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.

What makes a heroine out of a brave girl?

What makes a heroine out of a brave girl?

A spirit that soars against patriarchal norms.
Boldness when obedience is expected.
A voice that does not yell.
A will like a sword.
A kind heart.

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

The Old Man’s Clever Daughter

I do like the Old Man’s Daughter and she was one of my favorite heroines as I grew up. Not your average wild character, and definitely not a warrior with a sword. Still, a champion.

Old Mn's Daughter, old school heroine, Romanian folklore

A gentle voice
To match her heart;
A will that saw her
Through heartbreak.
The Old-Man’s-Daughter sings of trust,
Endurance, and everlasting love –
Old-fashioned qualities,
Yet so hard to come by anymore.

Patricia Furstenberg

She is quiet, shows perseverance, and always sees the best in others – qualities often overlooked in many people. Her story shows us that good deeds, honesty, humanity and diligence do not go unrewarded. Something we need to read more about these days. I wrote more about her story for the lovely people at Folklore Thursday.

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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Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

If you enjoyed the Romanian folktale Emperor Aleodor , the first part and the second part of Youth Without Age and Life Without Death do find out how it al ends below.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

The prince spent a very long time at the palace without being aware of it, for he always remained just as young as he was when he arrived. He wandered about the woods without ever having a headache. He amused himself in the golden palace, lived in peace and quiet with his wife and her sisters, enjoyed the beauty of the flowers, and the sweet, pure air. He often went hunting; but one day, while pursuing a hare, he shot two arrows at it without hitting the animal. Angrily chasing it he discharged a third arrow, which struck it, but in his haste the luckless man had not noticed that he had passed through the Valley of Sighs while following the game.

He picked it up and turned toward home, but was suddenly seized with a longing for his father and mother. He did not venture to speak of this wish to his wife, yet by his grief and restlessness both she and her sisters instantly perceived his condition.

“Oh! luckless prince, you have passed through the Valley of Sighs,” they said in terror.

“I did so, my dear ones, without meaning to be so imprudent, but now the longing to see my parents is killing me! Yet I can not forsake you. I have already spent several days with you and have no cause to complain. So I’ll go and see my parents once more, and then come back to you, never to leave you again.”

“Do not quit us, beloved prince! Your parents died two or three hundred years ago, and if you go, we fear you yourself will never return; stay with us, for a presentiment of evil tells us that you will perish!”

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

All the entreaties of the three ladies, as well as those of the horse, were unable to quiet the young hero’s longing for his parents, which was fairly consuming him alive.

At last the horse said: “If you don’t listen to me, master, whatever happens to you will be your own fault. I’ll tell you something, and if you accept my condition, I’ll take you back.”

“I’ll accept it with many thanks,” replied the prince; “let me hear it.”

“As soon as you reach your father’s palace you will dismount, but I am to return alone in case you stay even an hour.”

“Be it so,” the prince agreed.

They made their preparations for the journey, the prince embraced the ladies and after having bade them farewell he rode away, but they sobbed and wept bitterly when he left them.

They reached the country which had once been the kingdom of the Scorpion Witch, but found cities there; the woods had become fields; the prince questioned one person and another about the Scorpion Witch and her house, but they answered that their grandfathers had heard from their great, great grandfathers that such silly tales had once been told.

“How is that possible!” replied the prince, “I came through this region myself only a short time ago,” and he told them all he knew.

The people laughed at him as if he were a lunatic or a person talking in his sleep, and the prince angrily rode on without noticing that his hair and beard were growing white.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

When he reached the realm of the Woodpecker Fairy, the same questions and answers were exchanged. The prince could not understand how these places had altered so much in a few days, and again rode angrily on. He now had a white beard that reached to his waist, and he felt as if his feet were beginning to tremble.

Quitting this country he arrived in his father’s empire. Here he found new people, new towns, and every thing so much changed that he could not recognize it. At last he came to the palace where he was born. When he dismounted, the horse kissed his hand, and said:

“I wish you good health, master, I’m going back to the place from which I came. If you want to go too, mount quickly, and we’ll be off.”

“Farewell, I too hope to return soon.”

The horse darted away with the speed of an arrow.

When the prince saw the ruined palace and the weeds growing around it, he sighed deeply and with tears in his eyes tried to remember how magnificent these places had once been. He walked around the building two or three times, tried to recollect how every room, every corner had looked, found the stable where he had discovered the horse, and then went down into the cellar, whose entrance was choked up with fallen rubbish.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death ~ part 3

He groped hither and thither, holding up his eyelids with his hands, and scarcely able to totter along, while his snowy beard now fell to his knees, but found nothing except a dilapidated old chest, which he opened. It seemed empty, but as he raised the lid a voice from the bottom said: “Welcome, if you had kept me waiting much longer, I too should have gone to decay.”

