Global Conference in Prague, 2023 Perspective Top Travel

Folktales teach important lessons

Prague's Astronomical Clock. (Anjola Fashawe/YJI)

PRAGUE – Folk tales hold immense power, bringing together generations through the lessons and morals taught from what seems to be a simple story.

Viktorie Goldmannová/YJI Click on the image to read more ‘Postcards from Prague.’

Walking through Prague, I began to wonder what kinds of stories have circulated the squares and golden spires for centuries on end. 

Upon some research I chose to focus on one of my childhood favorites – one I had heard of during a vacation in Prague years ago and almost forgotten. A story of, in my opinion, the selfish nature of humans and lack of compassion from one to another in the face of jealousy – a strong, often underestimated emotion.

The story, as told on a blog by the Texas-based Czech Center Museum, takes place in the early 1400s when the astronomical clock was just being built.

Legend has it that Hanuš, the architect renowned for his incredible craftsmanship, was approached by the leaders of other nations soon after the completion of the tower. The offers made to the architect with the intent of persuading him to grace their homelands with a similar masterpiece, reached Prague Councillors. 

Having heard the news and furious at the prospect of another clock tower, their precious ‘Orloj’ as it was called in Czech, the Councillors sent for Hanuš.

Throughout the years, the story – passed down through spoken word – has meandered and some facts have changed, so although it isn’t agreed upon if Hanuš was indeed taking other deals or declining them, his fate doesn’t differ. The architect had his eyes gouged out, cursed never to design again. 

The author in front of the Astronomical Clock. (YJI photo)

The gruesome legend has an even more outrageous ending. Unable to create anything ever again, Hanuš was distraught. Legend has it that the clockmaker ended his life by throwing himself into the large gears of the clock, having been driven mad by his fate. 

Unfortunately for all who were enthralled by this story, it was revealed not to be true. 

In fact, the true builder of the clock was Mikuláš of Kadaň. Despite this, the story still serves as a grim tale of the merciless state of human nature in the face of jealousy and an insatiable greed. 

Perhaps this is the message of this ancient tale, to warn us of the dangers of selfishness, to show us that people, for centuries, have given more importance to power and material possessions, than to a life.

In a world ravaged by the consequences of mindless consumption under capitalism, in a world where the climate is threatened by the products of greed, in a world where a life is extinguished without a thought in the name of personal gain, perhaps this message is one we should take to heart.

Erin Timur is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from Cyprus and wrote this article.

Anjola Fashawe is a Senior Reporter with Youth Journalism International from London and photographed the top image.

Read more from YJI’s ‘Postcards from Prague’ series about the 2023 Global Conference.

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