Garlic in Romanian Folklore

Garlic in Romanian Folklore

Garlic is deeply rooted in Romanian cuisine but also in Romanian folklore where it is include in numerous rituals mostly due to its heath benefits; it is almost considered magical.

Give me Garlic on Sântandrei, Saint Andrei – 30 November

Sântandrei is a major celebration that involves lots of garlic. Saint Andrei is also the Patron Saint of Romania, observed on the 30th of November.

In case you didn’t know already… garlic is believed to have healing and protective powers. For this reason alone Romanian folktales call it ai (usturoi is named so when used in culinary situations), or the wild garlic, samuraslă.

So on Saint Andrei it is advised to hang garlic, ai, at window, doors, on the eaves of the house, and don’t forget the stables to protect the horses and the cattle against any evil spirits, strigoi and moroi. But do hang the garlic strings so that they form a cross.

In Romanian folklore it is said that God Himself named the garlic ai, because it is a sacred plant.

MUILLA, ALLIUM and an anagram

The flowers from the Muilla genus, although lilies, have flowers quite similar to those of Allium, the onion genus. Just judge by yourselves:

But garlic, aiul, although considered sacred, due to its religious connotations, as well as having magical powers cannot be eaten all year round. For example it is advised not to eat garlic ahead of 29 August (29 Gustar) when Christianity observes the Beheading of John the Baptist, and before 14 September (14 Rapciune), The Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

In Romanian folklore garlic has a head and a cross

In Romanian folklore the garlic, usturoi, is seen as a human been, with a head (cap de usturoi, as we call the garlic bulb), a cross, it is dressed in clothes (the many layers of skin one must peel), and the garlic cloves are called catei (puppies).

If you clean the garlic and throw its skin in the fire, make sure they don’t fall on the ground. It would be a shame, the garlic is from God.

Romanian saying

Interesting is that Hindu and Islamic traditions also mention garlic in a reverence way.

Garlic in Romanian Folklore

The Romanian Legend of How Garlic Got its Name

Legend says that Saint Peter wished to rise to the sky, to Heavens. But a magpie was watching him and whenever he tried, the magpie would announce rascal Satan.

Now, before this string of events humans had perfectly flat feet. Yet whenever the magpie would chirps to announce Satan that Saint Peter wishes to rise to Heavens, the horned scoundrel would jump right away and catch Saint Peter by his feet, digging into them with his bony, sharp fingers and pulling out bits of meat.

Saint Peter, in agony, would have called ‘ai‘ towards Heavens, instead of ‘ouch’. And God would answer: ‘quiet, Peter, for ai would also be good for something’.

And since then humans have a curvature in the soles of their feet.

In parts of rural Romania snowdrops are nicknamed little garlic and seen as sacred and mysterious, much like the garlic itself.

Garlic in Romanian Folklore
Garlic in Romanian Folklore

Călușarii and the Garlic on the Flag

Călușarii are the members of a Romanian secret society who practice a ritual acrobatic dances with mystical connotations known as the căluș (little horse, pony). Romanian historian and writer Mircea Eliade, described the Călușari for “their ability to create the impression of flying in the air” believed to represented the galloping of a horse and the dancing of the fairies – their patron saint being “Queen of the Fairies” Doamna Zînelor.

Fascinating is the Călușarii‘s flag: the pole is three meters tall and at one end there is tied a white cloth, preferably hand stitched, garlic and mug-wort (for their healing powers). The pole is held by only one of the dancers and can never touch the ground during the dance. The dancers also tie garlic and mug-wort at their waist.

Garlic Spells

Romanian Folktales often mention local fairies, good or bad. To increase their power they performed various practices at certain times of the year, such as dancing naked on the field on the night of Saint George, 23 April, to absorb earth’ energy and later pour it into their own fields.

Only that no mortal can see them.

Unless they perform this spell.

You must catch a snake, cut his head with a silver coin and stick a garlic in his mouth. The the snake’s head thus prepared you must bury it under your door’s frame.

If you eat that garlic or take it with you , then only will you be able to see the fairies dancing naked on the night of Saint George.

No wonder that vampires are afraid of garlic.

Garlic in Romanian Folklore
Garlic in Romanian Folklore

Garlic’s strange powers

It is said that if you wish to attract a snake… you should rub a clove of garlic on your shoes or legs. Snakes love its pungent scent.

