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Long Forgotten Tales

20 March 2020

Days of myths and legends used to feel so distant. But the dark times are here right now, and they brought families back together to stay safe from an invisible danger. This is a strange and such an unexpected moment for the 21st century, the kind of moment that makes it so easy to imagine ancient people gathering at the hearth, telling tales of bravery and hope during the coldest hours of hopelessness.

One of our favourite Zagreb legends is the story about the sleeping dragon of Zagreb. Back in 1880, an earthquake destroyed the town. People immediately started spreading rumours about a huge sleeping dragon that hides under the city. When it wakes up, the earth above it starts shaking. Centuries of the city’s life are being destroyed in a single moment.

But, fear not! There is a way to tame the dragon of Zagreb. Just next to the beautiful Zagreb cathedral, there is a seminary. But is there, really? Back in the days, people weren’t so sure about its real purpose. They used to think that behind the walls of the seminary, strange teachings took place. After young priests had finished twelve grades of their basic school, they enrolled the thirteenth grade known as the Black School. That’s where they acquired training in all sorts of magical skills, and they even learned how to tame dragons. They were most skillful in causing hailstorms.

Yes, unpredictable movements under our feet are caused by immense dragons. Yet everything frightening that goes on up in the sky - that’s usually caused by black humans, whether it’s BlackSchoolers… or even dangerous witches. It used to be a well known fact that destructive storms were signs of dark magic. Can you imagine the feeling, living in a small town on the hill, within the “safety” of a massive wall? But the wall can’t save you from the fear of your own neighbours? Who was it who dared to turn to the devil and caused hell on earth? Imagine that all you can think of is the ruthless fear of black magic in the midst of the kind of thunderstorm that could crush your small wooden home, or worse, burn your crops to the grounds!

Centuries later, we’ve stopped dreading dragons. We laugh at the mention of wizards or witches. Yet, our crops are being burnt by another invisible enemy. Once again, our lives being devoured by a creature that we cannot understand. We’ve found ourselves locked up, worried about everything, from our health to food supplies. In times like these, there is some comfort in realising that humanity has lived with and lived through monsters of all sorts. Most of them, no matter how real they felt at the time, have turned into nothing more, than a long forgotten tale.

Happy World Storytelling Day!