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A Bouquet of Czech Folktales

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  5,228 ratings  ·  104 reviews
Erben compiled and wrote A Bouquet based on his studies of Slavic folktales and folk songs. First published in 1853, it is dotted with murder and mayhem : graves opening and the dead walking the earth, the animate becoming the inanimate and vice versa, ogres and monsters of lake and wood, human transformations reminiscent of Ovid's Metamorphoses. Written as ballads, Marcel ...more
Hardcover, 1st, 174 pages
Published December 15th 2012 by Twisted Spoon Press (first published 1853)
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Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I did read this book in Czech, however i will write the review in english;)
I am not that huge fan of (our) Slavic literature, no matter which region it comes from. However, this is my number 1 book when it comes to both Czech and Slavic literature.
I think that Erben did an amazing job in presenting the Czech folklore and legends in that pure, real and original form yet shaped so that it can be timeless. And kudos for in delivering them in their original, scary and even bizarre light. I absolutel
Caro the Helmet Lady
Kytice, Kytice, where have you been all my life?
Bouquet, or Kytice z pověstí národních, also known as just Kytice (Czech for "bouquet"), is a collection of ballads by the Czech author Karel Jaromír Erben. First published in the middle of XIX century, when Czech language was still pretty much an outcast in its own country, it became one of the most beloved and inspiring pieces of literature for the next generations. Which is sort of very cool and amazing, because the subject - folklore tales - wa
Eleanor Toland
Nov 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I came across Kytice after reading an interview in which it was recommended by author Helen Oyeyemi, and I am thankful for her for bringing attention to this lovely little book.

Kytice, usually translated into English as Bouquet but meaning something closer to A Handful of Wild-flowers, is a collection of Czech folk-tales written in rhyming verse. The format is a little difficult to get used to, but Kytice is an astonishing piece of work on behalf of both the author, Karel Erben, and perhaps even
Jan 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Above the river Orlice I saw a church
and heard its golden bell. It extinguished
the rush of fierce passion first,
then the ancient Czech sincerity.
When Czech’s godly virtues – love, hope, and faith –
turned musty and stale from disuse,
the church hid itself in the depths of the earth,
and water then flooded the place.
(from “The Prophetess”)

Initially published in 1853, Karel Jaromir Erben’s A Bouquet has never been out of print, and it has been adapted into musical, theatrical, cinematic and anima
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Macabre poetry. A breathless ride through gothic visions, like being taken by a skeletal hand and flown over 19th century Eastern European peasant landscapes. Excellent.
Georgia Hejduková
I think Jaromír Erbens view of the world and morality is valid, however I think it could have been done with lees brutality. Some of the poems are breathtaking but unfortunately few are way to hard to read, and therefore hard to enjoy.
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fairy-tales. I flew through the whole thing in a day and look forward to re-reading them already.

Fairy-tales from Europe especially tend to tell similar stories with slightly different settings or added details. Even in the Grimm’s Fairy-tales stories some times seem to be repeating themselves.

With that said, I do feel like ’A Bouquet’ told the stories in a different light. Perhaps because it is told in poems, which added a nice touch to the fami
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
Czech must read classic! Loved it. So dark and full of gore
Review originally posted at Eve's Alexandria, October 2013.


I recently read A Bouquet (1853), a collection of deliciously dark nineteenth-century Czech folktales, compiled by Karel Jaromír Erben (1811-70), and translated into English for the first time in 2012, by Marcela Malek Sulak. A copy was sent to me, very kindly, by marvellous Prague-based small publisher Twisted Spoon Press, who specialise in English translations of Central and Eastern European fiction.

The book itself is a lovely object
Anyone who finds Grimm's Fairy Tales to their liking will like this book. These poems/ballads are all quite grim, "dotted with murder and mayhem, graves opening and the dead walking the earth, the animate becoming the inanimate and vice versa, ogres and monsters of lake and wood, human transformations..." (dust jacket). I read the version translated by Marcela Sulak with artwork by Alen Divis. The physical book is beautiful. The artwork is dark and macabre, far from charming, and captures the na ...more
Sep 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, czech, classics
Kytice pověstí národních (= A Bouquet of Folk Legends)is arguably the most popular collection of poetry written by a Czech author. Simply great. I re-read it every two years or so and there's always something new to find and admire about these timeless poems.

Kytice (Bouquet)
Poklad (Treasure)
Svatební košile (The Wedding Shirts)
Polednice (Lady midday)
Zlatý kolovrat (The Golden Spinning-Wheel)
Štědrý den (Christmas Eve)
Holoubek (Little Dove)
Záhořovo lože (Záhoř's Bed)
Vodník (The Water-Goblin)
Vrba (W
Liz Kordulova
Mar 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It´s a classic. I knew some poems from this book before I started reading it. Even so I enjoyed it just as if I´d read it for the first time. Some of these tales just never get old. The stories are very original and beautifully written. I´m from Czech republic but I wouldn´t mind reading this in English either. Actually, I´m interested in how it´s been translated.