Please, do wear a head of garlic tied to your belt or as a decoration on your hat 😉 on Pentecost Day, Rusalii or Cincizecime, celebrated by Christianity on 31st May, for protection against the mean Ielele (charmstresses, women of forests and waters with magic powers living in Romanian woods).

Westerners, mostly, do believe that garlic warns off vampires – that’s why you see them wearing fashionable garlic necklaces or discover that they asked house decorators for advice on modern garlic decor items to hang above the entrance door or around the chimney.

Something I wouldn’t advice anyone to follow – is the recipe requiring garlic and a strong liquor for the woman who wants to have a baby… Place nine cloves of garlic in half a liter of liquor. Let it sit for nine days in a warm place, preferably near a source of heat. And then, start drinking it…

Did you know that, when garlic is crushed, it releases allicin (an organosulfur compound), similar to penicillin? If only Outlander’s Claire Fraser would have known this…

If basil inspires love and frankincense scares the devil, then the garlic is the best shield against vampires and diseases. These three powerful weapons united under the power of God almighty form a defense shield that no enemy can penetrate. Armed with these three shields no soul must be ever scared, but know that at midnight he can walk alone anywhere, over the fields or through the forests, and no matter what enemy he will encounter, it will not have the power to harm him.

Patricia Furstenberg, High Country (Work in progress)

And if you do love garlic in your food, know that it will protect you against blood-sucking… mosquitoes.

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Travel to Romania via 25 Amazing Photos

travel Romania via photos

I invite you to travel to Romania via a few amazing photos because Romania is a country that deserves to be seen. Not many know, but its brave people have watched over the central and western Europe for centuries, acting like a breathing barrier against the Ottoman and Russian powers.

Alone and awake, Romania is a guardian of the world, coming from the eternity and sure to remain in the pages of history. Romania has views that last, a heart that beats proudly to the rush of its streams; and slowly, to the rhythm of its sunsets; a mysterious spirit in tune to the song of its forests.

Travel to Romania via a few amazing photos that will show you the peaceful shades of its landscape, the endless poetry of its shadows, the smile of its innocence, or the islands of silence that punctuate the song of its birds.

See the kneeling of the twilight,
Hear the hesitation of a footstep at dawn,
Admire old landscapes,
Growing young with the joy they give.
A light that calls
Through history,
Stories that perpetuate,
For each one of us
Is a facet of their reflection.

© Patricia Furstenberg

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos of…

Breathtaking Landscapes

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Bucegi mountains
Bucegi Mountains
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - sunrise at the Black sea
Sunrise at the Black Sea

Where do our thoughts escape to?
The wondrous one that sneaks out while we languidly watch the sea change its colors? The pressing ones that run away as soon as our mind got caught in the seagull’s wing. The long forgotten ones that elope us before we even blink the sun away. Where do they go? Join me in Looking at the Sea.

Romania’s majestic forests
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - evergreen, coniferous forests
Evergreen, coniferous forests

A World Class Capital City, Bucharest

In the period between the two World Wars, Bucharest’s elegant architecture and the sophistication of its elite earned the capital city of Romania the nickname of ‘Paris of the East’ or ‘Little Paris’.

 Arch de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf). Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
The Arch de Triumph (Arcul de Triumf), built to celebrate Romania’s Independence, 1878.

This past holiday I chose to look up, towards the sun, the sky and the buildings’ roofs. I discovered some surprising sights that put a smile on my face. Lamp posts can have intricate designs while bordering past and present – which side would you choose? Let’s look up together, in Bucharest.

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
Bucharest, the CEC Palace, 1900, and behind the 21st century glass tower of Bucharest Financial Plaza
Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
The Palace of National Military Circle, French neoclassic architecture, Bucharest
The Palace of National Military Circle, a 1911 building in French neoclassic style.

Have you listen to Angela Gheorghiu performing Peter Noster in a deserted Bucharest?

Bucharest, the InterContinental Hotel
The InterContinental Hotel, Bucharest, opened in 1971

Historical Towns

Sighisoara - Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos
Sighisoara, Romania’s inhabited medieval town

Searching for the history of Vlad III, Vlad the Impaler or Dracula, we journeyed through the magical, medieval city of Sighisoara in the midst of winter.

