Svatební Košile/The Wedding Shirt

 Name: Emma


“A girl prays to St. Mary to bring her fiancé back from war.  He comes back and knocks on her door at Vespers, and she suspects something to be off, but it’s dark, and she’s in love with him, so she goes with him into the darkening night, taking the wedding shirts her mother sewed for their impending marriage along with her. As the night passes, each time the clock strikes, he convinces her to throw away another thing connecting her to her religion/culture– first, her rosary– it’s too heavy, he says, as they trudge through the mud, on the way to the church to get married.  Second, her prayer book, because it’s weighing her down. Third, her pendant of St. Mary; she looks into his eyes, and they look dead, then looks around her, seeing they are at the church’s gates– but not the front gates, rather the gates to the cemetery. He looks away, then looks back, asking if she’s thrown her pendant away; Yes, she lies. He asks her to throw the wedding shirts over the fence, and she does, in fear; then, he helps her climb over.  In the center of the cemetery, lit with a ghostly light, is an empty grave. Her fiance takes her by the hand and leads her closer; she looks at the gravestone, and both their names are on it. He pushes her into the grave, as the light of day begins to creep upon them, and she sees him, standing above her– visibly dead, and shaking under the creeping light. Quick, he says, and she prays to St. Mary as he throws the first shovel of dirt over her; her horrifying realization striking her that her lover has come back: dead. Her prayer is answered as the sun rises, and at the crow of the rooster, he burns and crumbles to dust before her with a scream, leaving just the girl and the wedding shirts.”


“The original written version of the story is a poem written by Karen Jaromir Erben (the same guy who wrote the vodnik down). They’re both in Kytice which means golden wreath or something like that but it was a book of Czech mythology that was banned during the communist takeover for being too nationalist and a lot of the stories the way they’re written are subtly anti communist basically. Like the reason that they feel like they’re warning against what was about to culturally happen is cuz they were. Like this story is obviously like. Supposed to imply that she’s being strung along to throw away these elements of her Czech religious culture and identity for ultimately nothing. In the same way that I think the vodnik was a warning of what it would be like to defect to a different place lol or at least why I always related to it because I grew up like feeling in between water and land / with a loss of national identity because I am neither really Czech or American yk, like it’s about the experience of diaspora. The vodnik is the fish man who has to steal the woman from earth against her will in order to have companionship bc he’s repulsive and lowkey nobody would consensually be with him. And he’s not able to walk on earth without his jacket dripping bc he’s like a fish man. But he can’t find companionship amongst fish bc he’s smart like a person. So it’s lowkey kind of tragic, he’s like a Frankenstein character. Like a character who does horrible stuff but it’s lowkey like You feel sorry for him bc he got made like that. The Kytice (by Eben) is key to Czech national identity. ”


Similar to the ghost memorate of the lady after the USSR occupation, the tale has largely to do with possessions that cannot be taken away that represents the self or more broadly put, to represent not relinquishing Czech national identity as Emma said. This can be seen through the Christian motifs throughout the tale, as different religions were not allowed under communism. Additionally, it mentions wedding artifacts such as the wedding shirt and the church gates. Terminating the wedding and only being a fiancé represents the perpetual liminal identity of individuals in limbo within those two phases caused by death – in a larger sense, the imposing political state of the country and its effects on the identity of individuals. The idea of ghosts or death could be considered an allomotif of communism in this case.