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Saturday, December 1, 2012

A Dreadful Feast

"Good King Wencelas" is a favorite of mine, taught to me by my endearing but rather odd Czech pediatrician.

The sanitized story told to children is that a king saw a peasant struggling through the snow, gathering firewood (winter fuuuuuuuuu-ooh-el...) and saying to a page, "Boy, where does he live?" Upon being given an address, king and page walk ten miles through the snow, barefoot. The page shivers horribly, the king tells him to walk in his footprints. By strange miracle, the footprints elicit a beautiful heat and the barefoot boy walks behind his monarch in comfort.
Popes have repeated this walk, and it's beautiful to see. But the story is bunk. 


(Beautiful song, though!)

 The truth (in as short a time as I can): Wencelas I was Duke of Bohemia, paying homages not to the Holy Roman Empire, but to East Francia. He was a gentle man, too gentle... a scholar as opposed to leader. His reforms caused strife. Brother Boleslav (Great Glory, Bringer of glory... Slavic names are more abstract.) kills him on his way to Mass one fine winter's day. The page kills one of Boleslav's men, and goes into the woods. He too is found and murdered. Boleslav's wife has a child that day. In honor of the horrid deed of murder, and feeling sad and sick, Boleslav names the baby "Strachkvas"- A dreadful feast. (Such a marvelous name--- oops, sorry, kiddo, we committed murder, and now that I am feeling guilty, you are permanently named in honor of this act.)
Boleslav was called "The Cruel"... but he did great things for Bohemia (if not being someone I'd ever trust to write a book of Slavic Baby Names.)

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