Slovenia’s Sleeping King

The image of the sleeping king residing under a hill or mountain seems to be a popular one. From my own culture the first image that springs to mind is that of King Arthur, but it could equally be applied to Merlin and Bran the Blessed. Slovenia too has a similar legend that of King Matjaž (Kralj Matjaž).


King Matjaž was a just king whose throne sat at Krn castle. His rule was the golden age, and always was he ready to help those in need. But other kings were very envious of his power so they united their armies against him and with the battle that followed only King Matjaž and a hundred of his men survived. They retreated to Mount Peca which protected from their enemies and shelters their sleeping forms to this day.


Around a stone table they all sit and it is said that when King Matjaž’s beard circles it nine times they will again awake and the golden age of Slovenia will be renewed.



The Farmer and the King


A farmer was transporting wine to Carynthia. On the way he comes through a dobrava, a great wooded plain, to a high mountain. On the mountain he sees a small hut, half buried in the ground, so that little more than the roof is visible. In front of the doorway he sees a stalwart warrior, with his sabre hung at the waist.


As the driver approaches with his wagon, the warrior begins to speak: “You are, friend, from our highlands. Tell me, do the ants still crawl onto the three peaks: St. Christopher, St. Magdalene and St. Urh?”

“They still crawl, but less than they used to,” answers the carter.


The warrior continues:“Tell them at home: When the faith is so weak, that no one walks up to the three peaks, then I will arise and come with my black army.”


“Who are you, then?” asks the farmer, taken aback.


“ I am King Mathias! Step nearer and come with me into the hut, so that you may see with your own eyes the truth of what I am telling you.”


The carter steps in, and King Mathias says: Stand behind me and look over my right shoulder through this window!”


The farmer obeys and sees a great plain, wide and long. Across the plain are standing armed soldiers with their horses, one next to the other. Everything is quiet and silent, no one moves, as though horses and people were sleeping.


“See, that is the black army,” says King Mathias to the amazed farmer.“Look again through the window!”


The Carynthian looks, the king takes the sabre lightly by the handle and draws it a little way from the sheath. At this moment the whole army stirs to life. The soldiers raise their heads, the horses begin to nod and snort and stamp.


“You see,” adds King Mathias,” it won’t be long, and I will rise and draw the sabre from its sheath. A warm wind will be blowing, and breathe into people the one single thought. Then my soldiers will spring onto the horses, and the black army will move to defend the old holy faith. Then all who have a man’s head will grasp their arms. Old, young, all will rush to war, to defend old beliefs. There will be such urgency, that no one will have time to change clothes, and they will all go to war in the clothes they are wearing. So many people of faith will gather that the battle will take less than the time it takes to eat three loaves of bread; and if the third loaf falls from his hand, his neighbour will tell him: leave it, brother, let it lie there, after the battle there will be plenty for all. So swiftly they shall overcome the enemy of the old holy faith!”



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