Great book, recommend it.
Dec 30, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: trash
Even though it is considered a Czech classics and children are taught about it, in my opinion the author must have been a psychopath and I can't understand why it is so praised. A book about dearh, murder, death, murder... you get the idea.
Pavla Rudolfová
One of my favourite books of all times. Perfect dark placement of old bohemic tales without heroic characters.
James Klagge
Jun 23, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: stories, czech
A litany of murder, betrayal, evil spirits, and regret. These tales from my cultural past, collected in the mid-nineteenth century, feel very foreign to the modern world. But, on the other hand, my mother's father's mother is reputed to have been crazy. She came from Chotusice, a little village in Bohemia that I have visited and where various 3rd cousins of mine still live. She didn't like living in the US, and after my grandfather was born in 1905, she returned home with him for a while. The fa ...more
Jaroslava Česnohlídková
Great collection of ballads. One of my favorite czech books. Mácha was really talented and had a amazing ability of using language. Ballads are easy to understand and reader can also easily remember them. My favourite one is "The wedding shirt". I can definitely recommend this book, so make sure you read it!
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
So even though this is a Chzech book, I'm going to write this review in English, because I want as many people as possible to read this.

I don't say that about things at all, but this books can just give you chills. Although this is a really old book there are kinda zombies in one of the stories!!! Erben was one of the first people to use them...
Tereza Hladíková
Horrifying yet fascinating piece of classical Czech literature. It was surprisingly readable, which I did not expect since it's almost 200 years old. The language was beautiful, sound of the words perfectly fitted the situations. It was brutal but I couldn't stop reading.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Grimm’s Fairytales: the Catholic, Slavic, total bloodbath version with less lucid plot lines. Cannibalism, pilgrimages through Hell, the boiled heads of family members—that kind of thing.
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Karel Jaromír Erben was not only an important man in the context of Czech culture but of that of the Slavic cultures in general. He, along with Božena Němcova, are to Czechs what Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimm Bros are to the Anglosphere. This made Erben and Banquet, an important literary work of his, essential reading for a guy like me.

While Twisted Spoon Press is great for bringing Eastern European literature into English and has published a few noteworthy publications, such as the poe
Krystof Brichta
Kytice is a really interesting book by K. J. Erben. This collection of poems is pretty scary. Though it doesn't belong to my favorite books, it is of the czech classics everyone should read.
The book compared to the movie is more detailed. The movie is more a footage to poem reciting, especially the poem Vodník. The movie is really artistic and I would compare it to some of Warhols movies.
I would recommend this book to everyone, because it is just classic. Everyone who loves romanticism should re
Jason Robert
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good translation; it works hard to maintain the original meter and rhyme scheme, with solid use of rhetorical devices and archaisms to maintain the creepy/sombre tone where needed.

The presence of Christian tradition is a bit heavy in some of the tales, but there are plenty of familiar folk-tale genre specific elements, with some tales new to someone not familiar with the particular tradition from which this draws. I particularly enjoyed "The Noonday Witch" and "The Water Goblin".
If you are interested in czech folklore, read this, you're gonna love it. It's a compulsory reading for me. Everytime someone tells me I HAVE TO read something, I can't bring myself to enjoy it.

Pokud vás zajímá český folklór, přečtěte si to. Pro mě je to povinná četba, což mi vždycky znechutí jakékoli čtení.
Piet Michael
Scary, romantic, funny fairy tales; greatly translated into German(which I read two of them in)and very fine in Czech, naturally; especially the last one, "The daughter's curse" reminded me of a typical folklore song.
Lucia Lazorova
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
Magical. It is a collection of 13 poems based on traditional and folkloric themes, where crime, desire, guilt or temptation is followed by punishment and sometimes ends tragically. My favourite are Treasure, The Wedding Shirts, Christmas Eve and Zahor's Bed.
Pavel Sikora
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't enjoy reading classical litterature. I very much prefer the epic to the lyric, prose to poetry. And yet, this is a gem to me. You can feel how delicately the author chose every word so that there is no change in the text you could do to make it sound or feel better.
Martin Kliment
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very hard to rate. Most of the poems I found timeless, genial and freeznig with wonderful deep atmosphere, but some of them I found a little boring and forgettable. Final cliche patriotism poem unfortunately isn´t something I can appraise too...OK lets say 4,5 stars.
Aug 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Scary and mysterious folk tales in verse. Beatiful poetry for youngesters and adults alike, a must for all the Czechs around here.
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Krásný :)
Michaela Hruskova
Classic poetry by a very good Czech poet, Karel Jaromír Erben.
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Karel Jaromír Erben was a Czech historian, poet and writer of the mid-19th century, best known for his collection "Kytice", which contains poems based on traditional and folkloric themes.

He was born on November 7, 1811 in Miletín u Jičína. He went to college in Hradec Králové. Then, in 1831, he went to Prague where he studied philosophy and later law. He started working in the National Museum (Ná

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