Czech Folktales

During our time in the Czech Republic, the Go-Czech Republic 2019 group went on several site-seeing tours in Prague, Litomyšl, Brno, and Český Krumlov and saw many sites at which legends were said to have occurred. From getting stabbed with a rapier and then thrown out of a balcony window by your rich, crazy lover (The Bloodletters Daughter), to hunting and killing a wild boar with your bare hands in order to marry a beautiful princess (The Tale of Bivoj), to a statue of the Mother of God refusing to let go of your arm because you tried to steal from the collections plate in the church of St. James (The Severed Arm), the Czech Republic has some interesting folk tales that I will share with those that were not present during the original telling of the story.


The Tale of Bivoj


The first tale that I will briefly explain is the “Tale of Bivoj”. I first learned about the Tale of Bivoj while walking through a large park in Prague with several other students and one of our chaperones, Dr. Andes, and seeing a large wooden statue of a man carrying a boar on his back. I attempted to look up the tale shortly after seeing the statue, but I was unable to find much about the story at the time. However, I am now in possession of a complete story, but it is rather short.

There was once a princess named Libuše who lived in Vyšehrad (a fort in the city of Prague). One day, while having a discussion with her sister Kazi, she heard a commotion coming from her courtyard. She looked down from her balcony a saw a man (Bivoj), carrying a live boar on his back. Libuše went down to the courtyard and asked the crowd what was causing the disturbance.

An elderly man came forward and told Libuše that the black boar that Bivoj had on his back had been devastating the crops in the fields and prowled about in the woods at night and killed multiple people. No one was brave enough to capture the boar except for Bivoj. The princess spoke to Bivoj and told him to put the boar down so that the guards may kill the beast. However, Bivoj refused and said that he wanted to kill the boar himself because he was the one who had captured it.

Bivoj was given an iron-tipped spear by the guards (the story varies slightly) and he decides to fight the boar in the courtyard while everyone is watching. The boar rushes at Bivoj but he makes quick work of the boar by stabbing it through the throat, killing it almost instantly. He is hailed as a hero by the local people, and a large banquet is held in his honor. Shortly after the banquet, Kazi and Bivoj get married and they live happily ever after.


A wooden statue of Bivoj. Image provided by Picasa.


The Tale of the Severed Arm


The second tale that I will tell is the “Tale of the Severed Arm”. The story takes place in the Church of St. James. This is a church that the Go-Czech Republic class visited while on a tour of the city of Prague. The arm is supposedly on display, but it is unclear if it is an arm or not.

Inside of the church of St. James, immediately to the right of the main entrance, you can see something wrapped in cloth, hanging on a chain. One night, a long time ago, a thief hid inside of the church until the doors were locked for the night. Upon the altar, there sat a statue of Mother Mary with a beautiful pearl necklace around her neck. The thief saw the great value of the necklace and decided to steal it from the statue. Upon reaching for the necklace, the statue awoke and grabbed his arm so tightly that he was unable to escape from its grasp. The thief was forced to stay by the altar all night until he was discovered by the verger (a caretaker of the church).

Many attempts were made to free the man, but they were all unsuccessful. As a last resort, the executioner was called, and the thief’s arm was cut off. The arm was then hung up as a warning to other thieves to not steal from St. James church. After being released from prison, the thief joined the St. James’ Monastery to make up for his sins.


An image of the thief’s arm at St. James church. The author is unknown.


The Builder of Charles Bridge


The final tale I will tell is “the Builder of Charles Bridge”. Charles Bridge is an extremely popular bridge where you can find locals, tourists, musicians, and artists. The bridge features statues of saints, some of which are currently under restoration. Other than the statues, Charles Bridge also offers a beautiful view of the Vltava river. I highly recommend seeing it.

Charles Bridge has withstood many great floods throughout the centuries. However, a legend says that when St. John of Nepomuk was thrown from the bridge and drowned, one of the bridges arches collapsed and no one was able to repair it. A determined builder came along one day and decided that he would not stop until the bridge was successfully repaired. He tried and tried but was unsuccessful in his efforts. One night, the Devil appeared to him and offered him help in exchange for the soul of the first person to cross the bridge. The builder agreed, but he did not want an innocent soul to be taken by the Devil, so he decided to trick the Devil. After a few days, the bridge was successfully repaired, and a rooster was placed in the Old Town Bridge Tower with the goal of setting the bird free in the morning so that it would cross the bridge first.

However, the Devil figured out the builder’s plan and shape-shifted into a building-assistant and ran to the builder’s wife to tell her that her husband had been in an accident on the other side of the bridge. The builder’s wife ran across the bridge to find her husband, not knowing of the deal he had made with the Devil. The next night, the wife died as well as the child that she was expecting. The legend goes that the soul of the unborn child used to float above the bridge at night, and solitary pedestrians could hear the child sneezing. One night, a person heard the child sneeze and said, “God bless you” out of politeness although he could not see anyone. The man heard a small voice respond with “God willing”, and the soul was set free.


A photo of Charles Bridge at night. The author is unknown.


This is the final blog post for the Go-Czech Republic 2019 trip. We hope you enjoyed following our blog. Thanks for reading! Na shledanou!

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