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Rope Street, Strada Sforii
Brasov, Rope Street, Strada Sforii

Brasov is a town that’s sure to enchant you, whether you visit during summer or winter. Brasov, Corona in Latin or Kronstadt in German, is a historical and cultural city found in the heart of Transylvania, in the heart of Romania, and not far from Sighisoara. It was first mentioned in 1235 and, not many know, it was the birth place of Katharina Siegel, the only woman Vlad Tepes (Dracula) is said to have ever loved.

Brasov
Brasov view from Casa Cristina, our B&B of choice. Far on the hill you can see Rupea Fortress.
Sibiu with its Bridge of Lies - it is said that if you are on it and tell a lie, the bridge will collapse. Been there!
Sibiu with its Bridge of Lies – it is said that if you are on it and tell a lie, the bridge will collapse. Been there!

Let’s move on. Let’s travel to Romania via some more amazing photos of…

Breathtaking Castles

Travel to Romania via some Amazing Photos - Bran Castle
Bran Castle, since 1212
Brasov Fortress
Brasov Fortress, since 13th century
Rasnov Fortress, since 1211. Traces of a fortress from prehistoric Dacian times were discovered here.
Peles Castle, Romania
Peles Castle

Exploring Romania’s Top Movie Locations: Peles Castle – Peles Castle belongs to Hohenzollern Family, a German ruling dynasty. The castle was built between 1873 – 1914 in Neo-Renaissance style, at the order of King Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. King Carol I was the monarch of Romania between 1866 – 1914.

Corvin Castle
Corvin Castle

Corvin Castle is a fairy-tale castle of Gothic-renaissance architecture, built on an old Roman fortification and a stunning sight – read more about it here.

Fascinating Churches

Saint John Church, Brasov
A medieval wooden Christian Orthodox Church in Village Museum, Bucharest
The church of Putna Monastery

Everlasting Art

The Gate of the Kiss by Constantin Brancusi

The Sculptural Ensemble of Constantin Brâncuși at Târgu Jiu is an homage to the Romanian heroes of the First World War. The ensemble comprises three sculptures: The Table of Silence, The Gate of the Kiss and the Endless Column. The ensemble is considered to be one of the great works of 20th-century outdoor sculpture.

Nicolae Grigorescu, Profile of a Young Peasant

A contemporary of Auguste Renoir, next to whom he trained as a painter, Grigorescu took part as war painter in the Romanian War of Independence of 1877 against the Ottoman Empire. Grigorescu is considered one of the painters who established the Romanian modern art.

As always, you can find my books on Amazon worldwide, as eBooks and paperbacks and you can also read them for free if you are a Kindle Unlimited subscriber.

5 books everyone should read in their lifetime
5 books everyone should read in their lifetime: Jodi Picoult, Ken Follett, Patricia Furstenberg, Victor Hugo.
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Tara, from “Gone with the Wind” to “Happy Friends”

My first dog, Tara, was one of a kind and with a name chosen from Gone With the Wind.

Do dogs grow up to mimic our appearances and personalities or do we, subconsciously, pick that one puppy who best resembles us?

When I first picked up the small, warm, brown pup, later named Tara, my first house-dog and a German Short-haired Pointer, she looked like a seal.

A seal that looks like a puppy

You know, the luscious, dark furred, round bottomed sea-creature with gleaming eyes and long whiskers. A puppy in a fur tuxedo.

I was not round-bottomed nor did I have whiskers 25 years ago. But Tara did and she also had honey-colored eyes and long ears, framing her face like well-set curls.

It’s all in the… eyebrows

Have you noticed how much a dog can communicate by just looking at you? Each facial expression, punctuated by those magical eyebrows, has a different meaning. Is a full sentence in its own right.

How they’re able to turn every situation in their favor?

So did Tara, just by using her eyebrows; bringing them together, pointing upwards, to created a vertical wrinkle between them. Or creased low over her eyes, deep in thought.

“Doing a PhD thesis on this ball in front of me. Care to help?” she’d often say…

Or by lifting them, curving them over her eyes, suddenly so big and innocent, this movement often combined with a small drop of drool in the corner of her mouth. “I trust you unconditionally to take care of my every need”, they’d say, while intentionally avoiding me.

“And I need a snack, right about now would be ideal.”

