Life and Legend of Juro Jánošík,

How Jánošík Entertained the Poor in the Lords’ Mansion

 

There had been a heavy snow fall, the days got shorter and shorter, and Christmas time came.

It was the same in Teplička where the splendid mansion of Count Lowenburg stood. The mansion was lit up, fully decorated, and full of the laughter of the guests. They had come from the county of Lietava, the town of Bytča, Budatín castle, and the region of Turiec to celebrate with the Count the birth of the Savior. But not only that, they also wanted to discuss that same old theme again, how to capture Jánošík.

The mansion was full of joy, everything shone and glittered, and music and laughter was heard from every corner. But in the cottages there was calm. By the light of candles the eldest of each family cut the bread and divided it among the others.

Bread! If only there had been enough of that at least! But in the cottage of the Mráziks they even lacked bread.

So the old Mrázik set off to the mansion to beg for the remains from the richly laid table of food. He waded through the snow drifts, knocked at the gate, and begged humbly.

“Shut up!” the guard repulsed him as he had been ordered to do by his masters. “To disturb the lords on this festive occasion, touch the Christmas bread with your dirty hands! What on earth do you think you are doing?”

He even gave the old Mrázik a hard kick sending him straight into a pile of snow.

Beaten, frozen through, humiliated and hungry, he headed back to his cottage at the end of the village. Why must his family celebrate the Glorious Birth sitting at an empty table?

Suddenly a strange man emerged from the dark in the desolate street. Young and tall, wearing a smock-shirt and peasant shoes and no coat, although it was freezing cold.

“Happy Celestial Evening to you, Uncle!” he said.

“Not a happy one! With an empty table and only the musicians playing in one’s stomach.” The old Mrázik narrated the story of the poverty he lived in and how badly he had been done by, even on the anniversary of the Savior’s birth!

The man listened to him, though he did not pity or advise him. He only said. “What was not in the past could be in the future! There’s going to be a reception the likes of which Teplička never dreamed of. Come to it, and tell everyone from the village to come as soon as you hear the bells ringing.”

He disappeared into the dark the same way as he had emerged, and the dark safely covered everything that was to happen during the following hours.

It was not until the candles in the mansion began to burn with their brightest flames and the servants started bringing the choicest delicacies on silver trays to the dining-room that the man in peasant boots emerged from somewhere, sat down at the top of the table, and said. “So this is the way you are, gentlemen! You celebrate the arrival of the Savior, speak about Christian love, and down there in the cottages your serfs don’t have anything to put in their mouths.”

The ladies dropped their knives and forks and the gentlemen their glasses. What was that nobody, dressed as a peasant, looking for there? He had even brought his hatchet. It was evident that he did not have good manners.

“Guards!” Count Lowenburg called, being the first one to understand with whom he had the honor. “Where are my guards? Tell them to get this nobody out of here immediately if not sooner, to bind him and put him in prison.”

“The prison is already full,” was Jánošík’s reply. “It is occupied just now by your guards, my dear Count.

“Pistols!” screamed Lowenburg again. “My pistols!”

“You should leave them in peace, you could hurt yourself. I have given them rather into cleverer hands,” was the answer.

“The bells!” Lowenburg called. “Let the bells rouse the whole village.”

“I agree,” the unexpected visitor laughed. “But I have to draw your attention to the fact that they will do nothing but invite all the village for dinner.”

“What?”

“As you heard. I will entertain the whole of Teplička here tonight.”

Just at that moment the bell rang at the nearby church. People in the village wondered, “What is it?  Are they calling for the midnight mass so early?”

The old Mrázik ran from house to house and invited everyone. “Come on. We are called up to the mansion for dinner.”

The people did not believe in it very much but still they went. So what! The whole world is now upside down, everything is wrong side up, so why should a poor man not eat in the mansion? Especially on the eve of Christmas.

So by ones, by twos, and by threes they went. An hour later the whole village stood in front of the gate to the mansion. They did not even have to knock, the gate opened and they entered without difficulty, going directly to the dining-room they wondered for a while, but when they saw who was standing at the door instead of the guards, they understood.

“Sit down, my good little folks!” said the man, who everyone had already recognized as Jánošík. “And those who do not find a place at once should wait. They will be served after the others have eaten.” Shortly he realized that the servants were not serving fast enough.

“Why don’t you stop idling!” he snapped at the lords huddling in fear in the corner. “Well, go and help.”

The entertainment in the mansion lasted until midnight mass. Until then, the lords from the neighboring estates had to serve the peasants the choicest meals. And not only that! It was a long time later, when the serfs had gone to church, that Jánošík with his men finally sat down at the table.

“And now be so kind and lay the table for us.”

The lords had to wait on them until dawn.

As soon as the first rays of morning sun embraced the ridges of the Fatra Mountains, the uninvited guests packed their bags, left the table disappearing as they had appeared the previous night. They did not leave a trace behind in the snow.

The one thing they did leave was a memory of how the poor had feasted in the mansion of the Christmas when Jánošík ruled in the valley of Terchová.

 

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.