Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for pre-intermediate learners. The name of the story is Steal from the Rich and Give to the Poor. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Steal. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Steal. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story is from Slovakia. So Slovakia is a country in central Europe. It’s next to Czechia, Austria and Ukraine, I believe? My geography is not very good, but I definitely know it is next to Czechia and Austria. Slovakia is quite a small country and often, when I tell people about Slovakia, they say, ‘Oh, you mean Slovenia?’ because they don’t understand the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia. So Slovakia used to be part of Czechoslovakia, a combination of Czechia and Slovakia, but now they are two separate countries.
Actually, I love Slovakia. I think I mentioned this in an earlier episode, but I have a lot of friends from Slovakia and I met them through Esperanto. So if you’re thinking, “What’s Esperanto?” then go back and listen to the episode The Boy Who Hoped at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Hope.
I’ve been to Bratislava, to Nitra, to Martin, to Liptovský Hrádok—lots of places in Slovakia. Like I said, it’s a small country but it has some really beautiful nature. It has lovely mountain ranges, beautiful fields and lots of fresh water. So it’s a really nice place to go for a nature holiday.
But of course, why talk about another country if I can’t talk about the food? Because I love food! So the national dish, the most famous food from Slovakia, is bryndzové halušky and halušky is basically like gnocchi, which is an Italian pasta that you make out of potatoes, but of course it is a bit different from gnocchi, because gnocchi’s Italian. So it’s a kind of pasta made from potatoes with a goat’s cheese sauce, and then you sprinkle bacon on top. And I was even lucky enough, when I visited my friend’s house in Slovakia, her mum made us traditional bryndzové halušky and we even ate it with traditional wooden spoons, so that was lovely.
Traditionally, when you eat halušky, you also have a glass of kefir. So kefir is a kind of milk drink. It’s kind of like between milk and yoghurt, so it’s slightly fermented and it has special grains in it. So kefir is like a sour kind of dairy drink and usually have it with halušky, but if you want something a bit stronger, I also really recomment Tatra Tea or Tatranský Čaj. So the Tatra mountains are the mountains in Slovakia and Tatra Tea is a traditional liqueur, a traditional alcohol, also from Slovakia. Like the name suggests, it is made with tea, so you can feel a bit healthy while you drink it, and you can mix it with tea as well and it tastes really good. But it is very strong! The normal flavour is, uh, 52% so you have to be quite careful when drinking Tatra Tea! But I love it.
So you should definitely visit Slovakia if you have the chance.
Today’s story was written by one of our listeners, Erik Bôtoš. He messaged me on Patreon to send in his story, and as you know I love receiving stories from you listeners. So thank you again so much, Erik.
Remember, if you want to send a story, you can email me at Ariel@EasyStoriesInEnglish.com. I would love to read your story. You can also just email me to say hello. That’s also nice. I was really bad at replying to emails before, so I’m so sorry if you emailed me and I didn’t reply for a really long time. I find emails difficult, but I’m working on it and I’ve been much better about responding recently, so please do email me if you have a comment.
Today’s story is about Juraj Jánošík, who is a famous character from Slovakian legends. He is kind of like the Slovakian and Polish version of Robin Hood. So Robin Hood is an English hero who stole from the rich and gave to the poor. So if you like that kind of story, you will definitely enjoy today’s story.
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A bandit is a person who steals and robs. Thieves are people who just generally steal, but bandits are more specific. Bandits usually live in the mountains, or the forest, and attack people travelling through so they can steal their things. Bandits usually use axes and swords to attack people, and they usually have a boss who leads them. Bandits don’t really exist now, because most people live in big cities, unlike in the past.
An earl is a type of noble. Between kings and common people, there are many ranks of nobility, such as counts, marquises, barons and so on. Earl is one of these ranks. So an earl is not as powerful as a king, but they own land and control many men.
A weapon is a tool you use to hurt or kill someone. Swords, knives, guns and bows and arrows are all weapons. Nowadays, people mainly use guns and knives, although most people don’t have a weapon. I certainly don’t! In the United Kingdom, it is illegal to own certain weapons, such as guns and certain knives.
An axe is a big tool that you use to cut down trees. It has a long handle and a large blade. Nowadays, we don’t use axes so much because we have machines to cut trees for us. Axes can also be used as weapons. For example, Gimli in Lord of the Rings uses axes, and so does Jack Torrance in the film The Shining.
“I swear on my father’s grave,” or, “I swear on my mother’s grave,” is a phrase we say when we are making a big promise, or we want to show that we are telling the truth. For example, maybe someone thinks you stole a knife from a shop and tells you to give it back. You might say, ‘I swear on my father’s grave, I didn’t steal!’ The idea is that you are saying that, if you were actually lying, you would be disrespecting and dishonouring the grave of your mother or father.