Or by just keeping her brows motionless, only her eyes rolling slowly underneath, left, right… watching me, studying me, persuading me…

“I know we did not play during the past hour. Do YOU know?”

Unconditional love

We surely mimicked each other, Tara and I, my heart joyful after hers.

She was always giving and loving, unknowingly fueling my love for animals; teaching me that unconditional love has no limits.

Tara, entering my life from Gone with the Wind to Happy Friends.

Our beloved Tara, German Shorthaired Pointer
Our beloved Tara

You might also enjoy reading about the silent dog heroes of war.

(October 2016)

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The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, a Medieval Legend

the 12 dreams of Mamer, Medieval legend

Once upon a time, in a fortress far away, in the lost town of Iriin, an emperor known by the name of Sehachi (some called him Sachaisa) had twelve vivid dreams in one single night. No one in the emperor’s entourage could explain their meaning, until they heard of a great scholar and philosopher named Mamer, who could interpret such dreams. So they invited Mamer to court. He came, for he was wise enough to know that if the emperor himself invites you, then there is great cause and you must go at once.

In the safety of the royal rooms, the emperor shared his dreams with Mamer.

‘My lord Sehachi,’ said Mamer, ‘these dreams should not worry you, but cause great joy for God had sent them to you and to you only to show you what will happen at the end of days. Yet there is much you can still do to prevent it. But you cannot do it alone.’

The emperor gasped and a tear bloomed in the corner of his eye only to make its way along a deep wrinkle, down the emperor’s cheek until it got lost in his grey beard.

‘Tell it to me,’ said Mamer stretching out his hand as if to receive, ‘the first dream.’

The emperor’s eyes were looking straight into the philosopher’s cobalt ones, as clear s the sky, as deep as the sea.

The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, a Medieval Legend, an old man with blue eyes

‘There was a golden pillar that seemed to unite Heaven and earth.’

Mamer listened, his eyes searching the horizons. A ray of sun was shining,emerging between the palm trees lining the imperial gardens.

‘When the last days will arrive,’ he finally spoke, ‘there will be much evil in the world. Justice will seem to have vanished, and so will all good intentions, and heartfelt gestures, peace and understanding. No one will even think good thoughts or utter kind words, but only vile ones. The old people, the only ones still remembering how a good thought sounded like, will be too weak and too scared to say it out loud to the young. To teach them. And all will go to their graves taking their sins with them, without repenting. There will also be famine and the autumn will last through the winter, while the winter will stretch into summer. Yet men will be able to sow during any season and no one will ever remember that there was a time for each seed and an endeavor for each season. Men will sow all year long, yet there will be little to reap. Because the earth, too, will be tired. And during such times children will not respect their parents anymore and will marry whomever they choose. They will no mind the sin and many children will grow not knowing who their fathers are, nor who their ancestors came from, or where their roots spread. And kings and princes will care no more for their people, but will be violent towards the poor. Many will forsake their fate and embrace another. There will be day, yet the sun will get darker and no moon will come out to shine. The days will become short and many signs will show themselves. To everybody. Yet people will have none to turn to for advice for priests will not be recognizable from the uninitiated anymore, nor by looks and neither by speech. Priests will tell lies, and this will contribute to the crumbling of all truth and justice.’

The philosopher returned the king’s hard stare.

‘This is what your first dreams means, Sire.’ Then he said quickly, ‘how was your second dream, o king?

The king sighed, caught his breath, his right hand over his heart, and said, “ I saw a woman holding a towel in her hand and it reached from heaven to  earth.’

Mamer the philosopher thought, looked around the king’s large rooms, with bolted ceilings painted with stars and suns and moons, then said, ‘when the last days will be near the people will forsake their true faith and will think of adopting another one, but no one will think of worshipping God anymore. People will forsake their poor relations, but prefer the company of strangers.’

The king’s eye caught a small brown bird on the windowsill. His youngest daughter liked to leave crumbs there. The bird ate, sang a tune, and flew away.

The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, a Medieval Legend, bird

‘And the third dream?’

‘I saw three kettles boiling over a big fire. One filled with fat, one with water and the third one with oil. Some of the fat was running into the oil, and some of the oil into the fat.  But none fell into the water which was boiling by itself.’

A tray with gold rimmed glasses placed on a silver tray engraved with geometrical patterns as well as a wine jug was brought next to the king. Yet the philosopher declined the drink with a tip of his head.

