Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Trumpeter of Krakow

Eric Kelly's 1928 book set in medieval Poland was not a bad book, but it took me two weeks to get through it. So even though I liked it, it was difficult to follow at times and lagged a bit. The imagery and chapter illustrations painted a good picture of Krakow and the family traveling to the great Polish city to bring a treasure to the King.

The story centers on the young boy of the family and his adventures in this booming city. The family has carried a treasure for centuries and the time had come to present it to the King. Since the King is out of town, they have to find living quarters and the means to live while secretly hiding the treasure. He and his father take on the age-old job of sounding the trumpet from the high tower of the church every hour at night while they watch for fires or attacks on the city. The short trumpet piece was always played with the final three notes missing in honor of a trumpeter who was killed.

From the Polish American Journal: The trumpet call "Hejnal Mariacki" ("Hymn to our Lady")—is played daily from the tower of St. Mary's Basilica in Krakow. This signal, known and dear to every Pole, resounds all over the city's Old Town historical district. The song dates back to the Middle Ages when it announced the opening and the closing of the city gates. It was also played to alarm citizens of fires or approaching enemy forces. The call always ends abruptly to commemorate a bugler shot through his throat by a Tatar archer in 1241.

One reason I enjoyed this book is that in March 2006 I had the priviledge of hearing Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa speak at the University. He was a wonderful speaker and gave us a magical understanding of what it is to be Polish - the traditions, the pain, the beauty. This book provided the same understanding.



Sandy D. said...

Cool trivia: Eric Kelly wrote this while teaching at the Univ. of Krakow. He spent part of everyday at the church in the story, and when he won the Newbery the city officials lent the trumpet so it could be played when he received the award.

Flusianna said...

I am not surprised. When Lech Walesa spoke at the University, four local children of Polish descent were dressed in native costume and greeted him with a Polish song of Welcome. He invited anyone of Polish descent in the audience to join and many did. Tradition and ceremony are ways of life apparently. I know they were proud thier city and church were likewise honored.