Jack Fleming recalls the fabulous story of the mythical golden horned Zlatorog that tourists will inevitably encounter when visiting Slovenia
The story goes…roaming Slovenia’s Triglav Lakes Valley accompanied by White Ladies and good fairies who kept the mountain pastures green, while helping humans whenever they found them in need, was a golden horned chamois known as the Zlatorog.
The tale of this mythical creature leaves a legacy that travellers will face everywhere they go in Slovenia and is as famous to Slovenes as Medusa is to the Greeks.
Danger however, was looming near the town of Trenta, where a plot had emerged that would endanger the life of the Zlatorog (a goat-antelope species). The story goes, that a young, skilled hunter fell in with an innkeeper’s daughter, however his wealth didn’t match up to jewellery bought by a wealthy Venetian merchant.
Recoiled with jealously, the only means of winning her heart was to capture the elusive Zlatorog for its golden horns. As it was mid-winter, the task in hand seemed impossible. He climbed Mount Bogatin in search of the chamois and after days of searching for the chamois the young hunter spotted it, took aim and fired. It was a direct hit!
The wounded chamois dragged itself onto a narrow, rocky ledge, blood pouring from its wound. As the blood hit the ground, the snow instantly melted and up sprang the most beautiful and alluring flowers – magical Triglav Roses. The chamois nibbled on its petals and instantly the dying Zlatorog was given incredible power. The bewildered hunter was charged at by the chamois and then blinded by the glint and lost his footing, falling to his death down the gorge.
Seething by an act of cruelty, the once kind and trusting Zlatorog, gored his way through the Triglav Lakes Valley, leaving as it looks today. The innkeeper’s daughter waited in vain for the hunter to return with the golden horns, however one day, the swelling Soca River, brought her a sad gift, the body of the lifeless suitor.
The story of the Zlatorog was first published in 1868, during a period of Romanticism, later becoming a famous opera by Camilla and Eduard Lucerna. Celebrated across Slovenia, visitors will see the face of Zlatorog everywhere, including on the label of the country’s most popular beer (Lasko Zlatorog), in the name of one of Slovenia’s professional basketball teams (KK Zlatorog Lasko) and also gives the name of a four star hotel in Lake Bohinj (Hotel Zlatorog).