A carriage is a vehicle, a way of getting around, like a car. However, cars use petrol or electricity to move, whereas carriages are pulled by something. Usually, carriages are pulled by horses, and someone sits on top of the carriage and whips the horses so that they move. Before cars existed, carriages were the main method of transportation. Now they are used just for fun. For example, you can take a horse-drawn carriage ride in Central Park in New York.
Tobacco is a type of plant that contains nicotine. You can chew or smoke tobacco. These days, most people smoke tobacco in cigarettes. Tobacco is much less popular than it was in the past, but many people still smoke cigarettes.
Kneel, and the past tense is “knelt”, is when you go down on your knees. You kneel when you pray in church. You might kneel down to talk to a child. You also kneel in front of a king or queen, to show respect. Kneeling can hurt your knees if you’re not very active.
Hanging. So a hanging is a way of killing people. You put a rope called a noose around their neck, and they are lifted up. Then you take away the floor beneath them, so that the rope goes tight around their neck and they start to suffocate, they run out of air. It is a very slow and painful death, so it is used as a punishment for bad criminals. Nowadays, very few people are hanged, as people think it is too cruel.
Ask for forgiveness—forgiveness is spelt F-O-R-G-I-V-E-N-E-S-S. When you ask for forgiveness, you say sorry. You ask for the other person to forgive you. When children do something wrong, they often say sorry to their parents, they often ask for forgiveness.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
Steal from the Rich and Give to the Poor
Juraj Jánošík was a young man. He grew up in a small villege in Slovakia. His mother died giving birth to him, so his father looked after him.
When Juraj turned eighteen, he went to war.
‘Do not worry, Father,’ he said, ‘I will not be gone long.’
But he was at war for three years, and during that time there were three cold winters and three hot summers. Juraj’s father was old and alone, and he had nobody to look after him. When Juraj finally came home from war, his father was dead.
‘What can I do now?’ he said to himself. ‘I am all alone in the world.’
So he went travelling, and three days later he came to the mountains. ‘Do not go in there,’ said the local people. ‘There are bandits, and they will attack you.’
‘Why are there bandits?’ asked Juraj. ‘Do they not have enough food to live?’
After all, Slovakia was a country with many lakes, rivers and forests. There was plenty of land and plenty of food to go around, or so Juraj thought. But this area belonged to Earl Lojzo, a very bad man. He, and the rich families he was close to, took half of all the food the people made. They did not have enough food to eat, but Lojzo and his friends ate chicken and drank wine every day. So the bandits attacked travellers and took their money, and they gave it to the poor people all around.
When Juraj heard this he was very sad. He had grown up with his father, who was a good man. And in the war, he had fought with good men. But Lojzo and his men were bad. Juraj did not want to fight anymore, but he could not let bad men do bad things.
‘I will join the bandits,’ Juraj said, and he went into the mountains.
After many hours, Juraj found the group of bandits.
‘Well, if it isn’t Juraj Jánošík!’
Juraj was very surprised. He knew that voice. It was Stanislav. They fought together in the war.
‘What are you doing here, friend?’ asked Stanislav.
‘I want to join your group.’
Stanislav laughed. ‘Really?’
‘Yes, I am serious.’
The leader of the bandits went up to Juraj. ‘We don’t need any more people.’
‘I am strong. Stanislav will tell you.’
‘If you are strong, then show me.’
‘Fine then!’ said Juraj. ‘We will fight.’
So Juraj fought the leader of the bandits. The leader was big and strong, but Juraj was fast and clever. He beat the leader, and all the bandits were surprised.
‘Well done,’ said the leader. ‘You have earned this.’
He gave Juraj a small axe called a valaška.
‘If you want to join us,’ said the leader, ‘you must make a promise. You must promise to take only from the rich and give only to the poor.’
‘I promise to take only from the rich and give only to the poor,’ said Juraj. ‘I swear on my father’s grave.’
So Juraj joined the bandits. Soon, everyone knew Juraj, and he became very popular. The bandits were happy to have him, and they worked well together. They started stealing bigger things. They went outside the mountains. When travellers rode carriages, they attacked the carriages and stole everything inside. And in the forest and the mountains they made many hiding places.
Lojzo ignored the bandits, because they did not steal from him. But one day, the bandits stole from his daughter, and Lojzo was not happy about this.
‘Find those bandits and kill them!’ he told his men.
But Lojzo’s men wore heavy clothes and used heavy weapons. The bandits only had their small axes, and thin clothes and hats made from animal skin. They could run very fast, and Lojzo’s men could not catch them.
