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Pérák, the Spring Man was an urban legend originating from the Czechoslovakian city of Prague during the German occupation of Czechoslovakia in the midst of World War II. In the decades following the war, Pérák has also been portrayed as a Czech superhero.Contents
According to historians Callum McDonald and Jan Kaplan in their book Prague in the Shadow of the Swastika: a History of the German Occupation 1939-1945 (London, 1995), "the Springer" was said to leap out from shadowy alleys and startle passers-by. Oral tradition suggests that some of Pérák's leaps were of an extraordinary magnitude, including the act of jumping over train carriages, similar to England's Spring-heeled Jack.
A contemporary and possibly associated rumour concerned a "Razor Blade Man" who was said to slash at victims with razors attached to his fingers.
Researcher Mike Dash quotes George Zenaty, a noted authority on the policing of Prague during the war years, that:“ ... in 1940-1942 none of our police precincts in Prague informed us in their daily reports of the existence of a ‘Spring Man’. This does not mean that such rumours might not have circulated; however, it would have been impossible to include in the reports without tangible proof. ”
In 2015 a social activist claiming the identity of Pérák fronted a guerilla media campaign to commemorate the former site of the Lety concentration camp.
The 2017 book Mýtus o pérákovi. Městská legenda mezi folklorem a populární kulturou by Czech folklorist Petr Janeček offers a comprehensive survey of the Perak phenomenon, tracing a history from the figure of Spring Heeled Jack in England during the early 19th century through to Czech folklore before, during and after World War 2, and then into popular culture via a succession of speculative fiction novels, comic book treatments and other works of fiction.Pérák in fiction 1946: Pérák a SS by Jiří Trnka and Jiří Brdečka Main article: Springman and the SS
A 14-minute 1946 Czechoslovakian animated cartoon Pérák a SS ("The Springer and the SS", also released in English-speaking markets as "Springman and the SS", "Jumping Jack and the SS" or "The Chimneysweep") was created by the renowned Czech animator Jiří Trnka and film-maker Jiří Brdečka. It portrayed the "Springer" as a heroic and mischievous black-clad chimney sweep, with a mask fashioned out of a sock. He was capable of performing fantastic leaps due to having couch springs attached to his shoes. Pérák taunted German Army sentries, the Gestapo and, particularly, a Hitleresque Nazi collaborator before escaping in a surrealistic, slapstick chase across the darkened city, ultimately freeing a number of incarcerated citizens of Prague.
Trnka's postwar interpretation of Pérák as a quasi-superhero, defying the curfew and the authority of the German occupying forces, formed the basis for sporadic revivals of the character in Czech science fiction and comic book stories.1961: "Pérový muž" by Jan Weiss
In 1961, Pérák was featured as a heroic character in the story "Pérový muž" ("The Spring-Man"), which was written by Czech science fiction writer Jan Weiss and published as part of a collection of short stories entitled Bianka Braselli, A Two-Headed Lady. In his 1997 biographical essay on Weiss, Vilém Kmuníček speculated that the inspiration for this story was in response to National Socialist propaganda:“ ... an original fantastic world, which develops the opportunities of the real world, the world of forced silence during the occupation, to the absurd, bringing the hope that this world contains the germs of something that will destroy it. ” 1986: Pérák Comics by Ondřej Neff
In 1986, Czech science fiction writer Ondřej Neff also portrayed Pérák as a heroic figure of resistance against the Nazi occupation of Prague. In 2001, he created (under the pseudonyme "Aston") a satirical comic strip titled Pérák kontra Globeman (Pérák versus Globalman) which conflates the figures of the Springer and the Razor Blade Man and pits him against a villain called Globalman, who bears a strong resemblance to McDonald's mascot Ronald McDonald.2016: The Shadow over Prague
In 2016, Marek Berger created an animated film Pérák: Stín nad Prahou (English name: The Shadow over Prague). The film has won 2 awards at International Student Film Festival in Opava - for best animated film and absolute best film.Other fictional works
The cartoonist Adolf Lachman, in cooperation with scriptwriters Monge and Morten, is producing a new series of comic strips about Pérák, portraying him as a World War II-era costumed superhero who battles the Gestapo with the aid of various weapons and mechanical spring-powered boots. In addition, the Czech magazine Živel is giving space on its pages to those Czech writers and artists who have been influenced by the stories of Jan Weiss, Jiří Brdečka, Jiří Trnka and Ondřej Neff.See also