Transylvania – the Land of Myths and Legends

Romania doesn’t cease to amaze with its wealth in all branches of culture. One of the most abundant parts is played by the ancient myths and legends of Romania. Romanians have always had a deeply rooted relationship with folklore, expressed by myriads of legends. As most of these folk tales were transmitted orally, no one knows the creator, but there had been many collectors of such uniqueness.

The most fruitful gatherers were the renowned Ion Creanga, with “Harap Alb” and “The old woman’s daughter and the old man’s daughter”, Vasile Alecsandri with his version of the Miorita ballad, and Petre Ispirescu, who published numerous volumes of mythical tales depicting Fat-Frumos (equivalent to Prince Charming), Ileana Cosanzeana, the monsters Zmeu and Capcaun, the dragon Balaur and the evil Muma Padurii.

Miorița is a Romanian legend written in the form of a ballad by Vasile Alecsandri. Little Ewe’s legend says that three shepherds: a Transylvanian, a Moldavian and a Vrancean meet while looking after their flocks. An ewe of the Moldavian tells him that the other envious shepherds are planning to murder him and steal his flock and the Moldavian tell her his testament.

Baba Dochia has several myths built around her, but probably the most known and practiced one is Babele. The Babele myth (old hags) associates the first 9 days of March with Baba Dochia’s 9 sheepskin coats, every day stripping one off. To this day people pick a day between 1st and 9th of March and it is said that the weather of the chosen day expresses the mis/fortune of the person throughout the year.

Vasile Alecsandri put into words another beautiful ballad, that of Mesterul Manole, the architect of the existing Curtea de Arges Monastery in Wallachia. Legend says that Negru Voda ordered Manole to build the most beautiful monastery, but walls kept crumbling in the course of construction. Manole dreamed one night that for the monastery to stand, a beloved person would have to be built alive into the monastery’s walls. He agreed with his workers that whose-ever wife were to bring lunch first, should be the one. The next day, Manole;s pregnant wife, Ana, was the first to show up… And that is how the Arges Monastery is still standing to this day.

And lastly, the myth that put Transylvania on the map: the legend of Count Dracula, Bram Stoker’s fictional character inspired by the historical Romanian figure: Vlad Tepes (the Impaler), a 15th century prince of Wallachia, renowned for his method of impaling criminals and enemies. All crimes were punished by impalement: lying, stealing, killing, as Vlad Dracul was a very honest ruler. A legend says that he put a golden cup in the central square of Targoviste, which was never stolen and remained untouched during Vlad’s reign. Vlad Tepes is seen as a hero in Romania for ceasing crime and corruption and bringing commerce and culture to a thriving level. The link between Vlad Tepes and the vampire Count Dracula is based on Bram Stoker’s research of the Impaler in the UK, although he was to find a blackened reputation of Vlad, because of his hostility towards Saxons.

Unsurprisingly, all Romanians are told these legends in their childhood and no one is a stranger to them. Ask any Romanian about their mythical land and they will narrate with great ardor.

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Stefania Tripe
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” ― Stephen King.

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