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Literature / Jakub Wędrowycz

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Just another typical work day.

Jakub Wędrowycz is the protagonist of comedic short stories by the Polish author Andrzej Pilipiuk, most of them Urban Fantasy set in Poland in the late 80's and 90's, collected into several books.

Jakub is, on the surface, your typical bum. He's an old man (at least an octogenarian) who dropped out from school after three years of elementary education and who lives alone in a dirty house on the outskirts of the village of Wojsławice; he consumes gigantic amounts of alcohol, makes just as vast amounts of moonshine, hunts homeless animals for food and barely bathes or changes his clothes.

Oh, he also happens to be a master exorcist, a powerful psychic and a skilled mage.

His adventures include both dealing with countless aliens and monsters (including ghosts, demons, an undead Vladimir Lenin, neanderthals and psychic trees) and generic Slice of Life (but what a life it is!) misadventures induced by his scatter-brained tendencies. And lots of illicit activities, moonshine-brewing being just one of the many.


Stories about Jakub Wędrowycz exhibit examples of the following tropes:

  • The Alcoholic: Jakub, and pretty much everyone in his village.
  • Aliens Speaking English: Poked fun at in a story where Jakub takes his business partner into an alternate medieval/fantasy dimension. When said business partner asks how come the inhabitants of the dimension speak Polish, Jakub retorts "So that we can talk to them".
  • A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Anyone who tries reading or taking over his mind will learn this the hard way. He's got some really disturbing things in there.
  • Another Dimension: At least one of these is a standard Medieval European Fantasy setting.
  • Anti-Hero
  • Author Tract: Pilipiuk has conservative political views, and it occasionally shows through in his stories.
  • Badass Family: Jakub's grandson Maciej and great-grandson Piotr are as badass as him.
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  • Canon Welding: Rather strange example with one trilogy written by Pilipiuk - Kuzynki (Cousins). Jakub makes a cameo in the second volume and minor characters from the third thinks about hiring him. Yet, in first volume, one of the characters is reading books about Jakub, which she finds disastrous.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Kill It with Fire against anything made of ectoplasm. A car battery against water monsters.
  • Dirty Old Man: And how, especially when he gets his hands on Viagra. He also has the appropriate tool for the job, and what an impressive tool it is.
  • Do Wrong, Right: he once got a local Hell Hotel sucked into actual hell when he got tired of the satanic cult residing there and showed them how to properly perform a summoning ritual.
  • Escaped from Hell: He once broke out of Hell by means of a holy water vial, a hand grenade and an effigy of Vladimir Lenin.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink
  • Genius Ditz / Ditzy Genius / Book Dumb: A complex and rather confusing example. He's usually The Ditz, mostly because he has only three years of elementary education and is hilariously ignorant about the world at large (the fact that he's usually at least a little tipsy doesn't help), but when he talks about exorcisms and religion, he talks with true expertise. Several stories imply that it's all Obfuscating Stupidity on his part and that he's usually deliberately running his brain at just a couple percent of its efficiency; he was once abducted by aliens, who scanned his brain and discovered that he's actually a genius.
  • Historical In-Joke: Jakub was Jack the Ripper. But it's OK because his victims were robots.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: His standard outfit is a leather jacket looted from a corpse of some German he had killed during the Second World War.
  • I Love Nuclear Power: A lot of strange creatures are explained as mutated by radiation from the Chernobyl power plant.
  • Jackass Genie: after hearing a couple jokes about this trope, Jakub completely freaks out when he catches a talking (potentially wish-granting) fish.
  • Magical Gesture: Jakub knows a few.
  • Meaningful Name: Jakub's Arch-Enemy's name is Bardak, which means "mess" in the local dialect of Polish.
  • Never Learned to Read: Jakub was a student when his part of Poland was still under the rule of Russia, so he only knows Cyrillic. He can read and write the Latin alphabet, but with great difficulty.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Double Subverted in Ivanov the Wizard, when the eponymous antagonist switches the souls of Jakub's mare and the young student who's currently residing with him for her study about magic. At first, Jakub wats to force Ivanov to reverse the spell before he can kill him, but later, when he tries to "exorcise" the souls back into their proper bodies, it turns out that Ivanov's power is actively holding them in the wrong ones. So of course, killing Ivanov fixes the problem.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: English speakers may not know how to pronounce his name correctly in Polish. It's something like "yah-koob ven-'drovich" (stress on the second syllable of his last name).
  • Recursive Canon: Several stories mention that there's a novelist writing books about Jakub's adventures. Jakub and his friends comment on the inaccuracies of the books as well as their overall quality.
  • Ritual Magic: Elaborate rituals are often used for exorcisms.
  • Shout-Out: Quite a lot. Like Jakub preparing a meal from some octopus-like thing called Ktulu, or keeping a wand he took from some smartypants bespectacled brat.. He uses a terminator (or rather its leftovers) as a scarecrow.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Borders on this - he has a penchant for burning down buildings for the slightest misdemeanor on part of their owners. He also is fond of finding excuses to kill or otherwise permanently harm members of the Bardak family, with which he has a long-time feud.
  • Spin-Off: Norweski dziennik (Norvegian Journal) trilogy for younger readers, written by the same writer - the main character is a grandson of one of Jakub's closest friends and another is Jakub's own grandson.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Birski, the local police officer; Jakub is his nemesis.
  • Telepathy
  • Town with a Dark Secret: Dębinka Dworska: village inhabited by Neanderthals, who still worship their pagan deities and indulge into cannibalism.
  • Vodka Drunkenski: Jakub was technically born in Russia and Semen is Russian.
  • Weapon of Choice: A steel brake cable, made into a lasso.
  • Weirdness Magnet: Jakub (his name sure pops up a lot on this list).
  • Who You Gonna Call?: Jakub's main source of income.