The Water Man

Povodni mož In Slovenian folklore there are countless tales of Povodni mož/Water man, sometimes called Gestrin. He is a water spirit, often described as half man, half fish, who can change his appearance on land and may play mischief on humans. Many tales have to do with kidnapping of young beautiful maidens, to whom they offer glittering treasures of pearls and gold, sometimes in gratitude for help.

Gestrin is Water Man, young rather than old, who has fins instead of feet. On the Drava River the fishermen and boatmen fear him. At night he likes to shows his head out of the whirlpool, sometimes he blows into his horn. Instantly water and sea maidens arise above the water surface and swim towards him. Gestrin is fierce by nature; he drags humans into the whirlpool or throws them onto the rocks. Boatmen and fishermen have a custom, that they throw into the water, before they venture on it, a ring, wrapped in a kerchief. In this way they calm Gestrin, and gain his goodwill.

The Water Man who is the master of Mura River, can be propitiated with gifts. A girl, a bold kind, was travelling with a large company by boat to a party in Prekmurje. It was not long before the Water Man realized what kind of goods were being transported in the boat, and began to raise huge waves, in order to overturn it. There was grave danger, that they would all drown; then one of the company remembered, that the girl must throw in the water something that she values most dearly, otherwise the Water Man will not stop until he has got her. The girl did as suggested and threw into the wild Mura waters her new sandals with beautiful heels. Only in this way was the company saved from certain drowning.

Gestrin je Povodni mož, bolj mlad kakor star, nima nog, temveč plavuti. Ob Dravi se ga boje ribiči in brodarji. Ponoči rad pomalja glavo iz cmrka, včasih tudi zatrobi v rog. Hkrati se pokažejo nad gladino Vodne in Morske deklice in splavajo k njemu. Gestrin je hude narave; ljudi vlači v cmrk ali jih meče na pečine. Brodarji in ribiči imajo navado, da vržejo v vodo, preden se podajo nanjo, prstan, zamotan v rutico. Tako potolažijo Gestrina in pridobe njegovo prijaznost.
Tudi Povodnega moža, ki gospodari v reki Muri, se da potolažiti z darili. Neka deklina, bolj predrzne vrste, se je z večjo družbo vozila v čolnu v Prekmurje na gostijo. Povodni mož je kaj kmalu spoznal, kake vrste blago se vozi v čolnu, in je začel vzdigovati strašne valove, da bi ga prekucnil. Bila je velika nevarnost, da se vse skupaj potopi; tedaj se spomni nekdo iz družbe, da mora deklina vreči v vodo, kar ji je najdražje, sicer ne bo Povodni mož prej miroval, dokler je ne dobi v pest. Deklina uboga in vrže v razburkano Muro nove opanke z lepimi peticami. Le tako se je rešila vsa družba gotovega potopa.

The maiden leaves home for the Water Man

Beautiful Meta minded the herd by the Sava River; she was a poor girl. God knows what she was thinking when something moved in the water and from the reeds begins to appear a man’s arm. Soon the whole body rises from the water; it was a giant, green and covered all over with scales. The maiden took fright, but the giant spoke in a kindly fashion:
"Don’t be afraid, maiden, my arm is hurt and I beg you to dress the wound. I will pay you well."
The girl turned back, tore her kerchief and started to bandage the arm of the man, who was so big, that she could barely reach his knee. While working on his wound, she forgot her fear and on finishing the job, she told him calmly to return the next day. The Water Man looked at her with gratitude in his eyes and disappeared under the water.
Later than was her custom Meta brought her sheep and goats home that evening. The next day the Water Man again appeared with his wounded arm. The maiden again dressed the wound. This went on for three weeks. When he came for the last time, he showed her a casket, which contained marvelous pearls. He gave it to the maiden and said: "Thank you, maiden for your compassion. As many times as you dressed my wound, so many pearls will you find in the casket. Now you will not see me any more. If you are happy and contented in the world, then remember the man, who made you the gift of good fortune. Keep well!"
He turned and left – and something played in his eyes. The maiden looked long at the spot where the man had disappeared in the water; her heart was heavy. The pearls that she began to view did nothing to make her happier. She brought home her herd and showed her parents what she was given. The riches of the poor shepherdess became know far and wide; from everywhere came suitors, who never bothered to notice her before. As much as they fawned and wooed, her heart remained cold. Not only that, she began to languish visibly; some untold sorrow was eating away her strength. One evening her mother came home from work: she called Meta, but Meta was nowhere to be found. With dark foreboding she went to the girl’s room. On the table stood the casket with pearls, on top a white leaf:
"Dear mother, pearls and all is yours; you will not see me again; I am going to the Water man."

