Drogman by Stepan Zavrel

Every time I write about a book that I read when I was a child I want to say “my favourite”.  But Drogman has a special place in my heart. The story is magical.  Its romantic, with scary bits and a clever heroine.  It takes place mostly underwater which is something that has always fascinated me.    I particularly love the range of underwater colours, and the way the bleeding blobby ink style lends itself to watery scenes:bit2

The illustrations are simply stunning.  I cannot really give even a glimpse of them here, as every single page is a huge sumptuous double page spread.  Ive had to crop out little details just to give an idea. 

Our heroine, Tinka, lives by herself in a mill next to a great lake.  Under the water of the lake lives a monster called Drogman:


Drogman likes to trap unwary travellers under water.  He turns them into fish, and stores their souls in jars.  Here is Drogman sitting in his underwater forest with an underwater moon.  He seems to be darning something:


Tinka is happily in love with the young man Wouter, who arrives one night with a large white flower and asks her to marry him.  She happily accepts:


Dont you love that warm night time interior?
But Drogman also asks Tinka to marry him.  She refuses, of course.  But when Tinka and Wouter  travel by boat to the nearest villiage to get married, disaster strikes:


Drogman upsets the boat and drags them to his underwater mansion.  He turns Wouter into an ugly two headed fish and stores his soul in a jar.


Tinka is forced to marry Drogman.  Dont you love her fishy veil?  The green hair used to really worry me when I was little.


As Drogman’s wife, Tinka has to do all kinds of surreal chores like watering the underwater garden and feeding the fish:

feedingShe discovers Drogman’s store of soul – jars.  For some reason, these jars really fascinated me when I was a little girl.



Tinka tricks Drogman into wearing a magic scarf which makes him fall asleep, and she manages to find Wouter in his monstrous two headed fishy shape:


Many adventures follow, in which Tinka frees all the souls from the jars.  Wouter regains his human form – but they cannot escape Drogman so easily.  Tinka has to outwit him several more times. Although Wouter tries to protect her from various underwater monsters, in the end its Tinka that cleverly saves both of them.


Although Tinka saved the day, Wouter is allowed to help Tinka out of the water at the end:



Drogman dies a sad and watery death, and the two lovers live happily ever after.


There is not much information about Stepan Zavrel on-line.  But I do have a couple more books by him, which I will share shortly 🙂

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. andries du toit
    Aug 21, 2009 @ 07:04:52

    Some more info on him here…


    If the automatic translation via google is correct, it says that Savrel was
    “Born in 1932 in Prague at the Faculty of Motion Picture Arts.” That sounds like a fairy tale in itself!

    It says, interestingly, that he worked with the great Jiri Trnka. Are you going to cover Jiri Trnka’s beautiful books too?

  2. mashadutoit
    Aug 21, 2009 @ 09:14:39


    I’ve got quite a few of Trnka’s animations. They are really quirky.

  3. Cossypha
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 12:22:51

    I was privileged to meet Štepán Zavrel when he exhibited in Cape Town, South Africa in the late 1970s. I own two of his paintings: “They followed the Star”: Nativity Scene, one of a series planned for his book “They Followed the Star”; and “The Pope approves the Cyrillic Liturgy”, thought to have been prepared for a Vatican Calendar. Information courtesy of his close friend Otakar Bozejovsky, Bohem Press (2007).

  4. mashadutoit
    Mar 11, 2010 @ 13:48:41

    Wow! I wonder if my parents saw that exhibition? That must have been just around the time they bought the books I knew.

  5. Wasiuk
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 15:57:50

  6. mashadutoit
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 17:39:28

    Thanks for the links!

  7. Trackback: The Emperor and the Nightingale: Meilo So « Masha
  8. christopher drogman
    Jul 18, 2010 @ 19:56:36

    where did you get the name drogman from as that is my name and i am interested in any drogman family who i have yet to meet.

  9. Kateřina Ječmenová
    Feb 17, 2013 @ 21:46:55

    I’m not sure about the word drogman, however there are a few pieces of information about the creature (in Czech called ‘vodník’) on this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vodnik_(mythology)
    The picture in which the Drogman sews his boots is connected to the ballad Vodník (from Kytice – in English A Bouquet of Folk Legends) written by the Czech author K. J. Erben.
    If you’d like to know anything about Štěpán Zavřel, feel free to contact me (katerina.jecmenova@gmail.com).

  10. marina tonzig
    Mar 06, 2013 @ 18:38:26

  11. marina tonzig
    Apr 03, 2013 @ 00:54:46

    Dear Masha, this is the link of a new website of the Stepan Zavrel’s Museum opened in 2011 in Moruzzo, Udine (Italy)

    Born by the will of his childhood Corrado Pirzio-Biroli, with the approval of the family Zavrel, the museum takes up the legacy of the artist’s family, that is to say more than 3000 original. Some works from private donations are being studied and cataloged by the Museum. Other works are on loan from public and within traveling exhibition circuit.

    Currently on display are more than 200 original, many previously unpublished, woodcuts, drawings, storyboards for illustrated books, drawings and animated shorts, advertising graphics, sketches and original drawings of all his picture books for children (also Vodnik! ), from The Magic Fish of 1964 (realized in the Castello di Brazza in Moruzzo), to his final great work illustrated the Bible for adults and children in 1996, In Walking with God

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