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Roumanian Fairy Tales & Legends is a collection of fifteen of Romania’s most fascinating tales, painstakingly researched and deftly translated by E.B. Mawer - and NO, we havent mis-spelt the title, for thats the way Romania was spelled in the late 1800's. Given Romania’s long and diverse cultural history, it is no surprise that the country has such a rich tapestry of folk tales, fairy tales, and legends. It is also fortunate that so many of these stories survived the country’s turbulent history and were passed down throughout the ages to countless Romanian children. In approximately 82 BC, the rule of the Dacian kings was replaced by the Romans, who were forced out by the Goths, who, in turn, were supplanted in the 4th century AD by the Huns. After this, a sequence of nomadic rulers, including the Gepids, the Avars, the Bulgars, the Pechenegs, and the Cumans, ruled the area. In the Middle Ages, Romanians lived in three distinct principalities: Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, which were later ruled by the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman empires. In 1859, Moldavia and Wallachia united under Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza, but it was not until the end of WWI, in 1918, that Bessarabia, Bukovina and Transylvania proclaimed unions with the Kingdom of Romania and the modern state of Romania was born. 10% of the publisher’s profits from the sale of this book will be donated to the Relief Fund for Romania.
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translated by Mrs. E. B. Mawr
Abela Publishing, London
Roumanian Fairy Tales and Legends
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2017
This book may not be reproduced in its current format in any manner in any media, or transmitted by any means whatsoever, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, or mechanical ( including photocopy, file or video recording, internet web sites, blogs, wikis, or any other information storage and retrieval system) except as permitted by law without the prior written permission of the publisher.
email [email protected]
Frontis: Watercolour of
Vlad the Impaler’s Castle at Poinarii
Dedicated by Permission
TO HER MAJESTY
THE literature of Roumania is so little known in England, that I have ventured to translate, and bring before the public, some of the popular Basme (tales) and legends of the country.
I have kept to the original text as strictly as possible, but some of the idioms are untranslatable.
Of the Poets, I have given no specimen, though there are many of recognised talent.
A volume of Roumanian poems has just been put into the German tongue, by the August Lady who permits me to dedicate this small effort to her, and who is the patron of every good work.
By its bravery, and its stedfast perseverance in its onward path, ROUMANIA has raised itself into a KINGDOM; and I have thought it well to insert in this little book "The Martyrdom of Brancovan," and the Spartan courage of the "Mother of Stefan the Great," to shew of what blood the true sons and daughters of Roumania are made.
E. B. M.BUCHARESTApril, 1881
Due to its tumultuous background, Romania is a country rich in cultural history. In approximately 82 BC, the rule of the Dacian kings was replaced by the Romans, who were forced out by the Goths, who, in turn, were supplanted in the 4th century AD by the Huns. After this, a sequence of nomadic rulers, including the Gepids, the Avars, the Bulgars, the Pechenegs, and the Cumans, ruled the area.
Given Romania’s long and diverse cultural history, it is no surprise that the country has such a rich tapestry of folk tales, fairy tales, and legends. It is fortunate that so many of these stories survived the country’s turbulent history and were passed down throughout the ages to countless Romanian children.
Roumanian Fairy Tales & Legends is a collection of seventeen of Romania’s most fascinating tales, painstakingly researched and deftly translated by E.B. Mawr.
A percentage of the sales from this book will be donated to support the under-privileged people of Romania in their fight against poverty and discrimination.
THE SLIPPERS OF THE TWELVE PRINCESSES.
THE UNGRATEFUL WOOD-CUTTER.
THE HERMIT'S FOUNDLING WITH THE GOLDEN HAIR.
THE DAUGHTER OF THE ROSE.
THE TWELVE-HEADED GRIFFIN.
VASILICA THE BRAVE.
"HANDSOME IS AS HANDSOME DOES."
THE FISHERMAN AND THE BOYARD'S DAUGHTER.
THE FORTRESS OF POINARII.
THE GENTLE SHEPHERD.
DEATH OF CONSTANTIN II. BRANCOVAN
THE MOTHER OF STEPHEN THE GREAT.
ONCE on a time, in the good old times, there lived a cow-herd, who had neither father nor mother. He was called Jonica, that is to say Johnnie, but people had given him the name of Gura Casca (open mouth) because when he led his cows to pasture, he bellowed at every thing which he met on the way. Otherwise he was really a very pretty boy, his face was fair, and his eyes as blue as a morsel of the sky, with hair curling, and as yellow as the rays of the Sun. The young girls of the village teased him sadly. "Hé! Hé! Jonica, where are you going with your open mouth"? "What does that matter to you"? he would reply tranquilly, and pass on his way. Though only a cow-herd, he was sufficiently proud of his good looks, and he knew quite well the difference between beauty and ugliness, so the young peasant girls with their faces and throats tanned by the sun, their large hands red and cracked, their feet shod in "opinci" (a rough sort of sandal) or other common leather, were not at all to his mind.
