Children’s book inspired by Czech fairy-tale character of Water Goblin released in Scotland

 A children’s book inspired by the Czech fairy tale character of Vodník or Water Goblin has just been released in Scotland. Called Andyel and His Magic Daddy, the book also features illustrations by Czech teenager Sidonie Procházková.

Vodník or the water-goblin is arguably one of the most typical characters in Czech and central European fairy tales and legends. He is usually portrayed as a lonely figure, sitting by the river or a pond, wearing a green frock, with water dripping from his coat tails.

In some folk-tales, Vodník is a rather comical and kind figure, just as we know him from the pictures of Josef Lada, where he is sitting in the branches of a willow tree, puffing on his pipe and playing the violin in the twilight.

Helen Keating | Photo: archive of Helen Keating

Other times, he is portrayed as a rather sinister character, luring young girls into the water to force them into marriage. Such is the Water Goblin depicted in the famous ballad by Karel Jaromír Erben or the opera Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák.

A book of fairy tales has recently been published in Scotland inspired by the Czech legend of the Water Goblin. It was written by Helen Keating, the provost of a little town called Gatehouse of Fleet.

She came across the legend when she visited Czechoslovakia back in 1989, shortly before the Velvet Revolution.

“I was involved in a school exchange, when we took a choir over to Prague. I met a family of one of the teachers involved in the exchange and we have been friends ever since.

“I am familiar with the Waterman and I have always been interested in the story, so I devised the idea of writing stories not directly about him, but about his descendants.”

The book is called Andyel and his Magic Daddy, and features the character of Grimble, who inherits a magical house beneath a lake from his uncle, the Waterman:

Sidonie Procházková | Photo: archive of Helen Keating

“There are seven little stories and in each one Andyel takes a problem to his father, who goes to his workshop and solves it with his magical powers.

“So Grimble is a younger, kinder and much less sinister character than his uncle. He is very benevolent and does a lot of good for the villagers.”

Vodník is not the only Czech link in Helen Keating’s book Andyel and his Magic Daddy. It also features illustrations by a 13-year-old Czech girl, Sidonie Procházková, the granddaughter of the Czech friends she got to know during her first visit to Prague:

“She is in a school in Prague, which has a special art department, and I just casually asked her if she would like to do some drawings.

“She has done a whole selection of them and they are just amazing. And I found a very good publisher who has used them really well.”