King Matjaž

Kralj Matjaž

Kralj Matjaž/King Mathias is the mythical king of the Slovenian people. The stories of Kralj Matjaž are many, and go far back into pagan times. He represents the mythical ruler, the king who is just and a defender of his people, and a golden age of prosperity in a similar way as the Arthurian legend of British tradition. He sleeps with his warriors in a mountain cave, and will rise, when the need of his people is great. He has been identified with the Hungarian king of 15th century Mathias Korvin, who has acquired legendary status in central Europe, among Hungarians, Croats and Serbs. However, there are many indications that in the Slovenian tradition he belongs in an older pre-Christian tradition with its source in the Karantanian concept of the good, just and powerful king.

King Matjaž
I. A farmer was transporting wine to Carynthia. On the way he comes through a dobrava, a great wooded plain, to a high mountain. On the mountain he sees a small hut, half buried in the ground, so that little more than the roof is visible. In front of the doorway he sees a stalwart warrior, with his sabre hung at the waist. As the driver approaches with his wagon, the warrior begins to speak:
“You are, friend, from our highlands. Tell me, do the ants still crawl onto the three peaks: St. Christopher, St. Magdalene and St. Urh?”
“They still crawl, but less than they used to,” answers the carter. The warrior continues:
“Tell them at home: When the faith is so weak, that no one walks up to the three peaks, then I will arise and come with my black army.”
“Who are you, then?” asks the farmer, taken aback.
“ I am King Mathias! Step nearer and come with me into the hut, so that you may see with your own eyes the truth of what I am telling you.”
The carter steps in, and King Mathias says:
Stand behind me and look over my right shoulder through this window!”
The farmer obeys and sees a great plain, wide and long. Across the plain are standing armed soldiers with their horses, one next to the other. Everything is quiet and silent, no one moves, as though horses and people were sleeping.
“See, that is the black army,” says King Mathias to the amazed farmer.
“Look again through the window!” The Carynthian looks, the king takes the sabre lightly by the handle and draws it a little way from the sheath. At this moment the whole army stirs to life. The soldiers raise their heads, the horses begin to nod and snort and stamp.
“You see,” adds King Mathias,” it won’t be long, and I will rise and draw the sabre from its sheath. A warm wind will be blowing, and breathe into people the one single thought. Then my soldiers will spring onto the horses, and the black army will move to defend the old holy faith. Then all who have a man’s head will grasp their arms. Old, young, all will rush to war, to defend old beliefs. There will be such urgency, that no one will have time to change clothes, and they will all go to war in the clothes they are wearing. So many people of faith will gather that the battle will take less than the time it takes to eat three loaves of bread; and if the third loaf falls from his hand, his neighbour will tell him: leave it, brother, let it lie there, after the battle there will be plenty for all. So swiftly they shall overcome the enemy of the old holy faith!”

II. King Mathias was a good ruler. He minted only gold coins. They knew no other money, and these were really good golden times. Beneath the leafy linden trees our forefathers danced every day and poured dark red wine into light cups. King Mathias was a Slovenian king, a leaf of our mountain. The people chose him on the Field of Gospa sveta, and on the sheer cliff of the Krn Castle he had his throne. Day and night the castle gates stood open and every poor man could ask for mercy and justice. Since King Mathias was a wealthy ruler, other kings envied him and the enemy came upon Mathias from the land where the sun goes down, like caterpillars on the turnip field. They destroyed his army in bloody battle, so that only one hundred loyal warriors remained. Yet, because the king was a just ruler, he was not killed, but when in flight he was almost caught by the enemy. Then the cliff opened in Pečice, which he reached, and hid him from his enemies. There he rests now with his warriors, and when his beard grows nine times around the table, the mountain will give him back, to rule again the Slovenian people happily. As we heard, it happens many times to the chosen few, that they come upon him. Particularly on the last day of the year you may see the hollow, where the old ruler rests.

III. The other rulers were jealous of the mighty Matjaž and they gathered a great army against him. Matjaž had to withdraw with one hundred surviving heroes into a cave in Peca, which opened to him and hid him from his adversaries.
The people of Lower Carynthia maintain, that they elected Matjaž as their king on the Polje of Gospa Sveta (Maria Saal), and that he lived in Krnski grad (Krn Castle). Matjaž held open doors night and day for the poor and persecuted and gave everyone justice and protection. Matjaž minted gold coins, it was Carynthia’s golden age.
Matjaž will surely awaken some day. A green linden tree will grow in the middle of winter In front of his cave. From midnight to 1 o’clock it will blossom so abundantly, that the whole surrounding space will be filled with its delicate and pleasant scent. After blossoming for one hour the linden tree will dry up. On Jurjevo (Spring Festival) Matjaž will hang upon it his shield and then the linden-tree will become green again. Then Matjaž will come forth with his army, defeat and crush all enemies, banish injustice from the world and bring forth a golden age.