He had heard tell, that, down there, a long way off, in the towns, the young girls were quite different; that they had throats as white as alabaster, pink cheeks, delicate and soft hands, their small feet covered by satin slippers, that in short they were clad in robes of silk and gold, and were called Princesses. So that, while his comrades only sought to please some rustic villager, he dreamed, neither more nor less, that he should marry a Princess.
One noon-day in the middle of August, when the sun was so scorching that even the flies did not know where to put themselves, Jonica sat down under the shadow of an oak to eat his mammaliga (thick Indian meal porridge) and a morsel of sheep's milk cheese; seeing that his flock was lying peaceably about, he stretched himself at fall length, and was soon asleep.
He had a charming dream! a Zina, a fairy, appeared to him, beautiful as the day, fresh as a rose,
and clad in a robe sparkling with diamonds. She said to him--
"There is a country where precious stones grow; go to the Court of the Emperor who reigns there, and you will marry a Princess."
In the evening, when he took his cows back to the stable, Jonica recounted his dream to several of his friends, who freely laughed at him. But the words of the Zina had such an influence on him, that he laughed himself at the ridicule of which he was the object.
The next day, at the same hour, and the same place, our cow-herd came to take his siesta. He had the same dream; and the same fairy, more radiant than ever, appeared again to him, and repeated: "There is a country where precious stones grow; go to the Court of the Emperor who reigns there and you will marry a Princess."
Jonica again repeated his dream, and it was again turned into ridicule.
"What does it matter to me," said Jonica, "if they laugh! I know one thing, that if that fairy appears again to me, I'll follow her advice."
On the following day he had the same dream, he got up joyfully, and in the evening they heard him in the village singing: "I quit the cows and calves, for I am going to marry the daughter of an Emperor."
His master, who overheard him, became thoughtful, but Jonica said to him, "You may do, and think as you like, but it is decided! I am going away!" He began to make his preparations, and in the morning he left.
The people of the village held their sides with laughing, when they saw him with his little bundle on a stick, slung across his shoulder, descend the hill, traverse the plain, and then slowly disappear, in the dim distance.
In those days, people did say that there was really a country where precious stones grew, as grass, plants, and flowers grow in other places. It was said that the Emperor of these parts had twelve daughters--twelve Princesses, the one prettier than the other, but all as proud as they were beautiful. It was said also, that they only went to sleep at sunrise, and got up at mid-day.
They lived altogether in one large room of the Palace, and slept in beds of gold, encrusted with flowers of diamonds and emeralds.
When the Princesses retired in the evening, the nine doors of their apartment were locked outside with nine padlocks. It was impossible for them to get out, and yet each night something very extraordinary took place.
The satin slippers of the twelve Princesses, were literally worn out each morning. One might have thought that the daughters of the Emperor had danced all night. When they were questioned, they declared that they knew nothing, and could understand nothing about it. No one could explain this strange fact, for, notwithstanding the greatest watchfulness, not the least noise had ever been heard in the chamber of the Princesses, after they had retired to rest.
The Emperor, their father, was most perplexed, and determined, at any price, to penetrate this mystery. He had a trumpet sounded, and it was published throughout all the country, that if any one succeeded in finding out, by what means his daughters, the Princesses, wore out their slippers in a single night, he might choose from amongst them, his wife. At this news, a great number of Emperors' sons, and Kings' sons, presented themselves to explore this adventure. They hid themselves behind a great curtain in the chamber of the Princesses. But once there, no one ever heard any more of them, and they never re-appeared.
Our Jonica, who arrived just then at the Court of the Emperor, heard talk of all these matters, and succeeded in being taken into the service of one of the Imperial Gardeners, who) had been obliged to send away one of his best helps. His new master did not find him very intelligent, but he was convinced that his curling light hair and good looks, would make him acceptable to the Princesses.
Thus his daily duty, then, was each morning to present a bouquet to the daughters of the Emperor. Jonica posted himself at their door, at the hour of their awakening, and as each came forth, he presented her with a bouquet. They found the flowers very beautiful, but disdained to cast a look or smile on poor Jonica, who remained there more than ever, Gura Casca, open-mouthed.
Lina, alone, the youngest, the most graceful, and the prettiest of the Princesses, let fall by hazard on him, a look as soft as velvet. "Ah! my sisters," cried she, "how good looking our young gardener is!"
