer so rasle krvavordeče triglavske rože in jih je nekaj použil. Dale so mu prejšnjo moč; skokoma se približa po ozki stezi Trentarskemu lovcu, krasno zažari njegovo rogovje v sončni svetlobi. Lovca zapusti ob tem pogledu mirna zavest: pred njim ponosni Zlatorog, ki se približuje v grozečem naskoku, pod njim brezdanja globina, zadaj nebotična stena; zavrti se mu v glavi in telebne v globino.

Drugo pomlad je priplavalo njegovo truplo pred krčmo. V roki je lovec držal šopek triglavskih rož.
In ko so poleti prišli pastirji zopet v Jezersko dolino, so našli na mestu prejšnjega raja skalno pečevje; Bele žene so kraj za vedno zapustile, z njimi so odšle tudi bele koze. Zlatorog je v svoji jezi popolnoma porušil in pokopal livade in še danes se v skalovju poznajo sledovi njegovih rogov.

Jakob Kelemina, Bajke in pripovedke slovenskega ljudstva, (first printed in 1930, 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.