The legend of Zagreb

There is a legend about the origin of the name of the town, in which a governor in the ancient times orders the girl Manda to bring some water from the well. He says: “Manda, honey, scoop up!( zagrabi) And thus Zagreb and Mandusevac were created….Unproven and untrustworthy as are most legends, but in any case picturesque and cute, they can be presented as some sort of an ancient answer to the question: Why are the women from Zagreb so charming, “fes”, “shik” and “herzig”? Well, probably because the first of them had been present in the creation of the name of the town, and had herself exhuded great beauty. She had to be like that whilst the governor was so nicely and tenderly addressing her: “Mando, honey scoop up some ….”

Legend of the roosters (picoki)

Djurdjevac This legend dates from the times of Turkish army attacks on the fort of Djurdjevo. Ulama-beg encountered unexpected resistance and failed to defeat the defenders of Djurdjevac with his army during a long siege, with the goal of starving the army and the people who hid inside the walls. Maybe he would have succeded, but the wisom and wit of the people of Djurdjevo presided over his intentions. How? The legend tells that during the siege of the fortress the food supplies have run out. All that was left was one small rooster (picok). This could not have fed the people, so an old woman suggested to the captain of the town to launch the rooster from the cannon onto the Turkish camp. Ulama-beg, thinking that there was plenty of food in the fortress, as they could waste it like that, ended the siege and left the battlefield. So as to curse them, Ulama-beg called the people of Djurdjevac Picoki (roosters). At the end he says in Croatian “And you, feathered heroes, who fight battles with roosters, will always carry the name of PICOKI (roosters). Your children will name you “roosters”, and your grandchildren will remain PICOKI (roosters)!” The legend tells about the courage and wit of the people of Djurdjevac, who are proud of their history, their nickname, and especially of their rooster who is today a herald of this area.

Myth of the island of Cres

In order to establish the origin of the name of the archipelago that include Cres, Lošinj and a number of smaller islands, it is necessary to look back to the mythical period of classical history and culture, 3rd century B.C., when Apollonius wrote the following: “Fleeing before the Colchids, who wanted to take the Golden Fleece and return it to King Aeetes, the Argonauts arrived to the bay of Kvarner under the command of Jason. Jason and the King’s daughter Medea, who had fallen in love with him, set out for North Adriatic escaping together with the Golden Fleece. The King’s son Absyrtus went after the thieves of the Golden Fleece. Although the voyage took a long time, he caught up with Jason and Medea. However, the deceitful Medea lured Absyrtus to negotiate and led him on the edge of Jason’s sword. Jason killed Absyrtus, and Medea dismembered his body and threw the pieces into the sea. The severed limbs created the group of islands that were named after the hero – the Absyrtides, or the islands of Cres and Losinj.

The legend of St George

The life of St George is shrouded in legends and thus it makes it difficult for the experts to get reliable historical dates about him. He is the protector of knights, soldiers, crusaders, horses, agrarians and shepherds. He had been, according to the legends, from his conception, predestined for great things. This is why at his birth his father, Geronzi, the Persian and his mother Pocronia from Cappadocia rejoiced greatly. They were raising him according to their religious beliefs until he was old enough to join the army. He died as a martyr during Diocletian’s reign. The legend tells about George’s great victory over the terrible dragon. The inhabitants of Silena offered the dragon that inhabited the wetlands two sheep daily. When they ran out of sheep, they sacrified random young men or a women. One day the throw of the dice decided that King’s daughter should be sacrificed for the dragon. On the way to meet her death, she encountered George, and he wounded the dragon with the spear, tied the princess’ belt around his neck and took it to the town where he slew him in front of the crowd after all the inhabitants and the King had been baptized according to his demand. Four oxen took the slain dragon out of the town. As in the ancient times dragon was the symbol of evil and paganism, this legend symbolizes the victory of the Cross over the old (pagan) beliefs. St George can also be seen as a protector of Christianity. It is believed that the oldest source of this tale is the Greek legend of Perseus, who saved the virgin Andromeda from a sea monster near Disopolis where derived the cult of St George and where allegedly his grave can also be found.

How the Cave of Pazin was made

Once upon a time, when giants and men lived together in Istria, there were vast lakes and swamps in the north of Istria. The south had no streams or wells, so the men asked the giant Ban Dragonja to help them moisten the soil. Dragonja yoked enormous oxen and plowed from the lake to the sea. When he brought water from the sea through the first furrow, the river Dragonja was made and the giant named it after him. The next day, he plowed the second furrow, thus creating a new river named after his wife Mirna. When he reached the city walls of the Castle of Pazin plowing the third furrow, the wife of the captain of Pazin started to tease him from her window. She teased him about his shallow plowing and about his winding furrow. Ban Dragonja got very offended and drove the oxen back. Water gushed down the unfinished furrow, and started to flood the Pazin basin. The inhabitants of Pazin started crying for help and begged Dragonja to save them from the peril. Ban Dragonja had mercy on them, so he stomped the ground right under the cliff of the Castle. With a horrible roar, the earth shook and the fierce blow opened up a huge cave and swallowed all the water. This is the story of the creation of the stream Pazinčica that was made instead of the third river. Its waters still disappear without a trace in the rocky Cave of Pazin.

The legend of the death of King Zvonimir and the 900-year curse

In this legend Zvonimir is described as the one who helped the good and persecuted the evil. During the reign of the good King Zvonimir all the country was happy as there was plenty for all, and the towns were full of gold and silver. There was great abundance for King Zvonimir, in the Region of Primorje as well as in the Region of Zagorje. Then the Byzantine tzar sent a letter with the blessings from the Holy Father and his messengers asked humbly for help from King Zvonimir. In the first letter he asked him to gather gents from his country and people of high regard. When King Zvonimir received the letters from the Pope and the Tzar, he ordered that knights and barons of the whole country gather in front of the five churches in the fields of Kosovo. On the day when Zvonimir read the plea that they should decide if they would, together with the other Christian people of other countries with the help of God, go and save the places where the son of God has suffered and lost his life, and where he was set to rest and handed his soul to God. On hearing that “God forsaken and unfaithful Croats” started yelling at their King that he wanted to send them away from their homes, wives and children and with the Tzar to plunder the places where Christ was crucified and buried. The faithless Croats headed for the good King with weapons and started to sever his body and shed his blood. The King, lying in blood and wounded, cursed his people by saying:”I wish you never have a king of your own blood.”

The legend of Marco Polo

One of the best known legends of the island of Korcula is the one that tells about the birthplace of the famous world traveller Marco Polo. This legend is enticed with the historic fact that Marco Polo was captured at the age of 44 during the naval battle between Venice and Genoa in 1298, near the town of Korcula. He had returned three years before that date from his legendary travels in the Far East which lasted for 17 years. He met the emperors of that time and their people and customs. His travels on their own have an undertone of a legend as it is hard to believe that one man could have travelled that much and experienced all this in his lifetime.