IV. King Matjaž sleeps in a cave deep underground; around him sleeps his army. Once a fox escaped from the Lord of the castle and sought refuge in the cave. The Lord of the nearby castle had in his keep a prisoner, who was sentenced to death. The man was told to enter the cave and catch the fox. If he successful, he will be allowed to live. When the man entered the cave, he saw the fox hiding under the table and quickly grabbed her. One of the king’s companions filled his pockets with money and asked him not to speak of all he had seen in the cave. When the prisoner returned with the fox, he was given his freedom.
As he had a great deal of money the Lord became suspicious, and the blacksmith was accused of having killed and robbed somebody. To save his life, he had to say, where he got the money. He also told that the beard had grown twice around the table, and that the king had a great sword in its sheath. The Lord commanded him to go back to the cave and steal the sword. He had heard that king Matjaž would awaken when his beard had grown three times around the table. He would then unsheathe his sword, the sleeping companions would awaken, return to the earth and conquer all the kings and masters.
The blacksmith went back to the cave. When they learnt that he was a blacksmith by trade, he was asked to shoe the horse of King Matjaž. The horseshoes were silver, each weighing a hundredweight. When he completed the task, he asked if they would let him take the sword to the count. The companion of King Matjaž who had asked him to shoe the horse, spoke: Whoever touches the sword and draws it out of the sheath just a little, will cause the earth to tremble and the soldiers to awaken. When the blacksmith took hold of the sword, everything began to shake and the soldiers began to move, the blacksmith in great fright let go of the sword and ran away.

Kralj Matjaž
I. Kmet je vozil z Ogrskega vino na Koroško. Na svoji poti pride skozi veliko dobravo do visoke gore. Na gori zagleda kočico, ki je bila napol vzidana v zemljo, tako da se je komaj videla streha iz nje. Pred vrati opazi vrlega junaka, s sabljo opasanega. Ko se mu približa voznik z vozom, jame junak takole govoriti:
“Ti si prijatelj z gornje naše strani. Povej mi, lazijo li še mravljice na sledeče tri vrhe: na vrh sv Krištofa, sv.Magdalene in sv Urha?”
“Lazijo še sedaj, ali redkeje nego prej,”odvrne voznik. Junak pa nadaljuje:
”Reci doma: Kadar vera toliko oslabi, da ne bo nihče več pohajal na one tri vrhe, tedaj bom vstal in prišel s svojo črno vojsko”.
“Kdo pa si ti?” ga vpraša kmet iznenaden.
“Kralj Matjaž sem! Stopi bliže in pojdi z menoj v to kočo, da se prepričas na svoje oči o tem.”
Voznik vstopi, a kralj Matjaž mu veli:
“Stopi mi za ledja pak poglej preko desnega ramena skoz tole okno!”
Kmet ga posluša in zagleda ravno polje, široko in dolgo. Po vsem polju prek in prek pak stoje drug pri drugem oboroženi vojaki s svojimi konji. A vse je mirno in tiho, nihče se ne gane, kakor da bi spali konji in ljudje.
“Evo te črne vojske,” reče Kralj Matjaž začudenemu kmetu.
“Poglej zopet skozi okno!” Korošec pogleda, kralj pa prime polahno za sabljo ter jo malo potegne z nožnice. A v tem trenutku vsa vojska oživi. Vojaki povzdignejo glave, konjički pa začno kimati in hrzati ter s kopiti udarjati.
“Vidiš,” pripomni nato kralj Matjaž,”temu ne bo dolgo, in jaz vstanem ter potegnem sabljo iz nožnice. Topel veter bo vel tedaj in vdihnil vsem ljudem eno misel. Tedaj poskačejo moji vojaki na konje in črna vojska bo stala v bran za staro sveto vero. Tedaj bo prijelo za orožje vse, kar nosi moško glavo. Bilo staro, bilo mlado, vse pohiti v vojsko, branit staro vero. Nastane pa takrat taka sila, da se človek se preobleči ne bo utegnil, temveč vsakdo pojde na vojsko v opravi, ki jo bo baš nosil na sebi.. A zbralo se bo toliko pravovernega ljudstva, da boj ne bo niti toliko trajal, da bi mogel človek pojesti tri hlebe kruha, In če komu pade tretji hleb iz roke, mu bo rekel njegov sosed: pusti ga brate, naj leži, po boju bo hleba in vsega dovolj. Tako naglo bodo premagali sovražnika stare svete vere!”

