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“Shine, shine, sunshine! From the sky over my head...” sings Honza, who sometimes is better known as “Simple Honza”. But is he really so simple, or does his seeming naïveté merely reflect the foolishness of others? After all, he always outwits everyone.

Honza simply has no desire to leave his cosy home (perhaps sensing what awaits him beyond the village).

Honza is the protagonist of many a Czech fairy tale, both classic and contemporary. Usually he is of humble origin and “just old enough to take a wife”, so his parents send him out into the world to acquire experience. And if perchance the parents do not manage it, a recruiter for the Emperor’s army might drive him from his cottage. Honza simply has no desire to leave his cosy home (perhaps sensing what awaits him beyond the village), and therefore many consider him lazy or dull…

Nevertheless, with his bindle of fresh buns, he has crisscrossed our country through many generations, and there can be no better guide in the world of fairy tales. Sometimes, he finds himself in a leading role. And so with the sun shining over his head, our Honza heads first to South Bohemia...

The landscape around the gothic castle ruin Borotín is a true fairyland – and utterly mysterious. The castle’s shadowy nooks and crannies provide the perfect backdrop for the ulterior motives of three highwaymen with whom Honza must contend. And this is no mean feat, because the royal army, too, gets wrapped up in their schemes. Although our unarmed Honza faces seemingly insurmountable odds, his immense presence of mind and thoughts of the beloved Barunka help him to escape a dungeon and even the very grips of Death itself. Anything but foolish, Honza shows great courage.

cervena-lhota

sychrov

Wandering on through picturesque South Bohemia, Honza reaches the Červená Lhota chateau. He is drawn by the distant and melancholic singing of the royal cook Jiřík: “Golden hair, maiden fair, who knows what tomorrow will bring? Your fair hand is sought by a rich king…” Having eaten a magical fish despite the king’s prohibition against doing so, Jiřík has acquired the ability to understand the language of the animals. As punishment, he must bring the golden-haired princess to be the King’s bride. First, he must “win her” and recognize her from among twelve sisters. Like Honza, he has experienced numerous adventures. The chateau’s romantic surroundings and renaissance interiors (and those of the Sychrov castle) serve very well for the adaptation of Karel Jaromír Erben’s story. Jiřík marries the princess, exchanges his cooking hat for a crown, and Honza can journey on…

Fate next leads him to the seat of the Black King, deep underground where no sun would shine. On the way, he meets Mikeš the Valiant Blacksmith who is in many respects similar to Honza. Having been sent out by the master blacksmith, Mikeš had almost reached the end of his journey “for experience” when his strong desire to rescue three royal daughters (among whom he has found the love of his life) help him overcome the powerful ruler of the underground kingdom. This is located in the ruins of the Rosa Coeli (Heaven’s Rose) nunnery in Dolní Kounice. “Shine, light, through the night, end the dark forces’ blight!” Honza hears Mikeš chant in his struggle with the Black King. Mikeš’s victory comes at the price of bitter disappointment prepared by his covetous companions. When he finally returns to the Castle (Buchlov) after the long journey, the kingdom can at long last take down the black banners which had been hung in grief for the missing royal daughters. Another Czech fairy tale with a happy ending.

Honza’s next stop is in the north of Bohemia. Here, in the vicinity of Sloup castle, a place which boasts an exceptional genius loci, the air seems to smell of fire and brimstone. Honza soon learns that devils are not to be trifled with. The young miller Petr had lived an altogether peaceful life until his widowed father had married Dorota, who wove intricate plots with the keeper of the castle and the stupid Corporal. Petr manages to untangle the convoluted and treacherous story only with help from the kind-hearted albeit somewhat clumsy devil Janek. In the end, even the old Count can see through these intrigues. Then he can give the chateau over to the younger generation. Honza can now depart the fairy tale world of Božena Němcová and journey onward.

sloup

ploskovice

Indefatigable, Honza continues on to Ploskovice chateau. Already from afar, the sounds of a merry celebration fall upon his ears as the local king had just been reunited with his three “lost” daughters. Blame had fallen to his eldest son, Velen, who had found for them three powerful grooms: the Moon, the Sun, and the Wind. These are no ordinary grooms. The magical brothers-in-law will subject prince Velen to difficult trials to test whether he is just the right man for their sister Evening Star. She, however, is the object of desire of the evil and dangerous Thundercloud. By besting him, Velen wins Evening Star’s heart and the trust of his supernatural brothers-in-law. Litoměřice’s Ploskovice can heave a sigh of relief from the defeated Thundercloud. All is once again well and good.

The Sun’s warmth is waning, and it is disappearing beyond the horizon. Honza has wandered far and wide. Were he to live in the present, he would get into his car, turn on the navigation, and put on a fairy tale for the drive. Because Honza is from a fairy tale, however, he must set out again on his own two feet to seek his next adventure. First, he is in need of a good nap, perhaps on a pile of straw, maybe in some abandoned mill. Time will tell if perchance some new wonder will present itself when the sun sets...