Dekle odide za Povodnim možem
Lepa Meta je pasla ob Savi; bila je uboga deklica. Bog znaj, kaj je premišljevala, ko se je mahoma nekaj v vodi zgane in se začne iz bičevja pomaljati velika moška roka. Kmalu pride ostalo truplo iz vode; bil je velikan, ves luskinast in zelen. Deklica se ustraši, toda velikan ji veli s prijaznim glasom:
"Ne boj se, deklica, ranjen sem na roki in te prosim, da mi rano obvežeš. Dobro ti poplačam."
Deklica se obrne, takoj raztrga ruto ter začne obvezovati roko možu, ki mu je segala jedva do kolen. Med poslom jo je minil strah in ko je končala obvezo, mirno reče možu. naj pride drugi dan spet. Povodni mož jo pogleda s hvaležnim očesom in zgine v vodi.
Kasneje kot drugekrati je prignala Metka tisti večer drobnico domov. Drugi dan se je Povodni mož spet prikazal s svojo bolno roko pri deklici, ki mu je obnovila obvezo. To je trajalo tri tedne. Ko je prišel zadnjič, ji pokaže skrinjico, v kateri so se blesteli prekrasni biseri; da jo deklici rekoč:
"Hvala ti deklica za tvojo dobrotljivost! Kolikokrat si mi obvezala roko, tolikokrat po en biser najdeš v skrinjici. Sedaj me ne boš več videla. Če boš na svetu srečna in zadovoljna, tedaj se spominjaj tudi moža, ki ti je naklonil srečo. Zdrava!"
Obrnil se je k odhodu – v očeh se mu je nekaj spreletavalo… Deklica je dolgo zrla na mesto, kjer je izginil mož v vodi; pri srcu ji je bilo zelo težko. Niti biseri, ki jih je začela ogledovati, je niso prav veselili. Prižene domov in pokaže staršem, kaj je dobila. Novica o bogastvu uboge pastirice se je raznesla daleč okoli; od vseh strani so prihajali snubači, ki jih je prej tako malo videla. Kakor so se ji prilizovali in ponujali, njeno srce je ostalo hladno. In ne samo to: deklica je vidno hirala; neko neznano gorje ji je jemalo sile. Nekega večera se je vrnila mati z dela domov: kliče Metko, a nje ni odnikoder. V hudih slutnjah gre v dekličjo sobo. Na mizi je bila odprta skrinjica z biseri, na vrhu pa bel listek:
"Ljuba mati, biseri in vse je Vaše; mene ne boste več videli; grem za Povodnim možem."

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

Translated into English by Aleksandra Ceferin



Aleksandra Ceferin

Aleksandra Ceferin (M.A., B.A., Dip.Ed.) has introduced Slovenian language as a school subject in Australian school system and founded the Slovenian Teachers' Association of Victoria in 1976. She has extensive experience in language education: as teacher, lecturer, curriculum coordinator, course writer, language consultant and manager, VCE State Reviewer and Chief Examiner. Since 1998 she has been the President of ISSV and the manager and chief editor of its projects. Aleksandra visits Slovenian annually, establishing and maintaining contacts with Slovenia, and initiating exchanges and cooperation between organizations. In 2004 she was the recipient of the National Education Award of RS Slovenia.