He said further, ‘at the end of the days the men will plant villages in places where such villages had never been dreamed of rising before. At one end of the village a rich man will live, while at the other another rich man will raise his manor, while the poor will live in the middle. And the one rich man will invite the other to feast with him, while both will ignore the poor, even if the poor is their brother. And will be hypocrites, they will all neglect their own relations, hate their parents and brothers and love only the wife’s family, if it has money. Women will leave their husbands and run away with other men. Old women will marry young men and old men will marry young girls, much too young, for shame would have disappeared from among men and there will not be left a single pure woman or man in the world.’

The king looked at his family portraits, adorning the walls of his rooms. Mamer placed his hands in his lap, one on top of the other, and said quietly, ‘and the fourth dream?’

‘I saw an old mare chewing some hay and the foal neighing within its belly.’

The philosopher replied while watching his hands. Or perhaps he observed the thick carpet that felt so soft underfoot.

‘When the end of the day approaches, mothers will act immodestly and allow their daughters to meet with strangers and conduct immoral business. And the fifth dream?’

“I saw a dog lying in a pond and her puppies were barking inside her belly.’

The king’s  carpets were dark blue, with gold details that matched the murals.

‘During the last days fathers will still teach their sons properly, but the sons will refuse to listen and will say ‘you have grown old and have lost your senses and you don’t know what you are talking about anymore,’ and the parents will be put to shame and will keep silent.’

The king kept quiet for a long time. The sound of a lute filled the room.

The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, a Medieval Legend, castle window

‘And the sixth dream?’

‘I saw a large number of priests standing in dirt up to their necks,’ whispered the king.

‘At the time of the ned of days the priests will still teach God’s word to the people, but they themselves will not follow it anymore but  will only plan to enrich themselves, condemning their souls to the everlasting fire.’

The notes were turning and twisting with the leaves.

‘And the seventh dream?’

‘I saw a beautiful horse with two heads, one in the front and one looking at the back. One head fed on grass while the second drank water.’

‘When the end of days  will come near, there will be wrong judgement in the world, bribery, and the bishops will appoint ignorant priests because they will be paid to do so and not mind it. A thing which ought never to happen. There will be plenty of priests, but only a handful of good ones among them. The rest will have neither fear of God, nor shame of men and will never think that they will go down to the torments of hell for their sins.’

The first drops of rain hit the leaves.

‘And the eights dream?’

‘I saw a great number of pearls strewn on the face of earth and fire fell from heaven and it burned everything.’

The room filled with the ozone rich scent of rain, overpowering the sweet incenses rising from gold vases placed along the walls. The philosopher filled his lungs, grateful. Then answered.

‘At the end of days all will become smugglers and the rich will make the poor to look like liars and will use treachery to take everything away from the poor. No worrying that by doing so they will lose their souls.’

The leaves of the palm tree seemed to rub one another in the wind, like giant hands.

‘And the ninth dream?’

‘I saw a large number of people working together in one spot,’ said the king, rubbing his own hands, absentminded.

‘At the end of days men will bring their riches to others, for safekeeping. And the keepers will smile and be glad to receive it. But when the owners will come to take back what was rightfully theirs, the keepers will pretend not to know what is being asked of them and they will even swear they speak the truth, not worrying that they will lose their soul for lying.’

A sudden outburst rose the curtains to the ceiling, pushing a vase over, its fall cushioned by carpets. Then the downpour came.

The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, a Medieval Legend,

‘And the tenth dream?’

‘I saw lots of women and men sitting on the ground,’ called the king, in an attempt to make himself heard over the gale.

‘When the end of days will be near,’ answered Mamer, en will not shy away from trickery and pride, and will not worry for losing their souls for it.’

‘And the eleventh dream?’

‘I saw people wearing beautiful flowers in their hair.’

Mamer thought for a while, his eyelids almost covering his cobalt eyes that were cast on his hands, placed in his lap. Outside, the rain poured like a song.

‘At the end of days people will be stingy, greedy and many will gossip and will stray away from the righteous path and do that in their homes too. Good words, truth, will not be uttered anymore, not even between brothers. When a poor will say wise words, all will laugh, but when a rich man will say something stupid, all will gasp and clap and say ‘hear what he says for he speaks the truth,’ and all will agree with him. And all will end in hell. And the twelfth dream?

