The Story of the Scary Shtorka and the Revival of Croatian Mythology
Although Croatia is a small European country, its history is rich with mythology. Some, like the story of the first vampire Jure Grando, are more known, but there are others that are in threat of extinction. One of them is the tale of an evil mythological creature, Shtorka.
The story of Shtorka (original title Štorka) begins in the south-west region of Croatia, also known as Croatian zagorje. In its simplest form, Shtorka can be explained as an evil creature, with no determined form. Even though evil, its purpose was noble if you look at it from the perspective of an adult. Its preliminary purpose was to scare mischievous children. For example, if the child was playful and would venture into the woods, Shtorka would be lurking in the darkness, preventing the child from potentially getting lost. On the other hand, Shtorka would also often reside in the house and mostly in the places where one could get hurt; for example, the attic or in the well.
Shtorka lurked in the darkness of the woods to prevent children from getting lost. (Dinostock / Adobe)
So, what would be the consequence if you ignore the warning? It is said that if Shtorka saw you, it would find its way in the darkness, chew your flesh straight to the bone and finally drag your soul straight to hell where it would torture you for all eternity. In the end, a child’s imagination would do the rest in constructing his or her worst nightmare and shaping it into the form of Shtorka.
Shtorka is Not Just A Child’s Tale
In some tales, the myth of Shtorka was also used to discipline adults. In the old days, when today’s technology wasn’t even a part of the wildest imagination and rural parts of the region would have had to reach out to different methods of keeping the hygiene and health up to standard, Shtorka was used to scare the superstitious.
Here are a few examples; if baby clothes were left out during the night - Shtorka would curse them and the child; if you walked barefoot on the cold floor Shtorka would sense the footsteps, it would follow them and finally make you paralyzed; if one would skip the daily routine of washing hands and face in the morning Shtorka would smell the impurity and come to whisper worst nightmares in one’s ear the next night.
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If you walked barefoot on the cold floor Shtorka would sense the footsteps. (Arpad Nagy-Bagoly / Adobe)
When we look at it today, Shtorka was something that probably saved a lot of lives by triggering fear and sharpened primordial instincts.
As many folklore tales from rural regions all around the world, Shtorka started disappearing once it lost its purpose. The initial idea of preventing people from harm through the spoken word was replaced with a safer environment and technological progress. With the arrival of some modern forms of entertainment, stories that would be passed down from generation to generation through social gatherings fell into the second plan. These days this mythological jewel has become almost completely unknown to young and middle-aged generations.
Reviving the Shtorka Myth
In the year 2014 young Croatian writer Jelena Hrvoj took on a mission to introduce Shtorka back to her local community. The story of Shtorka was introduced to her by her late grandmother. When she was a child, her grandmother used to scare her with Shtorka who, in this case, lived in the attic. Later, astonished by the low knowledge of her peers about their own folklore, Jelena started writing a modernized version of the tale in the form of a psychological thriller. Knowing that the direct description of this folk tale wouldn’t pass in modern day society, she put it in the metaphorical equivalent form, deciding to tell the story of Shtorka along the way.
Modern-day Shtorka, as described in the book, also lives in the form of a metaphorical attic; in the human mind. Shtorka’s story is told through the story of a young woman, Era Torin who seemingly suffers from schizophrenia. Shtorka presents itself through the archaic form of speech and kept some of her original characteristics such as not having a physical form, having noble intentions but reaching her goals through evil and horrible methods, coming from the individual's mind etc.
Shtorka lives in the form of a metaphorical attic, in the human mind. (TeamDaf / Adobe)
From the beginning, Shtorka captured an enormous interest slowly spreading through all regions of Croatia and its neighboring countries. In the year 2016, the book Shtorka got its second paperback edition and the myth was slowly revived through book promotions and media. As time passed by and Jelena started interacting with more and more of her readers, it came to light that the story of real Shtorka once spread to some other regions of Croatia. Few people contacted her telling their knowledge of this myth that was passed down to them by their grandparents who emigrated from the region of Croatian zagorje.
In the year 2019 the book Shtorka was finally translated to English and started seeking its place in the world in the hope it won’t be forgotten and lost to the future generations.
Top image: If you ignore the Shtorka’s warning, it would chew your flesh straight to the bone. Source: Kiattisak / Adobe.
By Jelena Hrvoj