Prague legends

Sleepy John

Sleepy John was prone to, well, sleeping and one day he passed out in the back of a farmer’s cart. Upon discovering him, the owner, along with his friends, decided to stuff him in an empty beer keg and leave him in the forest. Anyway, Sleepy John finally woke up, only to find himself trapped in a beer keg. What’s worse, wolves, having picked up on the human scent, were now circling around him. John grabbed the tail of a wolf that was standing too close. Startled, the wolf began to run and the keg hurtled down a hill and smashed open upon a rock. John was free! Continuing on through the mountains, Sleepy John came across a hermit who said, “I shall die in three days. Bury me then, and I will pay you well for it.” John agreed and three days later, the dying hermit gave him a stick, saying: "In whatever direction you point this stick, you will find yourself there." Then he gave him a knapsack, saying: "Anything you want you will find in this knapsack." Finally, he gave him a cap, saying: "As soon as you put this cap on, nobody will be able to see you.” Then the hermit died and John buried him as promised.

Sleepy John packed his things, pointed his stick and said, “Let me be in the town where the King lives.” Abracadabra and lo and behold, John found himself in the midst of a throng of lords who were on their way to see the King. “The Queen wears out a dozen pairs of shoes nightly,” they explained, “yet no one has ever been able to follow her.” John decided to accompany them. Once announced in the palace, John approached the King and explained that he wanted to help. “What is your name,” the King asked. “Sleepy John,” our hero replied. “And how do you plan on following the Queen, my boy, when all you do is sleep? Find her and I´ll give you half my kingdom, otherwise it’s off with your head.”

Night came and the Queen, after assuring herself that all were asleep, grabbed twelve new pairs of shoes and hotfooted it out of the palace. Sleepy John had remained awake however and, donning his cap, which rendered him invisible, pointed his stick and said, “Let me be where the Queen is.” Now, when the Queen came to a certain rock, the Earth opened up before her and out popped two dragons. They took her on their backs and carried her as far as the lead forest. John said: "Let me be where the Queen is," and he instantly found himself in the lead forest. He broke off a twig and put it in his knapsack. The Queen rode on. John pointed his stick and said: "Let me be where the Queen is," and instantly found himself in a tin forest. He broke off another twig and put it in his knapsack. The Queen continued on and once again, John pointed his stick and said: "Let me be where the Queen is." Instantly, he appeared in a silver forest. He broke off a twig again and put it into his knapsack. The dragons continued on till they came to a green meadow. A crowd of devils came to meet them there and then they had a feast.

After the banquet had ended the devils began to dance with the Queen, and they kept on dancing until the Queen had worn out all her shoes. When her shoes were worn out, two dragons returned her to the place where the earth had opened before her. John said: "Let me be where the Queen is," and both of them made it back to the palace unseen.

Next morning, the lords gathered together and admitted that nobody had been able to track the Queen. The King summoned Sleepy John before him who said: "Gracious King, I did track her, and I know that she used up those twelve pairs of shoes upon the green meadows in Hell." “That’s an outrage,” screamed the Queen but John produced the leaden twig and said: "The Queen was carried by two dragons towards Hell, and she came to the leaden forest; that’s where I got this twig.” “So what,” replied the King, “You might have made the twig yourself." “OK", said John, “well, then, what about this?” and he produced the tin twig from his knapsack. “Big deal,” said the King. "You might have made this twig too." “Tough crowd,” thought John, then produced the silver twig. The queen, who knew she was finally busted, cried out: "Let the earth swallow me!" and, sure enough, she was swallowed by the earth.

Sleepy John ended up with half the kingdom for his troubles, and, when the king died, he got the other half too.

POSSIBLE MORAL: Women always have (and always will) love shoes.
PROBABLE MORAL: If you’re going to dance with the devil in the pale moonlight, watch your back.

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