Juraj was especially fast, and he became very popular. In every village people knew his name, and everybody liked him. Even some of the rich men liked him, that is, until he stole from them.
Every now and then, the bandits went down into the villages. They bought alcohol, tobacco and bread, but they did not need other things. After all, they had plenty of food in the forest. And every time they went to the villages, they always gave money to the poor people.
Lojzo was very angry. ‘Why can’t you catch these bandits?’ He thought that maybe his men liked the bandits, especially Juraj, so he decided to offer a reward. ‘If you catch a bandit, I will give you 20 gold pieces. And if you catch Juraj Jánošík, dead or alive, I will give you 100 gold pieces.’
Suddenly, the men wanted very much to catch Juraj Jánošík.
One day, Juraj was in the village of Terchová. He was buying tobacco when he saw a woman. She was so beautiful that he dropped his tobacco. He was in love with her.
‘Hey there,’ he said, walking up to her. ‘What’s your name?’
‘I’m Alžbetka,’ she said. ‘I think I know you. You’re one of those bandits, aren’t you?’
‘I am,’ he said, smiling. ‘I’m Juraj Jánošík.’
She gasped. ‘Wow, Juraj Jánošík!’
Juraj saw a man at the end of the road. He was walking towards Juraj, and he did not look happy.
‘I have to go,’ he said. ‘But I must see you again. I will come back in a week.’
For seven days, Juraj thought only of Alžbetka. He dreamed of her. A week later, he came back to Terchová. He looked for Alžbetka, but he only found the angry man from before.
‘Do you know where Alžbetka lives?’ he asked.
‘Oh yes,’ said the man. ‘She lives just there.’
He smiled and showed Juraj where to go. Juraj thought the man looked very happy this time. Maybe too happy. But he was also happy, because of Alžbetka, so he did not think about it.
‘Thank you. What is your name?’
‘Me? Oh, I’m Gajza. And you’re Juraj Jánošík, aren’t you?’
‘Well, aren’t you clever. Yes, I am Juraj.’
‘You are a bad man.’
Juraj laughed. ‘And you are a stupid man. Goodbye.’
And then Juraj went to Alžbetka’s house.
‘Oh, Alžbetka, I’m here!’
Inside, he met Alžbetka’s parents. Straight away, he knelt on the floor and said, ‘I am Juraj Jánošík, and I love your daughter. I want to marry her.’
They looked scared, because he was a bandit. But they saw that they were in love, so they said yes.
But Gajza was standing by the window, and he heard everything. ‘So, he is going to marry Alžbetka!’ he said. He was very angry. He did not like the bandits, and he did not want Juraj to marry Alžbetka. So he went to the castle and told Lojzo what had happened.
A few days later, Juraj came back for the wedding. First, they ate a traditional Slovak lunch of bryndzové halušky. But while they ate, they heard men coming. Juraj went to the window, and saw that Lojzo’s men were coming to the house. And there were at least twenty of them! So Juraj ran to the front door, but there were men there, too.
‘Juraj Jánošík! We are the men of Earl Lojzo! Come out now, and we won’t kill you.’
‘Go upstairs,’ Juraj said to Alžbetka. He took his axe and went upstairs with her. He wanted to go on the roof to escape. But when he ran up the stairs, Gajza jumped out.
‘Why are you here?’ said Juraj.
‘You are the stupid man now!’ said Gajza. He pushed Juraj and he fell down the stairs.
‘Juraj!’ cried Alžbetka.
Juraj tried to get up. He wanted to kill Gajza. But Lojzo’s men broke down the door and ran inside. They took Juraj and tied him up. Outside, Lojzo was waiting.
‘Good work,’ he said, smiling. Then he took Juraj’s axe and broke it. ‘You are going to die, Juraj Jánošík. Tomorrow, you will be hanged.’
Most men were afraid of death, but Juraj was not afraid. He was only sad, because he wanted to be with Alžbetka. All the time, he thought of her.
The next day, they took Juraj to the town square. There were many people there. Some people wanted Juraj to live, but many people wanted him to die. Gajza had told the people that Juraj was a bad man, and that he had treated Alžbetka badly.
‘Juraj Jánošík,’ said Lojzo. ‘I am a kind man. I will give you a chance. If you ask for forgiveness, I will cut your head off. It will be quick and you won’t feel it. But if you do not ask for forgiveness, you will be hanged. And it will hurt a lot.’
Juraj looked at the people, and then he looked at Alžbetka. She was crying.
Juraj smiled. ‘I won’t ask for forgiveness. You are the one who should ask for forgiveness. I am clean.’
And so Juraj Jánošík was hanged, but his name was never forgotten.
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