Zlatorog by Carl Huck
Triglav rose - Potentilla nitida
Once upon a time the Zajezerska Dolina and Komna were not barren and desolate, but an Alpine paradise of forest and pasture, the domain of the Bele Žene, the White Ladies. These White Ladies were very wise and kind. They were good to the poor, and above all, they were helpful to women in childbirth. And the child that was bom under their auspices remained under their protection all its life. They told the men of the villages when to sow, and what crops, and where. They taught shepherds the use of the many medicinal herbs that grow on the mountains.
But although the White Ladies were so kind to human beings, they resented curiosity or interference. Any overbold mortal who ventured into their realm was sure to be driven back by sudden storms or avalanches of stones.
On their Alpine pastures these White Ladies tended a herd of wild goats (chamois). They were not mousy-brown, like the pretty chamois you can see nowadays with luck almost any day in the Slovene Alps, but milk-white. The great buck chamois who was in charge of the herd was white, too, and his horns were pure gold. Therefore he was called Zlatorog, which means Goldenhorn. Now the golden horns of Zlatorog are the key that reveals the way to the treasure in Mount Bogatin, the treasure that is guarded by the hundred-headed dragon.
Therefore the White Ladies thought it well to protect Zlatorog by magic arts. He was not exactly invulnerable, but from every drop of his blood that fell to the ground, if he chanced to be wounded, there grew up immediately a beautiful little flower with dark-green leaves and crimson blossoms, the Triglav Rose. And no sooner had Zlatorog eaten of the leaves than he was whole and sound as before.
Once upon a time, long ago, there stood an inn beside the high road that runs up the Soča Valley to this day, and the innkeeper's daughter was the prettiest girl in all Trenta-side. She had many wooers, but had given her heart to a young hunter of the Trenta. He was the only son of a poor widow who was almost blind; but he was the best hunter and tracker far and near, and it was said that he stood under the protection of the White Ladies. Certainly he would roam all over Komna and the Triglav slopes, never losing his way or coming to any harm.
In springtime, when the traders from Venice used to go north with their wares, parties of them would sometimes put up at the inn in the Soča valley. And so it befell on one of these occasions that a wealthy Italian merchant, young and handsome, was at pains to make himself pleasant to the pretty daughter of the house and did not stint valuable gifts to go with his flattering words. The upshot of it was that the girl quarrelled with her sweetheart, the hunter, and ended by telling him that the Italian was a much finer gentleman than he, because he had given her a pearl necklace on the very first day of their acquaintance, whereas he, the hunter, who knew the way to all the treasure of the hills, had so far not given her even a paltry Triglav Rose, let alone anything more valuable.
"Well do I know how to lay hands on the key to Bogatin's treasure," retorted the hunter, angrily. " If I were to raise that, I could buy up the lot of your Italian merchants."
So he went off in a rage, and whom should he meet but the Green Hunter. Now the Green Hunter enjoyed a very evil reputation, and it was known that he hated the White Ladies and all their works. To him the young hunter of Trenta confided his troubles, and he could not have chosen a worse friend in his need. For the Green Hunter painted the treasure in Mount Bogatin in such glowing colours, and persuaded him so cunningly to possess himself of the magic key to it, that the youth agreed to join with the Green Hunter that very night, to go up the Komna and stalk Zlatorog for the sake of his golden horns-and the crimson Triglav Rose.
At dawn they sighted the great buck. The lad from Trenta fired; but Zlatorog was only wounded, and at once headed away towards the crags, with the two hunters in pursuit. Even in his haste the hunter of Trenta noticed the pretty red Triglav roses springing up between the rocks and patches of snow, and near them the velvety očnice or planike (edelweiss), with which his mother prepared a lotion for her poor failing eyes. The sight of these flowers caused the young man to think of his mother, and he was almost resolved to desist from his evil purpose. But the Green Hunter scoffed, and egged him on, till he felt ashamed of his remorse and followed up the blood-stained track afresh.
Meantime Zlatorog had nibbled the leaves of the magic rose and sped on ahead of them with redoubled strength, leaping upwards upon the rocks with gigantic bounds. On a narrow ledge on the face of the crag the hunters caught up with their quarry-sheer cliff to the right, sheer drop to the left. Zlatorog turned to bay. The young hunter wanted to fire, but the golden horns flashed before him like fire in the morning sunshine, dazzling him so that he could not take aim. His heart failed him, his knees shook, he swayed where he stood. For a moment he clutched the air in a frantic effort to regain his balance. Then he hurtled down the precipice, down, down, ever so far.
Early next spring, when the streams came down in spate, the Soča washed the body of the young hunter ashore beside the inn where his sweetheart was waiting for him in vain. One hand of the dead still clasped a sodden bunch of withered Triglav roses.
When the shepherds went up to the Komna and Zajezerska Dolina that summer, they found a stony wilderness in place of the former Alpine paradise. The White Ladies had quitted the land for ever, and neither they nor their herd of white chamois have ever been seen by man since then. As for Zlatorog, his wrath was so great that he ploughed up and buried every patch of blossoming pasture, and on the naked rocks you can see the traces of his great horns to this day.
Eine "Alpensage" - 93 pages of romantic poetry inspired by tale about Zlatorog, by Rudolf Baumbach.
Translation by Fanny S. Copeland (Her translation of "Zlatorog" follows the version given by Dr. Kelemina in his Bajke in Pripovedke Slovenskega Ljudstva pretty closely, and wherever my text differs from his, it is because I have preferred to make use of local tradition, obtained from friends who are well acquainted with it.). Zlatorog by Karl Huck cop