The Zlatorog Legend: Myth of Triglav’s Golden-Horned Chamois

Legends are an essential part of any culture, and they represent the mentality of a nation. Their plots bring the morale of each country. Sometimes they can be unique, but occasionally several nations share one story identifying the main ideas uniting them. In this article, let’s review the exciting facts about Zlatorog, also known as Goldhorn, living in the most famous mountain of Slovenia, Triglav.

Zlatorog is a mythical creature that looks like a goat or chamois with big beautiful golden horns. Its name in Slovenian means “golden horn.” The legend about Zlatorog is one of the essential folk myths for Slovenia. Moreover, it takes place on Mount Triglav, the national symbol of the country.

Who or What is Zlatorog?

Goldhorn is a creature that originates in Slavic mythology. In 1868, Karel Dežman proved in the 43rd edition of the Laibacher Zeitung that it first appeared in Slovenia’s legends and folklore stories. Zlatorog is a mixture of the chamois and the steinbock (ibex) because, in some myths, it has short, humble horns like the chamois, whereas, in some others, it has excellent overarching horns like the steinbocks.

Its most prominent feature is the fact that those horns are composed of solid gold. That’s why it is called “golden horn.” On the other hand, Zlatorogs are very similar to their cousins in terms of temperament. They share common eating habits, similar mating habits, similar territorial preferences, similar offspring rearing habits, and so on.

Goldhorns are powerful and sturdy creatures with supernatural abilities. First of all, solid gold horns are much more powerful than regular ones. They can bring more damage in case of a fight. Moreover, they are heavier, so the neck of a Zlatorog is more powerful, so the creature has more strength in every punch.

On the other hand, gold attracts such golden-loving greedy creatures as dwarves and humans. Though, the most impressive capability of Goldhorn is its blood. When the chamois is injured, it leaves a trail of its own blood on the ground. Soon enough, the soil covers in a patch of blood-red flowers. Some people believe that they are Triglav roses. After this, Zlatorog eats the sanguine-colored blooms.

This heals the creature immediately. Furthermore, it gives extraordinary strength, durability, and stamina to the owner of the blood, which pushes the enemy away. Some even believe that Goldhorns use this trick in old age or during sickness in order to ward off a painful and untimely death.

The only weakness of Zlatorog is its horns that can attract a lot of attention, reflecting the sun in crystal white snowy mountains.

The Legend of Zlatorog

The story takes place in the Valley of Triglav Lakes. There were the heaven upper valleys where White women lived. Underneath, there were human lower valleys. No mortal was allowed to enter the upper valleys. If humans tried, then White ladies would hurl down rocks, stones, and avalanches or cause terrible snowstorms. The upper valley was also a home for a herd of white goats whose leader was Zlatorog. Its golden horns were the key to unlocking a big treasure that was hidden on the Bogatin (means “rich”) mountain. The treasure was protected by a multi-headed dragon.

However, there was an exception. The only one allowed to enter the valley was the son of a beautiful widow, Trenta Hunter. White women brought him to the lower valley, so he had permission to visit them at any time. The hunter had a girlfriend who was the daughter of a tavern owner. One day, the tavern was visited by a rich Venetian merchant. He liked the hunter’s girlfriend so much that he promised her to live with him in great luxury if she would marry him.

Girl’s mother liked the merchant more than the Trenta Hunter. Thus, she wanted the best for her child, so she asked the hunter to show the wealth equal to the Venetian merchant’s one. However, she believed in true love, so the second option could be to bring a bunch of Triglav roses from the upper valley in mid-winter to prove his devotion. If not, she would not allow him to see her daughter anymore.

Of course, Trenta Hunter was extremely upset. He didn’t know what to do, and once he met the Green Hunter, who was known for bringing troubles to many decent young people. The Green Hunter persuaded the Trenta Hunter to kill Goldhorn and take his golden horns in order to bring the treasures of Bogatin (Rich) mountain to his girlfriend’s mother.

They started to move uphill the very same night. Until the morning, they reached the mountain peak, where they noticed Zlatorog. The sun rose high enough to be able to see reflections of the golden horns at long distances. The Trenta Hunter shot the creature. The wound bled, leaving a trail of red liquid. The hunters wanted to kill the creature before it could eat the flowers growing immediately on the spots where the blood touched the soil, but it didn’t happen. Goldhorn was too fast. It swallowed a rose and became the angriest creature in the world. It even didn’t touch the hunter. He was so afraid, and the reflection dazzled him, so the hunter lost special orientation and fell from the cliff.

Zlatorog was offended at people being treated in such a bad manner. It left the area with the White ladies, who promised never to return. The hunter’s girlfriend was waiting for her sweetheart for the whole winter. After the snow melted and empowered sources, the Soča River brought the hunter’s corpse to the lower valley.

People found it, with his lifeless hand still keeping a Triglav rose.

Where Does Zlatorog Live?

The place where the myth happened is Mount Triglav and its valley. Triglav, for Slovenians, is not just a mountain. It is the highest peak in the country. It is the national symbol. It appeared on the national flag as well as on the coat of arms. People dedicated their art to this mountain. They study it, climb, rest in the national park, find endemic animals in karst caves there.

Triglav became even a symbol of the partisans’ resistance movement. Everything connected with the national spirit is located near the mountain. This mountain is equal to folk songs or national dishes for Slovenians. That’s why the former Slovene president Milan Kučan, a person who led Slovenia towards independence, once said that climbing Triglav at least once in life is a duty of every Slovenian person.

In Slovenian, Triglav means “three peaks,” where tri- is the number, and accordingly -glav is the highest point of a mountain. This is the highest mountain not only in Slovenia but the highest point of the Julian Alps as well. The last one is the mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps, located in the Sava Valley and Canale Valley and stretches from Northern Italy to Slovenia.

Triglav has 2,863.65 meters (9,395.2 ft.) of height. Here, it is located in the Triglav National Park. The mountain was the highest peak of Yugoslavia as well, before Slovenia’s independence in 1991. This proves the highly mountainous status of Slovenia. The peak is located in the east northern part of the country.

The Morale of Zlatorog Myth

The story has two layers of morale. The first idea is that human greediness was represented by showing the girl’s mother. The second idea is the feeling of true love. However, in this story, they both patch perfectly, creating a perfect narration.

In fact, this myth is very truthful despite its magical background. If we consider it deeply, we can find many shades of human emotions and desires here. For example, the mother was greedy enough, but she also wanted her daughter to live well. The hunted loved the girl, but he knew that it would not be going to end well. This is similar to what we have in real life. We never experience pure black and white or good and evil. Everything has shades because life is not that simple.

Thus, I propose to draw out the third moral of this story. This one is about the complexity of our decisions and the complexity of them. Every moment of life, we should remember that the real situation is much more complex than we think. Only in this case can we make the best decisions.

Hence, the simple story of a chamois with golden horns became one of the main myths of Slovenian folklore. Of course, it would be impossible to create such a beautiful, magical narrative if not the place where it happened. Triglav and its valleys are wonderful places. You will find here the most picturesque rivers, lakes, and forests. For example, the Soča River turns emerald green in its color that seems like a miracle when it happens.

Therefore, if you want to feel the myth in full, we invite you to visit these places for the best experience. Who knows, maybe, you will also find your inspiration here, as thousands of people already did. 

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