‘I saw many people with a great deal of hair, with nails like a vulture and very long legs,’ said the king and two tears run down his face, one on each side. And when the philosopher looked up he saw the wet path that was already there, for each tear to follow.

‘At the end of days the rich will take advantage of the poor so much so that the poor will envy those who died before them, and were thus absolved from living such bad times.’

Then he placed both his hands on the sides of his chair and stood with great ease, given his age. And Mamer the philosopher bowed in front of the king and said, ‘your servant, my lord, for I spoke the truth, and dark times will be seen, at the end of days.’

And he turned, left the king’s rooms and the palace and headed down the road. And those who saw him walk did not knew who he was, just wondered how such an old man can walk at such a great speed and not mind the rain.

magical road

What are The Twelve Dreams of Mamer?

Dating from the 15th century and known today in several variations, the twelve prophetic dreams of king Sehachi is available also as a 17th century (1678) Romanian manuscript, being one of the oldest known manuscripts written in the Romanian language. The manuscript is entitled The Twelve Dreams of Mamer, Cele Douasprezeve Vise in Tâlcuirea lui Mamer.

The Twelve Dreams of Mamer a Medieval Legend, Cele Douasprezeve Vise in Tâlcuirea lui Mamer.
A page from the Romanian version of The Twelve Dreams of Mamer

The Twelve Dreams of Mamer may very well be a an oriental story that reached the Slaves (and from there it came to Romania where it stayed among other local folktales) via an unknown Greek version.

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My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales

my top heroes from Romanian folktales

Thinking of the heroes from Romanian folktales, and any tales, they achieve so much more than rescuing the princess or defeating the dragon who endangers an entire kingdom. Heroes give readers hope and hope is the seed of dreams, of adventures and achievements.

Only four centuries ago, during a time when books would slowly, very slowly become accessible due to printing, yet reading was still a skill of the lucky few, written stories were cherished, their readers esteemed, and the entire experience treasured in group gatherings, artisanal sittings or during feasts. Stories were further narrated, enjoyed and treasured, past on to descendants, and the storybooks, if owned, were even kept next to religious icons and even protected by curses against possible thieves.

Be it religious accounts, mystical or magical tales, secular adventures, enigmatic predictions, parables or humorous accounts, stories have left their mark on people’s mindset, on their imagination.

My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales
My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales

Făt-Frumos, Beautiful-Son

Ask any Romanian 🙂 and Făt-Frumos, Beautiful Son, is the one Romanian folktale hero that’s on everyone’s lips. Well, he is a character quite hard to forget, handsome (as if it needed be said), smart, possessing great physical and spiritual strength, performing good deeds left and right, always keeping his word while going through some really queer adventures.

Usually the youngest son of a king, Beautiful Son always succeeds where his older brothers failed. I guess he is a bit like Superman or Spiderman – the underdog who eventually goes through tests and obstacles that surpass ordinary men’s power, fighting monsters – dragons – and other malicious characters – hags, witches, or even prejudiced, unreasonable kings, always emerging victorious.

He does have an aid, and this is one of my favorite parts as it is a magic horse, a Marvelous Horse, a Magic Horse, who looks old and shabby, but is given a second chance.

I am not sure I am cut to be the type of hero Beautiful Son is, having to overcome Frost’s dilemma as to which road to travel: “If you turn right, you will be in sorrow; if you turn left, you will be in sorrow as well“, and ending up traveling through deserts and snowy places on this land, but on the other land too.

Isn’t this what we love about heroes, the second chance they are offered and they offer to others?

My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales
My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales

For a child, a hero is the ticket to an adventure he / she can take from the safety of their own bed. But if we look at folk heroes closely, as adults, we can see that they encompass the history of the nation who birthed them. Romania has known centuries of harsh attacks from north, south, east and west (mongols, Turks, Austro-Hungarians, Russians, Nazis) – and Romanians always fought back, always forced to decide between two equally unfortunate choices: ally with your enemies or fight them.

Have you read the story of Emperor Aleodor yet?

Ileana Cosânzeana

Ileana Cosânzeana (or Ileana Simziana, Chira Chiralina) is the main heroine of Romanian mythological fairy tales, the female correspondent of Beautiful-Son, usually his love ideal. She is depicted as beautiful and kind – perhaps the other way around, her kind spirit shining through, therefor everyone finds her lovely?

