Folk tradition of the Valley of Poljane by the river Kolpa

Written by: Kočevsko

The Valley of Poljane by the river Kolpa carries a very rich folk tradition, and many tales were recorded by individuals already a century ago. 

In 2018, a collection of tales has been published in a book The valley of Poljane by the river Kolpa - the valley of tales. Filled with colourful illustrations, this bilingual book of tales relates to individual villages and the river Kolpa. The tales were collected by the Study circle members, the editorial board included Nada Babič Ivaniš, Maja Madronič, Mira Madronič, Nives Rauh and Antonija Zvonka Šterbenc, who also translated these tales with Gill Wraight.

Different characters, both evil and good, appear in the interpretative narratives: devils, witches and fairies, as well as purely simple and naive people. In short, the stories cover characters from all social classes - from poor shepherds, millers, and farmers to the lords of the castle and various travellers who travelled through the Valley of Poljane.

Tale of the Crippled Devil 

On a stormy night, the devil visited a miller in the village of Dol. All day long, he had been wandering round Bela Krajina. When he became hungry, he knocked on the miller’s door and roared:

”Hey miller - get up and give me some food

Or else I will seize your old house

Uproot it from the ground and tear it down

And I will cover your fields with hailstones.”

After hearing this strange threat, the old miller immediately got up, lit a fire in his bread oven and cooked a bowl of corn porridge.  When he put the food in front of the stranger, who stank of sulphur and burnt pitch and whose green eyes were blinking greedily, he noticed that he had a hoof on his left leg. However, the devil praised the dinner saying, “Your porridge is very good. I have not tasted the like in my whole life.”

“Every flour is good for making porridge, but no other miller in Bela Krajina has such good millstones as I have” the miller boasted. “Good millstones make good flour.”

The devil was astonished and asked, “Does it not all come out the same whatever millstones are used? All millers are boasters, but you are the biggest of them all. Every beggar praises his sack and you praise your millstones.”

The miller from Dol was offended by being compared to a beggar and replied, “If you do not believe what I have said, come back tomorrow. Bring some corn to the mill and you will see that my millstones grind the best flour.”

“Certainly!” agreed the devil. “Tomorrow morning, I will come and bring a bag of corn to the mill but beware if the flour does not turn out as you have promised. If I find a miller in Bela Krajina who grinds better flour than you do, I will destroy this mill and turn it into dust, tie the millstones round your neck and throw you into the river Kolpa.”

Saying this, the satisfied devil stretched himself contentedly because the porridge had been so delicious, and disappeared into the dark night.

However, the old miller was a clever man. Once the devil had left, he decided to play a trick on him so that he would never want to try his porridge again. The next morning, he got up early, went to the mill, unscrewed the wooden funnel and pulled it apart from the axle.

As soon as the sun had risen above the hills, the devil entered the mill puffing.  On his back, he was carrying a big sack full of yellow corn.  He poured the corn into the funnel and roared “Hey miller - open the sluice gates and let the water turn the millstones. I have brought you some corn to grind.”

As soon as the miller opened the sluice gates, the water crashed onto the mill wheels with such a force that the millstones started turning wildly. Because the wooden funnel was loose, the millstones turned only a few times before the funnel crashed onto the devil’s leg and broke it.

The Devil roared so loudly that it could be heard all over Bela Krajina. He grabbed the millstone angrily with all his might and threw it to the bottom of the river Kolpa where it still lies today.  Since that day, the devil always limps on his left leg.


Ilustration by: Simon Šimenc
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