Prague 6 contains a nature reserve known as Divoka Sarka, which, in Czech, means “Wild Sarka”. Sarka is still a common woman’s name, but who was Wild Sarka, and how did she get her name?
The legend concerns a band of women who lived in the area of what is now Prague in the 6th or 7th century AD. At that time, Bohemia was ruled by the legendary Princess Libuse, whose husband, Premysl, was a former plowman. Upon the death of Libuse, Premysl took the throne. This outraged the women of the area, who did not want their matriarchal society to become patriarchal.
Civil war broke out, not between political factions, but between women and men. The leader of the women was named Vlasta. Her closest ally was the legendary Sarka. The men were led by a warrior named Ctirad, and Sarka formulated a plan to capture and kill Ctirad, leaving the men without a leader.
The legend varies as to how Sarka trapped Ctirad. In one version, she had the other women tie her to a tree so that Ctirad could find her. When Ctirad and his men rode past, she turned on the tears and claimed that she had been kidnapped by Vlasta and her women, only to be left behind when Vlasta realized that Ctirad and his men were near. Even worse, Sarka sobbed, they had left a jug of ale containing alcohol near her, but too far for her to drink from it, bound as she was to the tree. She begged Ctirad and his men to return her to her father.
Ctirad cut her loose, and he and his men drank from the jug. The ale was drugged, of course, and Sarka managed to get Ctirad to blow the cow’s horn that the women had conveniently “left” next to her. In his tipsy state, Ctirad thought this was a good idea, and sounded the signal for Vlasta and her women to emerge from the nearby forest and kill his men. Ctirad, however, was tied and forced to walk back to the women’s castle, where he was tortured and broken on the wheel. Limbs broken, still woven through the spokes of the wheel, his corpse was returned to the men’s castle at Vysehrad.
In another telling of the legend, Sarka used mead to get Ctirad drunk. He soon fell asleep, and Sarka murdered him as he slept. The death of Ctirad was a huge loss to the men of Bohemia, but soon, they regrouped and defeated Vlasta and her warriors. Rather than allow herself to be defeated by the men, Sarka jumped from a cliff in the modern-day Divoka Sarka valley. The area where she is supposed to have committed suicide is still called Divci Skok (“Girl’s Jump”).
There is no historical evidence that these people ever existed. Cosmas of Prague was the first to write of the legend, and most historians believe that he based the story on the Greek myth of the Amazon warriors. The legend received greater attention during the Czech National Revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, when suddenly, after so many years of Habsburg rule, the language, art, and customs of the country were fashionable again. Composer Bedrich Smetana wrote a work titled Ma Vlast (“My Country”), which consisted of six symphonic poems. The third poem is titled Sarka, and brought the story to a wider audience.