While preparing to visit the event Days of Veli Jože (Veli Jože is a book by Vladimir Nazor about a giant-like character of the same name) in Motovun, I kept going back to the fairy tales of my childhood and the giants they introduced me to. I have always wondered why those giants – from the titans of the Greek myths to the giant from Jack and the Beanstalk – were always so devious and vile. It was as if their physical size had also amplified their evil personalities once they realized what kind of power their size carried. But then I would remember the good giant named Veli Jože, who longed for freedom and fairness, and who, above all others of the world colossi, deserved his title of a superman.
Veli Jože was the brainchild of Vladimir Nazor, but the writer was inspired by many legends and folktales about the giants who shaped and built Istria. The greatest Istrian giant was called Dragonja, and according to legend, he plowed the furrow that was to become the river Mirna. He did the same for the river Dragonja, and circumstances then combined to turn the next furrow into the Pazin Cave.
Other giants did not waste their time waiting around either; each one built a stone town on their own hill, lending each other their tools and enjoying their favorite food together – truffles. According to legend, it was precisely this fondness of truffles that brought about their demise, as evil dwarfs covered their favorite delicacy with black poison. Unable to resist them, the giants ate all the poisoned truffles, but their black spores gave birth to a new, harmless kind of black truffles, which, just like the white ones, we still can’t resist today.
According to yet another legend, Istrian giants are still out there today – or at least one of them is. Namely, Dragonjin’s son Gorazd still hides around the Istrian forests, probably enjoying the now harmless and still delicious black truffles…