A tell-tale trip to Bohemia | Daily News

A tell-tale trip to Bohemia

Adults in most countries around the world have the tradition of narrating various types of stories to their children and the younger generation of listeners. The types and the contents of the stories or narratives that came to be known too vary from culture to culture depending on the social structures as well as economic factors. Some narratives have become more popular than others depending on these and additional factors such as storytelling and narratological descriptions.

A collection of narratives titled The Water Sprite of the Golden Town by Zidenka and John Paul Quinn came to be read in the first instance by me several years ago as long as fifteen years ago. This collection, a fairly long narrative, is subtitled Folk Tales of Bohemia. This came to me as a welcome variant to the other types of narratives. The place of birth of these stories is noted as Bohemia, which is no other place than the Czech Republic. This underlines the fact that the Czech Republic may have been known as Bohemia for the Western visitors. The tales are not meant for children in particular or one particular type of listener or the receiver.

During ancient times, the Duchy of Bohemia may have been known as a city in Prague. The river known as Vitava also flowed under the dark stone bridge built by a long-ago emperor. Then there is a place where a hunchback has been living under some ancient broken cave, sloped down, reaching the riverbank. Here it is said that there lived a sprite known as a water sprite. Nobody has seen the creature. The wife of this sprite is named Sera. They had lived beneath the water for such a long time. Nobody has seen them either. But they have been helpful in many ways to avert the flood as well as to get down millions of people to help others - especially at displeasure and agony.

Magical tales

Some of the living beings, it is said, have been hiding in a bottle. The bottles had been there for such a long time and nobody dares to poke a finger on the used objects that connected various types of superstitions that happened to spread among the people. But they have hidden these as whispers. Nobody knew the story of what the other needs. Nobody wanted it narrated for some fear.

These narratives sum up as a result of water sprite and his wife. That is the only known factor about these tales. It is said that the city known as Prague hailed as a magic city is gone to destruction. The term Bohemia sprang up as a result of this magical quality of the city. The collectors of these stories happen to be Zidenka and her husband John Paul Quinn. John lived in America and came to know his wife through this narrative technique. It desires to listen to her, his wife Zidenka as well as from other elders who were around the magic city. Especially the story of Water Sprite changed from time to time by the piece of oral and written tradition.

I read these stories with pleasure. I came across curious princes and princesses and imprisoned kings, ministers, wise men who know the great means of escaping great disasters. Then I feel, as a reader, addressing his or her conscience what would I do if I happen to be one of the victims of any story. There is a charm. The charm is mad: know thyself. In that manner, the stories revolve around spiritualism or a perhaps better word to use is religious susceptibilities. Then the reader comes across friendly dragons and dangerous birds who turn to be helpful though sometimes disturb the living order.

The nine stories that are compiled by the husband and wife become significant human experiences. For example, in the opening stories titled as Our Great Master of Wisdom, the narrator stories known to us in the orient as Mahaushada the all-knower. The most intelligent man who advised people on things that they should do. The victory over stupidity is to become wise. Stupidity should be averted.

Definitions given

Then comes the story title: Rich Man and the Poor Man. In terms of modern sociology perhaps the definitions are given about richness and poverty. This story is like a development parable that is known to mass communication scholars. I found that poverty could be averted by means of human strength. This story underlines that concept.

Perhaps in a way, it is a magical fantasy woven around the rich human beliefs that charm and also be realistic. It has verbal as well as spiritual power. Then comes the story titled Princess with the Golden Star. I felt that this story is reminiscent of the well-known fairy story known to the whole world as Beauty and Beast. But this is not a mere Beauty and Beast type story. But something more than that. And it is not only the story of charm or the fair but a narrative that embraces the salient human factors of human kindness and patience at all times that indeed is spiritualism. However, animals too play a vital part in these stories. They become helpful to humans whether they are seen or invisible. Such a story titled Fox and Phoenix. The fox in this story is an animal that cannot be seen. But both become saints and human. Both animals come out at the right time when humans need their help. Phoenix in the form of a bird, fox in the form of an animal.

Then comes the story of a dragon. One significant story is titled Dragon’s Mastery. It is like a Chinese version of an ancient drag story where the humans Vs culprit dragon. This is something like taming a dragon. No more words are needed. These stories are entitled human beings in fantasies training dangerous animals like dragons for a better state. It is a magical strain of precious factors such as stupidity, stubbornness, and poverty. All these could be averted by being humble. Human beings become deities with inner powers and as a power of external powers.

The Water Sprite of the Golden Town is a rare collection of folktales that raises the question of whether sub-gods or demigods or dark angels live with human beings. The two authors have taken up the collection of stories better than some of the English and the European authors. Other main factors are certain blessings of demigods in order to avert disasters. The fear of hunger has a natural fear underlined.

This signifies the fact that the occidental stories can be compared with some of the oriental stories. Dhammapada or Mahabharatha or Rigveda. Addressing the readers, the two compilers ask a question: Do you feel that they are still living under the blessings of ancient path despite the great tenders and the new adventures and technology. I felt as if it is answered through the narratives themselves. There is a third eye given to these stories that open up each tale to my mind like a song. That emanates from the human path. One is that the natural smell or odour but not the artificial store. Natural thought. Creative vision. The natural form of wisdom and knowledge clutter means. These, for me, is quintessential of ancient tales as rediscovered as a gift to the world of tales.