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Jánošík - Slovakia's legendary hero

The legend of Juraj Jánošík goes back a long time in Slovakia. Fairy tale books show him with great jumping ability leaping over high walls, or walking through fire, all to avenge injustice by the rich toward the poor. He was known to be a leader of merry men who could get out of any scrap or close call. This band used the forest as their home, tricking the authorities and stealing from rich travelers. Then they would enter towns suffering from war to share the riches. In real life, Jánošík was a soldier, taking part in the revolt of the estates of František II Rákóczi. The 1703 - 1711 revolt was aimed against the Habsburgs who were seeking to gain more control over the Slovak lands while limiting the power of the Hungarian nobility and restricting religious freedom.


Super hero. Jánošík rides in all his spleandor.
Courtesy of Liptov regional office

The legend of Juraj Jánošík goes back a long time in Slovakia. Fairy tale books show him with great jumping ability leaping over high walls, or walking through fire, all to avenge injustice by the rich toward the poor. He was known to be a leader of merry men who could get out of any scrap or close call. This band used the forest as their home, tricking the authorities and stealing from rich travelers. Then they would enter towns suffering from war to share the riches.

In real life, Jánošík was a soldier, taking part in the revolt of the estates of František II Rákóczi. The 1703 - 1711 revolt was aimed against the Habsburgs who were seeking to gain more control over the Slovak lands while limiting the power of the Hungarian nobility and restricting religious freedom.

Jánošík left the army in 1711 and became the leader of a band of bandits operating in the woods of northwest Slovakia, then later in Moravia and Silesea.

He was eventually captured on a fluke, according to legend. One day he was sitting in a pub with his men when word came out that the authorities were going to make another attempt to grab him. As he moved to escape from the pub an old, ugly, evil woman took a bowl of peas and dumped them on the ground causing him to slip and fall. Only then was he caught.

During the trial of Verboczy in 1713, he was found guilty and taken in shackles and imprisoned in the small castle "Vranovo." Torture then followed. Jánošík was chained to the wall in the castle dungeon, and interrogated in the torture room. Stretched flat and cuffed to a wooden rack or tied and attached to a pulley on the ceiling, he was beaten. Wood was shoved under his nails, and his legs were fitted with nails encased in a piece of armor to rip into the leg. Despite all this torture, historical records show no confession by Jánošík.

His suffering ended quickly when he was pierced by a hook through his left rib to his heart and hung from a tower at the prison. There he remained for three days when a great uproar over his trial prevented the guards from removing his body.

Evidence of Jánošík's painful ending can be found on Liptoský Mikuláš's west side in Palúdzka. At a manor house where Janošík was taken at Vravovského 1 torture instruments are on display and the museum keeper is happy to share all the myths, rumors, and facts surrounding his life.

Jánošík's importance to Slovak folklore cannot be overestimated. His traditional dress has contributed greatly to Slovak identity. There are many characteristics that stand out:

zapletaný vrkoč - Long braided hair
opasok - His belt with iron buckle
zbojnicky klobúk - Hat named after person who steals from the rich to give to the poor.
valaška - An ornamated axe
vestička - Ornamated vest
krpce - Goat skin shoes

Special reporting by Kim Briggs.

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