Spring Man: A Belief Legend between Folklore and Popular Culture deconstructs the nationalistic myth of Spring Man that was created after the Second World War in visual culture and literature and presents his original form as an ambiguous, ghostly denizen of oral culture. Petr Janeček analyzes the archetypal character, social context, and cultural significance of this fascinating phenomenon with the help of dozens of accounts provided by period eyewitnesses, oral narratives, and other sources. At the same time, the author illustrates the international origin of the tales in the originally British migratory legend of Spring-heeled Jack that reaches back to the second-third of the nineteenth century, and Janeček also draws parallels between the Czech myth of Spring Man and similar urban phantom narratives popular in the 1910s Russia, 1940s United States and Slovakia, and 1950s Germany, as well as other parts of the world.
Petr Janeček is associate professor at the Institute of Ethnology, Faculty of Arts, Charles University.
Introduction – Urban Phantom between Comparative Folkloristics and Ethnology
Chapter 1. The Birth of a Legend – Spring Man in Czech Folklore and Oral History
Chapter 2. Phantoms of the Industrial Age – The Cultural Evolution of Spring Man
Chapter 3. The Social and Cultural Functions of Urban Demonology
Chapter 4. A Superhero for Every Regime – Spring Man in Visual Culture and Literature
Spring man is a hero, a villain, a superhero, a savior, a threat, a warning to children, a warning to occupying forces, a specter, a monster, a protector, a global phenomenon, an embodiment of a distinctly Czech spirit of resistance, a figure of folklore, a figure from science fiction, an Icarus, a Robin Hood, a Golem, a Batman; pastoral, industrial, urban, and post-modern. Through a deep reading of a vast array of primary sources and with a thorough yet highly accessible presentation of legend scholarship and theory, Petr Janeček has provided this nimble study of the elusive Spring Man, in what will be a model for future work.