Romanian folk literature revolves around four major mythical themes: the foundation of the Romanian ethnic group, death and transhumance, love and desire for the unattainable, and last but not least sacrifice for creation. The following theme was materialized in a folk ballad called The Legend of Manole. Here it goes:
The Legend as Told by Manole Himself
I am Manole, and I love to build monasteries. Thus I am doing this as my father, my grandfather, my grand grandfather and so on did before me. I would never know what else to do. I have the most beautiful wife a man would want to have, and I love her. Her name is Ana♡.
One day, ♛ The Great Ruler of our lands came to me and said: “Manole, gather all the craftsmen you need and build for me the greatest Monastery that you ever built and anyone has seen before! If this will not be ready until the winter comes, your head will lay near your feet, and the same will happen to your craftsmen!”
I stayed all the night awake, and my thoughts were coming over and over, never-ending…I created thousands of questions on how to build the Monastery, what stone to use, how it should look, how high near the sun to be …. and if I was able to do this in such a short period….
Ana, my dear, and beloved wife told me: “Don’t do this, my dear husband build small churches with a high spirit you know ♛ The Great Ruler is cruel and prides himself on his realizations…Don’t go into the trap…. “
“My dear Ana… but you know I love to build churches and monasteries; you know that I am the best mason from this land…If I am building this Great Monastery, there will be others, from other lands that will come to me…. I will build other monasteries again and again… We will have a bigger home, a lot of cows and horses…our kids will learn together with the Great Ruler’s children. It’s the best thing we could have it now I will do it. I don’t know how but I will do it…” I told her.
And so I did…
The Curse and the Sacrifice in the Legend of Manole
Next morning, I gathered all the most excellent craftsmen I knew, we have chosen the place of the Monastery, and we started to build…Each day, ♛ The Great Ruler came to see our work but somehow, something was not working.
What we made yesterday, it was all destroyed the next day…and so it happened for a few months ⌛⌛⌛ …
I couldn’t believe this strange thing that happened to us. It was like a curse.
♛ The Great Ruler became angrier and angrier and, so I started to feel the fear … My fear was so huge that I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep… It was like a bad dream.
But then, one night there was a voice that started to tell me:
“Manole, you must sacrifice someone! That being will be built together with the Monastery, and so it will be finished. It was meant to be this way, the way you created and imagined this Monastery. So, it will be… ✞“
So, the next day, I went quickly and happy to tell the great news to the other masons…we will sacrifice the first being that will appear next morning, just before the sun will first shine…☀
We all agreed so.
Next morning, we all stayed and waited to see who will come.
But… it was my dear and beloved Ana that came …
“Why didn’t I listen to her… why is this happening to me…What have I done wrong?” I cried like this all the night… but the night did not change my reality…
So I went and did what the voice told me. And yes, the Monastery started to grow to become higher and higher until the sky, near the sun. ♛ The Great Ruler of our lands was happier and happier as the days were passing… he was very proud of his jewel, of his Great Monastery. My craftsmen had not finished yet, and there were already people coming from other lands to see it. It was so beautiful just like my beloved Ana was.
Fear started to grow for the Great Ruler: “What if Manole will build another Monastery, a more beautiful one….”
The fear grew and grew until one day when he decided to leave us, the masons, on top of the Monastery so that we will never, ever build something like this again. And so he did to us…
The Icarus Myth and the Legend of Manole
The next day, he took us all on top of the Monastery and then he took away the stairs. He left us on top of the Monastery, with no other way to going back down. But then, we all said:
“If we built such a wonderful Monastery, then we can also build wings, and we will be like the birds… we will go down on earth again! “
We crafted some wings from the wood that we have found on top of the Monastery…Then we started to fly like the birds, but this happens only for a few seconds, as we were far too heavy, not like the birds. We all finally reached the earth., but not as we expected it.
And so I met Ana again…The place where I touched the earth… it is spring now ♒… with refreshing water. Come and drink the water and read my story again!
The Monastery remains and will remain the most beautiful Monastery forever in my lands…
People from all the areas around will come to pray here and tell this story again…the story of me, Ana and ♛ the Great Ruler…
We call it Curtea de Argeș Monastery, and this is The Legend of Manole.
For more Romanian legends and folktales check out Romanian folklore.