Then his death, which had become completely shriveled in the chest, seized him; but the prince fell lifeless on the ground and instantly crumbled into dust.

Into the saddle then I sprung, The tale to tell to old and young.

Youth Without Age and Life Without Death (Tinerete Fara de Batranete si Viata Fara de Moarte) is a Romanian folktale discovered by Petre Ispirescu, Romanian editor, folklorist, printer and publicist, and first published in 1862 in local newspaper Țăranul român (Romanian Peasant).

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27 German idioms to display the German’s love for fairy tales and sausages

Weather it is Michael Ende’s “The Never Ending Story” (“Die Unendliche Geschichte”), Erich Kästner’s “Emil and the Detectives” (“Emil Und Die Detektive”) or Grimm’s “Hansel and Gretel”, German storytelling reveals a rich culture and a millennial tradition. But did you now that this country produces over 1200 different types of sausages? Surely the opulent German cuisine would have also infiltrated the expressive Teutonic language, as we can see from the following German idioms.

Kein Schwein war da

Translation: There weren’t any pigs there

Meaning: Not worth going, a bad place to be (to understand this idiom you need to keep in mind the German’s love for sausages.

Kein Schwein war da - Not worth going

Das ist mir Wurst

Translation: That’s sausage to me

Meaning: That doesn’t matter

Alles hat ein Ende, nur die Wurst hat zwei

Translation: Everything has an end. Only the sausage has two

Meaning: All good things must end (but said with a lot more feeling)

Sie spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst

Translation: She’s playing the insulted sausage

Meaning: She’s all worked up (said with lots of gusto)

Sie spielt die beleidigte Leberwurst - She’s all worked up

Eine Extrawurst haben

Translation: To get an extra sausage

Meaning: To ask for special treatment 

Er muss zu allem seinen Senf dazugeben

Translation: He has to add his mustard to everything

Meaning: Give his two cents worth 

Wir haben zusammen noch keine Schweine gehütet!

Translation: We haven’t kept any pigs together

Meaning: We don’t know each other all that well

Wir haben zusammen noch keine Schweine gehütet - We don’t know each other all that well

Schwein haben

Translation: To have a pig

Meaning: To be lucky. Obviously to Germans having a pig means a lot more that having a cow means to the English speaking world.

Mein Englisch ist unter aller Sau

Translation: My English is under all pig

Meaning: My English is really bad

Wie die Kuh vorm neuen Tor dastehen

Translation: Like a cow standing in front of a new door

Meaning: Confused, much like someone faced with a new situation

Der Elefant und das Lamm - Amazon
Der Elefant und das Lamm – Amazon

Da liegt der Hase im Pfeffer!

Translation: There’s a rabbit in the pepper

Meaning: something that is depressing, a catastrophe.

Da steppt der Bär

Translation: That’s where the bear dances

Meaning: A great party

Jemandem einen Bären aufbinden

Translation: To tie a bear to someone

Meaning: to deceive someone into accepting something false

Der Löwe und der Hund  - Amazon
Der Löwe und der Hund – Amazon

Affentheater

Translation: Monkey theatre

Meaning: An outrageous behavior (Its origin lies back in the 19th century and the ambulant animal fun shows)

Sie hat ein Kater

Translation:She has a tomcat

Meaning: She’s got a hangover

Das ist ein Katzensprung

Translation: That’s a cat jump

Meaning: Something is very close, a stone’s throw away

Der Gepard und der Hund - Amazon
Der Gepard und der Hund – Amazon

Das Leben ist kein Ponyhof

Translation: Life is no pony farm

Meaning: Life is not easy

Vogel friss oder stirb

Translation: Bird eat or die

Meaning: Pretty straight forward. It’s a do or die situation. 

Der Fisch stinkt vom Kopf her

Translation: The fish starts stinking from the head

Meaning: Problems always start at the top (so very true in politics)

Sie hat einen Vogel

Translation: She has a bird

Meaning: She is mentally ill

Wo sich Fuchs und Hase gute Nacht sagen

Translation: Where fox and hare say goodnight to one another

Meaning: in the middle of nowhere, in a remote location (and surely not in a story book)

Da liegt der Hund begraben

Translation: That’s where the dog’s buried

Meaning: That’s the heart of the matter – when you want to show that you know what the situation is about

Katze in Sack kaufen

Translation: To buy a cat in a sack

Meaning: To buy something without inspecting it first

Wer weiß, warum die Gänse barfuß gehen

Translation: Who knows why the geese go barefoot

Meaning: That’s just the way it is

Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier

Translation: Sleep like a marmot

Meaning: Sleep like a log

Tomaten auf den Augen haben

Translation: To have tomatoes in your eyes

Meaning: Not being able to see the obvious

Klar wie Kloßbrühe

Translation: clear as dumpling broth

Meaning: crystal clear