Life and Legend of Juro Jánošík,

Who Became Captain of the Band of Outlaws by beating Hrajnoha

 

Well, to become the captain of a band of men like that of Uhorčik was not like rearranging three sheaves of wheat in a field. Moreover, when a man like Hrajnoha coveted the leadership, it was even more difficult. He was sly as a fox, as supple as if he had no bones in his body, and strong as a young bull. He also had much experience of the world and robbing, for the mountains had been his home and the robber’s band his family since he was fifteen.

Quite so! If Jánošík was to become the highwaymen’s captain, he had to measure his strength against no other than Hrajnoha.  

If Hrajnoha had only known who Jánošík was and what he had been given in the last days… but from the first moment, he took Jánošík for one who still has mother’s milk on his chin. 

He said, “Jánošík, we’ll cut the tops off the trees, which one of us will cut off the highest one?” 

He did not wait. He swung his valaška and the tree on the other side of the meadow was instantly a few meters shorter. Then he looked at Jánošík, convinced that he would not dare to try and equal his efforts. For Hrajnoha was a master of masters in handling the valaška. But he did not have any idea of what sort of instrument his rival might be holding in his hands. 

Jánošík just smiled and asked, “Can’t we find a higher tree in this forest?”

Jánošík looked around for a tree that was at least three men higher than the previous one. 

He turned his valaška round and round above his head and slung it. The top of the tree fell as if cut down by lightning. Yes, nothing could compare to the valaška Jánošík had. 

Hrajnoha was silent and did not say a single word. He only pondered. “Who knows what kind of spell has been put on this. But, that boyko will not better me in jumping over the campfire.” 

The highwaymen prepared a fire. They let it burn up high, continually throwing in brushwood. The flames blazed higher and higher until they were as high as the head of a man standing on the shoulders of another man, Jánošík and Hrajnoha kept leering at each other.

Which one of them would jump first? 

Hrajnoha could not wait. When the flames were as high as two and a half men, he started running towards the fire. The flames just licked his shoes and already he found himself on the other side.

Jánošík only smiled, adjusted his hat and called out, “Come on boys! Do feed the fire!” 

He waited until the fire was as big as the tall surrounding fir trees. Then, without even running, he just cried out “Hop”, took off from his place, and jumped over the flames like a doe over a stream. Yes, the herbs, which the old woman had sewn in his belt, gave his legs such strength, as they had never had before. 

“Oh, no,” Hrajnoha thought. “In these kind of games I can’t measure my strength against that lad. I have to challenge him to physical combat with me, and seize him by the neck and give him a good thrashing, so that he will lose his appetite for the captain’s job once and for all.” 

But talk about a fight! 

Hrajnoha started in against Jánošík and intended to knock him out by butting him with his tough head. But Jánošík only extended his fist and Hrajnoha lay on his back kicking and shaking like a dying fly. 

Hrajnoha tried to kick his rival, but Jánošík made a sudden dodge, grabbed Hrajnoha’s ankle, swung the man round several times and “bang”, he landed somewhere in the raspberry patch. 

Hrajnoha struck out with his hands to seize Jánošík by the neck, hoping to break it and get rid of him forever, but Jánošík only took a step back and crouched down a bit and Hrajnoha flew over his head. In no time at all, Jánošík was kneeling on his chest and choking him. 

“Will you give in or not?” Jánošík asked him. 

Hrajnoha gasped, threw himself around, and tried to shake Jánošík off, but there was no chance. Jánošík just put his knees together a little and Hrajnoha’s ribs seemed to break. But Hrajnoha resisted. Why on earth would he admit to such shame to be banged against the ground by a stranger and pinned down there in front of the eyes of all his men? 

He gathered all his strength for the last time, jumped up, and tried to grab Jánošík’s hair. He certainly should not have done so. Jánošík had been particularly sensitive about his hair since that day in the past. Jánošík shook his head and the hand grabbed into the air. In turn, Jánošík grabbed Hrajnoha’s hair and pulled it and pulled it. Hrajnoha’s head bent backwards until it looked like his head and neck would be separated form his body.  

“Will you give in or not?” Jánošík asked him. 

“I’ll give in,” Hrajnoha said in a hoarse voice at last.

Yes, the herbs sewn in Jánošík belt gave strength not only to the legs but also to the arms and the whole body. 

At that moment all the robbers threw their hats and hatchets into the air, even some shots from their guns were heard. Hurrah! The band has a new captain! And not just any sort of captain. This one is a real man, and what a man! No one like him has ever been seen in the mountains of Kysuce before. 

Uhorcik knew it as well; there was no need for words anymore. It was not at all necessary to say who would be the leader of the band from now on. He approached Jánošík silently, shook his hand, put his captain’s hat on the new leader’s head, and said, “Good luck, Jánošík.” 

The other robbers came up to Jánošík one after another, shook his hand, and murmured their names.  Ilčík,Surovčík, Gajdošík, Garaj, Adamčík, Hunčík, also called Turiak, Sutora, Vavrek, Mucha, 

There were eleven men altogether in the band, including Uhorčik and Hrajnoha. The twelfth was Jánošík, their new captain. The same evening, he gave them a new oath of allegiance. Now they were no longer to rob only for themselves but to turn mountains of grievance to valleys of truth. To distribute between the poor what they took from the rich. To do everything in such a way that order would finally rule all over the country; the kind of order that Rákoczi had promised to introduce not such a long time ago. They also swore to be faithful to their captain in life and death and stay with him through thick or thin, even until the day they were sent to the gallows.

 

A book, Jánošík, Jánošík... written by Anton Marec, translated into English by Tatiana Strnadová and John Doyle and published in 1995 by Matica Slovenská, contains 33 tales of this famous outlaw captain. The information in this book was used to create this story. Check in the future for other stories.