Thursday, January 15, 2009
Once upon a time in Slovakia
(To Lea Lipková, forever my princess)
Once upon a time, so many centuries ago, there was a castle near the Low Tatras in Slovakia where a beautiful princess lived with her father. She was bright and beautiful, and every day, at dusk, she came to the window of her room to comb her beautiful long red hair, and she sang… One of those days, when the sun was almost setting behind the mountains, spreading the last orange rays over the earth, she came to the window as usual, singing, and she started combing her magnificent red hair. As she was looking to the horizon, far away, she saw a little black dot in the sky over the snowy mountains. She kept staring at that strange black dot and she realized it was growing slowly, and then faster, and faster, until it wasn’t a black dot no more. It looked like some sort of bird, and she smiled. But suddenly she realized it wasn’t a bird! Oh, no! It was growing too much to be a bird, and she felt a chill down her spine. When she realized what it really was she ran away inside her room to hide behind her closet. But, at the same time, she was terribly curious. She could hear the flapping of his wings outside, around her tower, and also the screaming of the villagers. Yes, it was a dragon! A big, black, scary and lonely dragon was outside, surrounding her castle and being hit by her father archers. She had heard about them, but never actually seen one. For some minutes she could hear all the noise and screaming outside, but eventually he went away, leaving the place silent as it was before.
Next day, as usual, she went to comb her hair again at the window at dusk, and again she saw the little black dot on the horizon, over the mountains. Again she fled inside, but this time her curiosity made her take a peek. And that was when she saw the dragon’s beautiful brown eyes, tender, gentle, sweet, looking at her as he tried to escape the arrows! She even smiled a little, but then she ran away inside, until again she could hear no murmurs anymore. He was gone once more! And the next day again it happened, and the day after, and the other one. And the princess grew attached to that dragon, she sat at the window combing her hair and smiling at him while he escaped the arrows and rocks… He was gentle to her, and she could tell he loved her deeply! Until one day her father called her to say he decided to marry her with some count of the region who claimed he would kill the dragon as a sign of appreciation and as a wedding gift for her father and the villagers. She was in panic! That could not happen! She didn’t want to marry no count, and especially she didn’t want the dragon killed. She realized she loved him too for all his constant visits at dusk when she was so alone… What could she do? What?
The days went on and the dragon kept coming, and she told him about his fathers’ intentions. He was very sad. She was going to marry? But she told him she didn’t want to, and also that she was falling in love with him… He smiled, full of passion, and gave a strong roar that chilled the entire valley and went straight up into the mountains. But then the day of the wedding came, and the count arrived at the castle with all his court and a huge machine to kill the dragon. The girl was in panic, and she kept crying the all day. The dragon didn’t show up, and she didn’t knew what to do no more. She didn’t wanted marry, but all the ceremony was ready and set for that evening. The count was outside by his machine, waiting, looking at the horizon. She didn’t knew if she wanted the dragon to come and take her from there, or if he should stay away not to be killed. She was anxious! But as always, at dusk, the dragon came from the mountains. First a small black dot, and then growing over the land and the ones who were waiting to kill him, he came. And he came in full power spreading flames everywhere he could see a threat. And before the count could set his machine on him he took the princess from her window for good, and no-one from that region has ever see them both again. Some travelers, years later, reported that they were still living together up in the High Tatras mountains and that they even had descendants already. And so the story went on…
Nowadays in Slovakia, in the very same village, there is still a girl who combs her red hair looking at the mountains at dusk. She doesn’t expect a dragon no more, that time is well gone now. She expects everyday an airplane. First a little dot on the horizon over the snowy mountains, and then its wings glowing from the last rays of light. Each day she expects the plane that can bring her love to her forever. Maybe, just maybe, she is a princess too. And, although not likely, maybe one day her dragon will come.
(Photography: Banska Bystricá, Slovakia, December 26th, 2008 / Text: Coimbra, Portugal, January 15th, 2009)
© All rights reserved