Last week I walloped you with pictures of castle ruins. This week I thought I'd post some pictures of monsters that I saw on that same trip and share a little Czech monster story.
Join me below the orange hairball for a fable and a few photos won't you?
While on a stroll, through a village neighboring the one we were staying in at a friend's cottage, I encountered a panel displaying information about the area. Half of the panel was dedicated to the story of how the local villagers gained the nickname of "hastermen". A "hasterman", or "vodník", is a (usually) malicious water spirit that is popularly featured in many Czech fairy tales. They live at the bottoms of rivers and ponds and drown unwary people; collecting their souls in lidded jars.
[Note on the translation: I'm translating this directly from the info panel and I'll avoid the awkward construction of calling the people from this village, the name of which translates as "Raspberry", "the villagers from Raspberry"-- instead, I'll simply call them "Raspberries", which is closer to the Czech construction and just funnier. I'll also leave some of the sentence structure closer to the original because this isn't a story from Keokuk, Iowa-- it should sound slightly foreign.]
The Hastermen of RaspberryIt just so happened that our visit to this lovely area of The Czech Republic corresponded with start of Lent and as we were walking out of a restaurant after a long hike along the Berounka river I was suddenly met with a Masopust (maso = meat, pust = fast) parade. A crowd of costumed villagers (not Raspberries) walking through their village, going from house to house, singing songs and receiving gifts.
Do you perhaps know how the Raspberries came to be called hastermen? There once wandered along the stream from the forest into Raspberry, a vodník. A tiny, little man with horse legs, all in green. Before the Raspberries could do anything, that strange figure reached the fish pond and jumped into the water. The farmers and the poor bemoaned the awful misfortune that had befallen them. They feared that the vodník would drown children and flood fields and pastures, thereby ruining their harvest. A few brave men resolved that they wouldn't wait for the worst to happen; that they themselves would make certain that the vodník wouldn't stick around for long. They came up with a plan. They'd pull up the floodgate, drain the pond, and once the water was gone, catch the vodník like a defenseless fish and dry him in the sun. There came to watch this vodník hunt, people from the whole region. From a respectful distance they surrounded the pond and held their breath as they watched the water slowly drain away under the raised floodgate and, with a droning, vanish into the stream. The crowds on the banks watched the diminishing water in anxious silence. Just here and there one of the audience would cry out in fear when the dropping surface was broken by the movement of a frightened fish. The water of the pond disappeared, but of the vodník there was neither sight nor sound. And he didn't appear even when the pond was quite empty. On the bottom awkwardly flopped in the mud only some fish and in the net set up in the stream under the dam were caught only shaggy clumps of limp water plants. "So, where do you have him, you hastermen?" rose a spiteful comment from the crowd and after it exploded a burst of condescending laughter. The Raspberries had a coat of shame and for a long time no one called them anything other than - hastermen.
I like the kids pulling the wagon for all the gifts they were receiving. Many of the gifts often come in shot glasses though.
We followed along behind the crowd with a few old stragglers. That old woman with the cane in the photo above has a sign taped to her back with a pictures of a goat's head and a milk pail and "Best milker in the county" written (in Czech of course). They all seemed to be having a marvelous time. As the crowd gathered in front of each house she was obviously one of the main attractions.
It may not have been Mardi Gras in New Orleans but I was enchanted by the whole thing. Somehow, in all my years of living over here, I'd never seen a parade for Masopust. I felt quite privileged to have witnessed it.
Well, here's wishing you all have a delightful weekend whether or not you're observing Lent. Speaking of fasting, I haven't had my dinner yet. Stir-fried noodles with chicken, onion, ginger, garlic, kohlrabi and carrot. So, what are you having for dinner? How was your week? I've been doing some cartooning. Lots of ink brush drawings that I'll perhaps share with you if you'll be so kind as to join me next week for your Fuzzy Friday Open Thread.