II. Kralj Matjaž je bil dober vladar. Dajal je same zlate kovati. Drugega denarja sploh niso poznali, zato so bili takrat zares dobri zlati časi. Pod košatimi lipami so naši očaki vsak dan rajali in v svetle kozarce natakali rujno vince. Bil je kralj Matjaž slovenski kralj, naše gore list. Izbralo si ga je ljudstvo na Gosposvetskem polju in v strmem Krnskem gradu je imel svoj prestol. Noč in dan so bila odprta grajska vrata in vsak siromak si je mogel isprositi milosti in pravice. Ker pa je bil Matjaž bogat vladar, so mu drugi kralji zavidali in kakor gosenic na repišče je nekoč iz onega kraja, kjer zahaja sonce, prišlo sovražnikov nad Matjaža, ki so v krvavem boju pokončali njegovo vojsko, tako da mu je ostalo le še sto zvestih junakov. Vendar, ker je bil kralj pravičen, ni bil ubit, ampak ko ga na begu že misli sovražnik zajeti, se odpre skala v Pečicah, do katerih je bil pobegnil, pa ga skrije pred sovražnikom. Tam sedaj počiva s svojimi junaki in kadar mu bo brada devetkrat zrastla okoli mize, ga bo dala gora nazaj, da srečno vlada slovenski rod. Kakor smo slišali se izvoljenim večkrat posreči, da pridejo do njega. Zlasti na starega leta dan se vidi duplo, v katerem počiva stari vladar.

III. Mogočnemu Matjažu so bili drugi vladarji nevoščljivi in so zbrali zoper njega sila veliko vojsko. Matjaž je moral s sto preživelimi junaki v votlino v Peco, ki se mu je odprla in ga skrila njegovim sovražnikom.
Spodnji Korošci trdijo, da je ljudstvo izbralo Matjaža za kralja na Gosposvetskem polju in da je prebival na Krnskem gradu. Matjaž je imel noč in dan odprta vrata za siromake in pregajance in vsakdo je našel pri njem pravico in zaščito. Matjaž je dal kovati zlatnike in takrat so bili na Koroškem zlati časi.
Matjaž se bo zagotovo nekoč prebudil. Pred njegovo jamo bo sredi zime zrasla zelena lipa. Ob polnoči do ene ure bo tako opojno cvetela, da bo napolnila vso okolico z žlahtno in prijetno vonjavo. Po enournem cvetenju se bo posušila. Na njo bo Matjaž obesil na Jurjevo svoj ščit in tedaj bo lipa spet ozelenela. Potem bo prišel Matjaž s svojo vojsko na plan, premagal in zatrl bo vse sovražnike, pregnal bo krivico s sveta in ustvaril zlate čase

IV. Kralj Matjaž spi v neki jami globoko pod zemljo; okoli njega dremlje njegova vojska. Nekoč je nekemu graščaku v tisto votlino ušla lisica. Imel je pa jetnika, ki je bil na smrt obsojen. Rekli so mu, naj gre po lisico v jamo. Če jo ulovi, mu bodo pustili življenje. Ko je jetnik prišel v jamo, je videl, da je lisica zbežala prav pod Matjaževo mizo. Tam jo je zagrabil. Eden od Matjaževih tovarišev mu je dal polne žepe denarja in mu naročil, naj ne po nič od vsega, kar je v jami videl. Ko se je jetnik z lisico vrnil, so ga izpustili.
Ker je imel zelo veliko denarja, se je graščaku zdelo sumljivo in so ga obdolžili, da je gotovo koga ubil in mu pobral imetje. Tako je moral povedati, kje je dobil denar. Povedal je tudi, da je Matjaževa brada že dvakrat okoli mize zrastla in da ima v nožnici silen meč. Graščak mu je naročil, naj gre v jamo in ukrade Matjažu meč. Slišal je namreč, da se bo Matjaž prebudil, ko bo njegova brada tretjič mizo obrasla, in da bo tedaj meč iz nožnice izdrl in s tem vse svoje speče tovariše zbudil ter da bodo nazaj na zemljo prišli in si vse kralje in gospodarje podvrgli.
Jetnik je šel nazaj v jamo. Ker so videli, da je kovač, je moral podkovati Matjaževega konja. Podkve so bile srebrne, vsaka je tehtala sedem centov. Ko je opravil delo, je prosil, da bi smel kraljev meč odnesti grofu. Matjažev tovariš, ki mu je dal podkovati konja, mu je rekel: Če se kdo dotakne meča in ga le malo iz nožnice potegne, se ves svet strese in vojaki se prebudijo. Ko je kovač prijel Matjažev meč, se je začelo vse tresti in vojaki so se začeli premikati, tako da je kovač ves preplašen zbežal.

Jakob Kelemina, Bajke in pripovedke slovenskega ljudstva (1930, reprinted Humar 1997) I and II
Zmago Šmitek, Moč ti je dana. Slovenske pripovedi o junakih in zgodovinskih osebnostih(Didakta, 2005) III and IV

Translated into English by Aleksandra Ceferin