The Wolf in Romanian Mythology
With 15% of the total, Romania has one of the largest populations of wolves in Europe, Russia not included. So there must be a lot of Romanian wolf legends out there, right? For those willing to indulge in some serious wolf watching, this country is a true paradise. The wolf has been a part of Romanian history too. The Dacians who fought the Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century and lived on the ancient territory of what is now Oltenia and Wallachia were holding a wooden wolf head as a battleship flag. A lot of wolf legends derived from the Romanian’s ancestors appreciation of this animal.
As for the plethora of legends, things are only starting to get interesting. The werewolf, a fantastic incarnation of the wolf, has been present in Romanian mythology for centuries. A vârcolac or a pricolici is what we call a werewolf in Romanian. Popular belief says Vârcolaci (the plural) are shape-shifting evil creatures generated by human misbehavior. The Moon eating vârcolac is a mean person turned into a wolf. Legends say some humans remain vârcolaci even after death. They can fly, or their shade can reach the moon. When the moon is red, people say the vârcolaci are prowling through the woods.
The Wolf Fairy Tales and Fables and the Romanian Wolf Legends
Some contributions from authors and storytellers to Romanian wolf legends are remarkable. But there is a particular fable that many Romanian children read. Not to mention, the book got a lot of illustrated editions. Below there is a glimpse into a version of it from my childhood. The famous fable called The Goat and Her Three Kids is a favorite among children book readers. In short, the three kids and their goat mother have to face the dangers of being eaten by the big bad wolf, who is their godfather. This is an inspiring rite of passage story with a happy end, eventually, in which the community plays a role as well.
Another notable Romanian wolf story is called Făt-Frumos și Lupul cel năzdrăvan. Prince Charming and the Wonder Wolf would be a fair translation into English. However, this story is different than the previous one. It traveled the centuries as a folk story told by peasants until an editor named Petre Ispirescu collected a bunch of tales from popular sources and published them between 1862 and 1886. Of all the fairy tales and fables published by Ispirescu, the one that evokes the Romanian wolf legends is our favorite.