Vodník, Who is the goblin in the Lesser Town canal?
Have you seen Vodník? No doubt he is one of the most curious and unknown inhabitants of Prague, let us tell you his story!
Vodník, creature of the waters
This elusive creature is a water spirit and holds an important place in ancient Slavic mythology. As a distant echo of forgotten pagan beliefs, its figure was relegated to folk tales and stories. However, during the patriotic exaltation of Romanticism, his figure was rescued from folklore, serving as an inspiration for many artists.
The famous composer Antonín Dvorák wrote a symphonic poem with his name, also including him as a character in his opera Rusalka.
He is often described as a naked old man – many people refer to this creature simply as “the Old Man”), with a frog’s face, greenish beard and long hair. His scrawny body is covered with algae and mud, and sometimes even scales.
It has reticulated legs instead of hands, a fish tail and eyes that burn like red-hot embers. Because of its ragged appearance it looks almost like a homeless person. It usually moves along rivers, half sunk, splashing hard and making noise.
Vodník in mythology
According to mythology, one should be careful with Vodník, because when he gets angry he breaks dykes, water mills and some even claim that he drowns people and animals. Tormented, fishermen and millers make offerings to appease him, otherwise he would drag people to his underwater abode to serve him as slaves for all eternity.
In fact, these lake creatures store the souls of the drowned in porcelain cups. They venerate their cups as the most valuable heritage and through the number they possess show their wealth and status to other vodnics. When the lid of such a cup is removed, the soul in form of a bubble inside escapes and becomes free again.
But sometimes Vodník can become a useful ally. Many fishermen ask for his help by placing a pinch of tobacco in the water and saying: “Here is your tobacco, Mr. Vodník, now give me a fish”.
Just in case, in our Dark Side of Prague Tour we try to observe its image from a distance, with great respect, always attentive not to unleash its legendary anger. Do you dare to join us? Join this guided tour in English and you will get to know Prague with our amazing guides!