Reading about Romanian Monsters of Myth and Folklore is a fun way of learning about a civilization strengthened by historical battles, enriched by its insight into the forces of nature, enchanting through its narratives.
I believe that at the source of each myth, folktale or superstition is the seed of a true story. Told from one generation to the next with the aim to explain, elucidate, aid the daily harshness of life or simply subdue; these stories snowballed, like any captivating story does, becoming myths (explaining creation), legends (inspiring through heroic figures), and folklore (explaining everyday life).
Monsters from Romanian Myths
Fârtat, Nefârtat and Apa Sâmbetei (The Wasted Water, Long Gone and Wasted)
One of the creation stories in Romanian folklore explains the Genesis.
Once upon a time, at the very beginning of the world, there was nothing but water. A boundless ocean called Apa Sâmbetei. The water soon foamed, perhaps under a gust of wind, and from that foam grew a flower. Inside the flower a worm took birth, but also a butterfly. Side by side.
And the butterfly morphed further into a young man. Nobody knew if he was handsome or not, for he was the very first one. Yet he brightened everything around him and everything He touched, for he was God, or Fârtat.
While the worm became Nefârtat, the Devil, a creature in human form but without inner light, without spirit.
Now the water was everywhere, so both brothers were floating about. Fârtat called to his brother to dive together and gather handfuls of sand from the bottom of the ocean and throw it in the air, in his name, so Earth will form so they could both rest and catch their breath.
Nefârtat said nay.
From the little sand Fârtat gathered he created a stretch of of earth where both of them went to rest, glad it felt solid, although their fingers were still dipped into Apa Sâmbetei, for it was narrow. Now Nefârtat, evil ashe was, tried to take possession of earth, pushing his brother into the waves. Yet the earth kept on growing to reach and protect Fârtat, and thus Earth came to be.
Fârtat – Nefârtat Etymology:
Worth mentioning is the root of the word “Fârtat” coming from ‘frate” = brother. But “fârtat” also means prieten = (precious) friend.
Strigoi, Moroi, Pricolici, Vârcolaci – Ghosts, Phantoms, Werewolf
Strigoii and Moroii are believed to drink not only the blood of a human, but to feed on its energy too.
Moroii and their legends are as old as Dacian times -especially in Orastie area – and thus it is believed that they used charms to steal the cattle’s milk, rendering the cows dry.
Moreover, Strigoii can cause many illnesses and eve shape-shift into were-wolfs. Like the Strigoi, Pricolici are undead monsters (violent criminals returned from the grave) looking like a giant wolf. Rememeber, Romania has the largest population of canis lupus (wolves) in Europe.
Muma Pădurii, The Forest Crone Mother (synonym with Gaia, he ancestral mother of all life in Greek mythology)
Muma Pădurii is a mythological representation of a long ago civilization, mainly focused on woods as she personifies everything that comes out of a forest and you can read more about her in my blog post here.
Monsters from Romanian Folklore
With mountains as sky-high as the Carpathians is easy to understand why Giants were the first people ever created on the Romanian land.
In the historical county of Maramures, famous for its Merry Cemetery Sapanta as well as its picturesque wooden churches, folk legend says that giant, huge people inhabited its hills, thousands of years ago. Signs of their existence are still noticeable, local people claim.
Once upon a time…
It is said that Rozalinda, the Giant’s daughter, discovered some people on the banks of Someș river and she took them home, thinking they are tiny dolls. Yet she fell in love with one of them, the head of the Dacian – Roman city of Turda (where my Mother was born 🙂 His name was Robonban.
Rozalind‘s fatherand the last head of the Giants, Old Cingalau (not the moth, perhaps a nickname, like Wide-Belt), feeling that his time has come, arranged for the two to get married. He only wanted his daughter to be happy.
But what to do with the difference in size? Rozalinda agreed to be turned into a human and so the two lived happily ever after…
And after old Cingalau died, his grave became the hill of Gogasa, and the place where Rozalinda found the group of people she took home is today the village of Rozavlea, its inhabitants being descendants from Rozalinda and Robonban.
Another legend says that old Urias’ burial mounds hides a massive horde of riches that can only be discovered on Christmas Eve, at Easter, or on St. George’s Day, when magical fires burn above his grave. Or it could have been Decebal, one of the first rulers of the Dacians, Romanian’s ancestors, who ordered these Giants to protect the Dacian treasures he’d hidden in a cave when Romans attacked, 1st century AD.
Capcaun, The Ogre
I do remember being scared of this mosnter, for he was supposed to eat naughty children (which I was not!). Sometimes he has two heads, other times a head of a dog on the body of a man, it appears that he is also a shape-shifter, being able to transform itself in other animals too.
In legends Capcaunul has his own land, usually dark, arid and populated with strange creatures.
The Forest Goddesses, Vâlve or Charmstresses
Ielele are charmstresses, women of forests and waters with magic powers living in Romania and populating its folklore. Better keep away for they are irresitable, especially to men, and they will make youlooseyour way through the forest. And be gone!
Blessed, alluring IELELE,(translated by Patricia Furstenberg)
Mistresses of breeze,
Ladies of the earth and mist,
Through the air you rise,
On the grass you slide,
And on waves you glide.
Folk legend say that wherever the seductive ielele danced, strung in a circle, afterwards the ground appeared scorched, dead. No grass would ever grow there, for many years, but instead only red, poisonous herbs and mushrooms would appear.
A sly and repulsive antagonist, the Omul Spân, Bold Man, Glabrous Man, is a character of treacherous intelligence, yet he has the role of initiating Harap-Alb, the hero of the Romanian fairytale with the same title, thus representing, together with the Red Emperor, a necessary evil for the growth of the protagonist.
Enjoyed this? Learn about worldwide Past and Present Monsters of Folk Tales too.