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Kekec and Skovik the Elf

The beloved character from Slovenian children's stories, Kekec, is more than 100 years old, but the story by writer Josip Vandot is still prime for various interpretations both on screen and on stage. This year also marks the 140th anniversary of the writer's birth and the 80th anniversary of his death. The most recent production on stage is an opera for children entitled Kekec and Skovik the Elf.

The writer Josip Vandot was born in 1884 in Kranjska Gora, and died in 1944 in Croatia. His trilogy of Kekec stories inspired the Slovenian writer, poet and librettist Milan Dekleva to write the opera's libretto and the equally excellent composer Tomaž Habe to write the music for this opera.

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A Magical Time

The story takes the audience to a magical time at the winter solstice. The days are at their shortest and the nights are at their longest.

This is not only a fact of nature, but is linked to our ancestors' belief that the mystical wheel of life stops at that time.

One cycle ends and a new cycle begins. This period is therefore mysterious and magical. It is also fraught with danger and unpredictability. It is when we are most vulnerable and susceptible to bad things. And it is precisely in this magical time that the story of Kekec is set.

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Between respect and disrespect for nature

This is the relationship that, according to the story, also defines the characters in this operatic rendition of Kekec. The villagers and the boy Kekec respect nature. They are aware that humans are an inseparable part of it. We must live in harmony with nature and be respectful of our environment.

The character representing the story of the present time, who disregards the laws of nature and prefers profit over symbiotic balance, is the evil woodlander Bedanec.

He wants to obtain medicinal herbs in order to resell them and make a good profit.

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In order to get his way, Bedanec kidnaps the blind girl Mojca, who lives in the village. He is convinced that Kosobrin will come to rescue her and so he, Bedanec, would snatch the herbs from Kosobrin that he so desperately desires. But the evil man is wrong, because Kekec is a brave boy who is not afraid of him. Kekec’s strength is that he is loved, just as Bedanec’s weakness is his loneliness. Bedanec sometimes comes to the village precisely because he misses the feeling of belonging to a community and he longs for a family.

Kosobrin, however, is the opposite of Bedanec; the old herbalist lives in harmony with nature and believes in its healing power.

He is aware that happiness comes from within and that we do not need much for it. He retreated into isolation to preserve his values.

  • The old man with the grey bear and herbs in the hands

    Despite his isolation, Kosobrin shares the same values as the villagers and is therefore connected to them and protective of their children. Photo: Darja Štravs Tisu

Restoring harmony

Kekec brings hope to the story and reminds us that a community must always live in harmony.

Disguised as Skovik the Elf, he embodies our hero’s inner voice on his transformative journey.

The owl's screech frightens Bedanec because he knows deep inside that his outward appearance is at odds with his true character.

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Author: Tanja Glogovčan Belančić

Date: 14. February 2024

Time to read: 2 min