They burst into mocking laughter, and the eldest remarked to Lina, that it was unbecoming a Princess to lower her eyes to a valet. Nevertheless, Jonica intoxicated by the looks and the beauty of
Lina, thought of the promise of the Emperor, and it entered into his head to try and discover the mystery of the slippers. He did not mention it to any one though, for he was afraid that the Emperor might hear of it, be angry, and have him driven away from Court, as a punishment for his audacity.
While these thoughts were passing through his brain, Jonica dreamed again of the fairy with the sparkling robe. She held in her right hand two small laurel branches, one was as red as a cherry, and the other like a rose; in her left hand was a little golden spade, a watering can of the same metal, and a silken veil.
She gave all these to Jonica, saying, "Plant these two laurels in large boxes, turn over the earth with this spade, water them with this watering-can, and wipe them with this silken veil. When they have grown three feet high, say to each separately, "Beautiful laurels, with a golden spade I have dug you, with a golden watering-can I have watered you, and with a silken veil I have wiped you." "This said, you can ask anything you wish, and it will be accorded you." When Jonica awoke he found the two laurels and the other objects on the table, and fell on his knees to thank the good fairy. He at once began to carry out her instructions. The shrubs grew rapidly, and when they had attained the necessary height, he went to the cherry laurel, and said:
"Beautiful cherry laurel, with a golden spade I have dug you, with a golden can I have watered you, with a silken veil I have wiped you; grant me in exchange, the gift of becoming invisible whenever I desire." Immediately he saw grow out from the laurel, a beautiful white flower. He gathered it, placed it in his button-hole, and at once became invisible.
When night arrived, the Princesses went up to their bedroom, and Jonica, bare-footed, so as to make no noise, glided up behind them, and hid himself underneath one of the twelve beds.
Then, instead of preparing themselves to go to bed, each of the Princesses opened a wardrobe, and took out their richest dresses and finest jewels. Each assisting the other, they dressed en grande toilette. Jonica could see nothing from his hiding place, but he heard them laugh, and dance with joy. The eldest, who seemed to have great authority over them, hurried them, and kept exclaiming: "Be quick, my sisters, our dancers are dying of impatience." At the end of an hour, the laughing and talking ceased. Jonica carefully put out his head, and saw that the Princesses were dressed like fairies. They wore quite new satin slippers, and held in their hands the bouquets which he had offered to them in the morning.
They placed themselves one behind the other, and the eldest who was at the head, struck three blows in a peculiar manner, on a certain part of the wall. A door quite invisible opened, and the Princesses disappeared.
Jonica followed them noiselessly, but by accident he placed his foot on the train of the Princess Lina. "There is some one behind me," she cried, "some one trod on my dress." The eldest turned round quickly, but seeing no one, exclaimed, "how foolish you are Lina, you must have caught it against a nail."
The twelve daughters of the Emperor, descended, and descended, and descended until they arrived at an underground passage, at the end of which was an iron door with a strong bolt.
The eldest opened this, and then they found themselves in an enchanted bower, where the leaves of the trees were in silver, and sparkled in the moonlight. They walked on until they came to a second bower, and here the trees had golden leaves; still on, and then a third bower, where the leaves were of emeralds and rubies and diamonds, and their rays were so bright that one might have thought it was full daylight. The princesses continued their walk, and (Jonica still following), arrived soon on the borders of a large lake.
On this lake were twelve boats, and in each boat one of the lost sons of an Emperor, who, oar in hand, each waited for a Princess. Jonica took his place in the boat of the Princess Lina. The boat, being more heavily laden, could not float so quickly as the others, and so was always behind. "I do not know," said Lina to her cavalier, "why we do not go so quickly as at other times, what can be the matter?"
"I do not understand it either," said the Emperor's son, "for I row with all my force."
On the other side of the lake the little gardener perceived a beautiful palace, illuminated a giorno, and heard harmonious sounds of violins, trumpets and cymbals. The Emperors' sons each having a Princess on his arm entered the palace, and after them came Jonica into a saloon lighted by ten lustres.
The walls were immense mirrors, in gold frames set with precious stones. On a centre table a massive golden vase contained an enormous bouquet of flowers which gave forth an exquisite perfume. Poor Jonica was literally dazed and petrified by the sight of so much splendour. When able to look at, and admire the Princesses in the midst of this dazzling light, he lost his wits completely, and looked so ardently with his eyes, that one would have thought that he wished to taste them also with his mouth. Some were fair, some were brown, and nearly all of them had let fall their beautiful hair down their pretty white shoulders. Never, even in his dreams, had the poor boy seen such enchanteresses.
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