The Origin of Zebín

The surroundings of Jičín are dominated by Zebín, a high hill with a small chapel on its summit. Not many people know how this hill came to be and who built that small chapel on its lonely summit. There is a legend that tell us about it. 

Once upon a time, not far from Jičín, lived a young man called Vašek. He lived alone and looked after his small field and his cottage, as best as he could. He did not leave any job undone; in summer, he helped his neighbours reap the harvest and in winter he built snowmen with the children.

For a long time, he had been in love with the miller's daughter, Madlenka. And she liked the young, clever Vašek, too.

They kept their love secret from the people in the village because Madlenka's father was the richest man in the region, and he hoped he would marry his daughter to a well-off man.

“Madlenka, we can't hide our love any longer,” decided one day Vašek, “I will go to your father to ask for your hand in marriage.”

Madlenka agreed, but she knew her father would be angry. And she was right.

“You and Madlenka?” Exclaimed the miller, surprised. “A girl like her deserves a better life.”

Vašek knew that trying to convince the miller would be pointless. He ran away from the farm, far from that unfair man who had rejected him.

“Why can't I have enough money? I would give everything to be rich and be able to marry my beautiful Madlenka!”

The sun had already fallen behind the horizon and Vašek sat under a birch. He was thinking about how to convince the miller that love is much stronger and more important than riches, when an elegant man stopped and said to Vašek. “I can see you need money,” the man said, “I can offer it to you, but only under one condition: in seven years you will come with me, forever!”

Vašek jumped in joy. “I will do everything you ask me!”

The stranger told him to dig under the tree in his garden; that right there he will find a lost treasure! Vašek did not waste a second. He dug until he hit a chest. He opened it and found thousands of golden coins!

The next day, the avaricious miller welcomed him to his family.

Vašek lived happily with Madlenka. His farm flourished and their children ran around it. But he had forgotten the promise he had made to that unknown man.

And when the seventh year arrived, a known face appeared before Vašek. “Your time is up,” he said. “You must come with me, just like you promised!”

It was only then that Vašek noticed the horns on the man's head, and he realised that the Devil himself was standing in front of him!

Vašek did not want to leave his family and tried to find a way to trick the Devil.

“Devil, I think I can outran you on the way to hell. You are not as fast as I am! Wouldn't you like to try?

“Fine,” agreed the Devil. “You will run from the cross in Soběraz, and I will run from Vrchlabí. You will start when you see a bolt of lightning. If you arrive first, I will let you go. But if you lose, you'll come with me!”

Vašek knew he had to be first, he had to win! When a huge bolt of lightning fell from the sky, he ran. The Devil stomped and panted, and it looked he was going to win and that Vašek would go to hell!

But suddenly, the Devil's hooves stopped stomping. Vašek ran faster and with the last of his strength, he made it to his cottage! He had won! However, he wondered why his rival had stopped, and when he looked up, he saw the giant Devil emptying both his boots of the stones that had hindered his running! When he saw Vašek smiling, there was a great thunder and the Devil disappeared as if the earth had swallowed him.

Vašek went back to his family. On the place where the Devil had emptied his boots, a big hill had grown, and the people tried in vain to understand how it got there. Only Vašek knew and he smiled. As a memorial to his fight with the Devil, he built a small chapel on the top of the hill.

Next time you are around, do not forget to climb to the top of Zebín and, by the chapel, remember the fearlessness of the young Vašek, who beat the Devil himself!