Arriving of Krakonos Festival

Written by Filip Strejl

Category: Czech Tradition

The celebratory arrival of Krakonos, or Rubezahl and Liczyrzepa, as he is called in German and Polish languages, is an annual event to welcome spring, celebrated in the Krkonose Mountains and their surrounding regions, which began over 70 years ago and continues to this day. The festival takes place in the middle of March around the time of the Spring equinox.

Krakonos began appearing in German and Bohemian folklore around the 15th or 16th century. At first, Krakonos was believed to be the Lord of wind, as well as a demon who brought punishment or misfortune upon those who would dare spoil or in any way harm his beautiful mountains, the nature, or the wildlife. In later folklore, which is still regarded to this day, his role switched from a vengeful demon to a guardian of nature and wildlife that protects against poachers and greedy individuals who would seek to use the treasures of nature for their own gain. Krakonos, in its first incarnation as a demon, is depicted as a being with the head of a rooster with antlers sprouting from its head, hooved arms and legs, and a lion tail covered in rooster feathers. Nowadays, in folklore and children’s fairy tales, he is depicted as an old and kind man with a beard that sometimes reaches the ground and a big hat in which birds often nest. He wears a big green coat and carries a large staff, which he uses to beat and ward off poachers. When he has time to spare, Krakonos also carries a pipe, which he likes to smoke in order to relax.

Amongst the Czechs, Krakonos is best known thanks to the popular fairy-tale series “Krkonosske Pohadky”, where Krakonos, with the occasional help from Ance and Kuba, two love-birds, and an older hunter, stands against a local noble for whom Ance, Kuba, and the hunter work. The noble, Trauntumberk, is the epitome of a greedy, envious, and all around obnoxious person who seeks to fill his pockets without any regard toward his surroundings. And as such, would destroy the nature of Krkonose if not stopped by Krakonos. The fairy tale was created by Bozena Simkova and Marie Kubatova. In 2013, the show was voted the most-viewed in Czech television, as well as the best fairy tale ever written.

The role of guardian of the mountains and forest remains with Krakonos to this day, and every year, Krakonos himself comes down from his mountains to celebrate the beginning of spring with the people living nearby. Every Czech city celebrates the tradition differently, but Krakonos always comes down to celebrate with the Czech people. Krakonos usually arrives in a carriage, tells the people to be kind toward nature, and not to harm its inhabitants in any way. After that, he entertains the children with stories of his endeavours, drinks the best beer he is offered, and then leaves to guard the mountains once again.