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
Discover all my books through Amazon. Free with Kindle Unlimited.

The Magic of Romanian Folktales Starts with the First Words

magic folktales words

While a grew up I thought that the magic and musicality of Romanian folktales was so much better than that of the Grimm’s fairy tales. Because I was sure of their truthfulness.

Although both sources shared the same well-known prologue, “Once upon a time,” the Romanian ones went on with “for if it didn’t happen it couldn’t be told,” thus proving that some truth was at the bottom of the folktale about to unravel, since nothing can be told that didn’t happen

You might argue that the description is ambiguous, leaving the recipients to decide for themselves whether the story is true or not.

But to wide-eyed children, it was proof enough.

And then it went on, to prove to the grown-ups too, that those times, when the story took place, were extraordinary times, thus such tales must be true… For those were the times when:

“…the poplars fruited apples and the willow tree sprouted wallflowers, when the bears wrestled one another through the strength of their tails.”

magic Romanian folktales, brown bear
Romanian brown bear

And if you don’t believe that such a time existed, it goes on:

“…when wolves and lambs kissed one another; when one would put 99 iron shoes on the flea and then thrust it into the glory of the sky only to return to Earth and tell us stories; when the fly would write on the wall, a bigger liar being the one who doesn’t believe what he is told. “

"when wolves and lambs kissed one another" - Romanian folktales
The magic of Romanian folktales happened in a time when ” when wolves and lambs kissed one another.”

What turn of phrase charmed your childhood?

Orthodox Easter Eggs, folktales, symbolism, traditions #culture #history

It was an erstwhile custom that a mother, no matter how elderly or ailing she felt, would take it upon herself to bring food to her lad bided elsewhere as soon as the snow thawed and the first white spring shoots pierced the ground.

A folktale tells that Mary, the mother of Jesus, took it upon herself to visit Jesus in Jerusalem and thus she packed a basket with fresh eggs. It wasn’t much else she could take him, Herod having just increased his taxes, again.

The road was winding through the verdant green hills of Judea and Mary’s heart felt light for each step brought her hither to her son, which she hasn’t seen in a long time. As the morning progressed her own shadow became but a puddle by her feet. Soon enough the basket began feeling heavier and heavier in her work-worn hand and her steps became slower and slower and she felt like her journey to Jerusalem had become a quest for shade. Not many trees were in bloom so as soon as Mary spotted a stream sheltered by a little arbor she quickened her step and stopped to cool and quench her thirst. It was a thirst like she had never felt before.  So she looked about and decided to stop for a few moments.

The road was winding through the verdant green hills of Judea and Mary’s heart felt light for each step brought her hither to her son

The stream singed and Mary saw a new nest above her head and smiled. Life was precious. The water moved softly over her fingers and, when she removed her hand, a few droplets lingered on her fingers. She brought the hand to her eyes and smiled, a whole life scene embedded in those tiny see-through pearls.

It was a peaceful moment and life’s moments were just like this string of beads following each other on her outstretched hand. Each one connected to the next, stronger together. Filled with love.

But it was time to move along. Before getting up something tugged at her heart and Mary lifted the white cotton fabric that covered the basket to see if the eggs were still in good shape.

A dreadful sight unfolded before her eyes. It was as if the sun had stopped shining, no gurgling from the stream could glide through the air and all proof of life on earth had been stamped out.

The eggs had turned blood red and the Blessed Mother of Jesus understood that the time had come for her son to pay for our sins. But she was first a mother and he was her baby boy and so she wept, Mary did, and as her tears rolled down her cheeks and dripped onto the blood covered eggs they drew patterns, a cross, a star, lines and spirals.

Easter eggs symbolism traditions

When Mary reached the place where Jesus hang on the cross, she laid the basket at his feet and knelled to pray. Then Jesus spoke and asked her not to cry for Him, but to share those blessed eggs with the people who believe in His resurrection.

***

This is why on the Orthodox Easter we color boiled eggs in red, we draw patterns on them and we share them with our loved ones, family, friends, colleagues, knocking egg against egg and saying: “Christ has risen,” and answer “It is true He has risen.”

Easter eggs symbolism traditions
Red easter eggs on the grass with flowers and blowballs, naturally colored easter eggs with onion husks. Happy Easter, Christian religious holiday.

The symbolism of the Easter egg

The hard shell of the egg symbolizes the sealed Tomb of Christ.

The cracking of the egg (through knocking) symbolizes His Resurrection.

The Ritual of coloring Easter Eggs

It is said that coloring Easter eggs is a sacred ritual. The day when one colors the eggs is special and no other activity will take place.

On counting the eggs that are to be colored, one doesn’t begin with one, but with “one thousand”, thus bringing wealth in the house for the remainder of the year.

The paint was already prepared, using different plants for different colors. GREEN – was made from walnut leaves, sweet apple skin. RED came from the leaf of a sweet apple, corn leaves or thyme. A special flower was used for YELLOW. Oregano was used to give the colored eggs a heavenly perfume.

The room where the eggs were painted was also special. No worried or upset person was allowed to step inside and no bad rumors or news of people who just passed away were allowed to reach the ears of the egg-painter.

Easter egg color symbolism

Easter eggs are nowadays colored in a rainbow of shades.

WHITE – means purity

RED – symbolizes the blood of Christ and life

BLUE – symbolizes the sky above, uniting us all

BLACK – means fertility

GREEN – means nature

YELLOW – symbolizes sun and energy

Easter eggs symbolism traditions
Easter eggs symbolism traditions

Orthodox Easter Eggs Design Symbolism, Traditions

A straight vertical line means life.

A straight horizontal line means death.

A double straight line symbolizes eternity.

A rectangle pattern – symbolizes thought and knowledge.

A sinuous line symbolizes water and purity.

A spiral means time and eternity.

A double spiral symbolizes the connection between life and death.

Cross – symbol for Christianity

A cross with additional small crosses at the end of each arm is a Russian cross.

Orthodox cross on a red Easter egg

A star – is called the “shepherd’s star”

A monastery – symbol of Christianity

Other motives used for decorating Easter eggs: bees, frogs, snakes, lambs, garden tools, fir tree, tulip, wheat.

Other traditions call for all the family members to wash their faces with fresh water on Easter morning, water from a container that holds a red egg and a silver coin. It is believed that the red egg brings good luck, good health, warn off evil spirits and all spells.

I hope you enjoyed reading about Easter eggs’ symbolism and traditions.

You might also enjoy reading:
A Journey through the Medieval City of Sighisoara, Romania
Convents: the Religious Life of Medieval Women

hope readers books Pat Furstenberg
Discover all my books on Amazon worldwide here.