According to folktales she is kidnapped by a dragon and locked in a tower or taken to the Other Land, the Netherworld. The heroine is saved by Făt-Frumos and most of the times the two have to defeat the dragon/ or the witch together. Thus, the fairy tale ends, most of the time with a wedding. And they both live happily ever after.

Worth mentioning is that the dragon is always in love with Ileana. It is interesting to notice that Ileana and her abductors never have children. In Romanian fairy tales a child can only be the result of a relationship based on love and consensual marriage.

Now, as Iana Sânziana (and many argue that the two are not the same character) she is the daughter of the Son from which she runs away for he loves her so, perhaps with too much ardor. She hides herself on a secluded island. In another version of the myth she is the Moon and thus God separates the Moon from the Sun.

The Romanian myth of the Sun and the Moon goes like this

My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales
My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales

The sun is presented as a young man who, wanting to get married, travels for nine years, on nine paths to find his chosen one. Finally, the sun finds the youngest of nine sisters and her name was Ileana Sinzeana, later nicknamed
‘The lady of flowers
Of carnations,
The sister of the Sun,
The foam of milk. ‘
He wishes to marry her and travels through Heaven and Hell, accompanied by “old man Adam” and “mother Jehovah” (Eve), who try to persuade him to give up his intention. Back to earth, the young man again asks the girl to accept him as her husband, and she, as in the fairy tale, asks him to build her “A brass bridge, To not pay attention to it” (perhaps invisible) over the Black Sea (bordering Romania), at the end of which she knew there was a monastery where they can celebrate their marriage.
But when the two reach the bridge, Ileana Sânziana throws herself into the sea, turning into the white foam that “the saints from heaven” in their palms took.

You might want to read about the legend of Dochia too.

Greuceanu

This hero we encounter in only one Romanian myth. The Sun and the Moon are stolen by three vicious dragons, balauri, and their wives. Greuceanu defeats them all and returns daylight to humankind. This is a precious motif of initiation symbolizing a new beginning for humans, the chance of a rebirth.

Prâslea cel Voinic, Young-One the Robust

The youngest of the brothers, again, proves to be the bravest and the smartest one. He is also the one who has to save the honor of the family by making up for his older brother’s faults – necessary for his success. But it isn’t only bravery that Prâslea has and his brothers don’t, but social skills too. In Romanian folklore Prâslea finds the thief of the King’s golden apples.

When I was young I found this story mesmerizing as Prâslea had to stay awake an entire night to catch the thief. He even fashions some spikes for himself that were supposed to impale him awake from his slumber.

Harap Alb, White Warrior

Harap Alb may be only a 19th century story told by Ion Creanga and based on Romanian folktales, but the theme of this fairy tale is still the struggle of good against evil, ending with the victory of good. The main character follows the same heroic adventure, a path of moral and ethical maturation sprinkled with various trials and obstacles. The world in which the action takes place is still a miraculous one, dominated by stereotypes and exaggerations.

It is the same reflection of reality, but in an embellished, fabulous way, which does distract the reader and thus the characters can and will react in ways that will not make sense nor be possible in the real world.

Harap might translate to moor, or Arab, but the character is the youngest son of a King and is depicted as having blond hair.

My favorite part as a child were some of Harap Alb’s helpers, his buddies: Frost-one, Thirsty-one, Hungry-one, Good-sight-one, Birdy-Widy-Lenghtly-One, one more colorful than the next.

Harap-Alb by Natsuki Otani

Why do we love a good hero? Because they create order out of chaos? Because they show us that it can be done, any obstacle surmounted if we set our mind to it?

Folk tales remind us of a time when everyday life was passing at a slower pace, when people listening and let their imaginations unfold, when simple fables held the answer the world’s ultimate questions and dark forests still withheld secrets.

Today we rush through each day and fly over forests to spy on its last secrets. But perhaps at night, when we hear the last wolves howl, or a branch knocks in the window stopping us from our fast pace, sending shivers down our necks, our souls remember what was passed on from generation to generation until it was embodied in our DNA. Story-time.

I hope you enjoyed My Top Heroes from Romanian Folktales. Which are your favorite fairytale heroes and heroines?

hope readers books Pat Furstenberg
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