The Parsifal project (2018-1-PL01-KA201-050865) has been funded with support from the European Commission. This web site reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.

Romanian Essay on Usual Environments and / or Common Objects


Legends and myths are placed in environments which give them that mystic aura. Most stories in the legends are related to sites like mountains, lakes, caves, rivers or to buildings and constructions that are landmarks in any culture. Consequently, they all become tangible testaments to stories of the past. The places people inhabit enliven the myths and legends which are told over and over again. 

Mountains are timeless and powerful and they have long been the home of legends and myths because they arouse people’s imagination. Mountains have been the home or just the meeting place of deities in almost every culture or religion. Their discouraging peaks and strong weather conditions made them unattainable by mortals and gave them a sense of sacredness and mystery. This explains why mountains appear as the central point in so many legends. They are either the main characters (the legend explaining the formation of them) or they are the settings where the story evolves.

Caves are perhaps the most mysterious settings for legends and myths. They induced a feeling of awe and a state of wonder to ancient people, who thought that spirits, mythical creatures or supernatural guardians lived in these subterranean realms, hiding from humans or just taking their power from there. Caves were also considered magic entrances into the underworld.

Castles, which are spectacular architectural creations, are part of every country’s folklore and legends. They are mainly tied to important historic characters or the foundation of a city and have international fame. There are also legends that present beliefs which were practiced in the process of building important structures, such as churches or bridges. These practices were related to human sacrifice, which was performed to gain benevolence from supernatural powers that tried to prevent the master-builders from finishing their work.

Forests, with their mysterious shadows, were believed to be populated by fabulous creatures with extravagant appearance and mischievous behaviour. Consequently, the forests can seem untouchable and separate from the rest of the world.   

Mountains are the best environment for legends since they can better describe either the formation of the mountains, interesting shapes of the rocks, their majestic appearance or simply the connection they have with an interesting story. Most of the times the magic and the awe of a mountain were combined with the realities of the mountain life, so the inhabitants entwined stories and legends around imaginary beings.

In some legends, petrification (turning humans or mystical characters into stone) is the most plausible explanation people could find for the creation of a mountain or rock formation. In the Romanian legend “The Dragon Garden”, those who are turned into stone are the dragons, which is not very usual. In other legends, such as “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss”, “Belogradchik Rocks” and “Rhodopa”, it is the humans that are changed into stone. Most of the legends in the project are simply the majestic settings of heroic or tragic stories, but their simple presence in the plot gives depth to the action. This is what happens in “Beautiful Alda”, “Bies and Czady”, “Legend about Wawel Dragon”and “The Pirin’s Dragon”. There are also legends in which the mountain has a spiritual or magic side, like in “Legend of Mount Ślęża” or “Belintash”. 

In some legends, interesting rock formations are thought to have appeared sometimes as a consequence of the revenge spirits take on humans, other times of rage or of well-deserved punishment of the evil by the good forces. In the Romanian legend “The Lady’s Rocks”, the geological formation was created as the result of the Devil’s rage, who could not get hold of a king’s wealth. Mountains and rocks are the perfect frame for other legends because the action in the story gains more depth in a majestic landscape. Abrupt cliffs and steep forested slopes witness the heroic acts or the tragic fate of many characters, as it happens in “Beautiful Alda”, “Bies and Czady”, “Legend about Wawel Dragon” or “The Pirin’s Dragon”. All over the world, mountains are also considered to have a spiritual meaning as a result of the symbolic or natural energy they seem to have as in the legends “Legend of Mount Ślęża” or “Belintash”.

Spectacular buildings and constructions have become famous mainly due to the legends tied to them. Either it is about the sacrifice the master-builders had to make in order to ensure the strength and sometimes even the protection of a building or they are connected to important rulers. In the Romanian legend, ”Meșterul Manole” – The Master Builder Manole”, a monastery is the construction that cannot be erected unless a person is walled up. Bridges, which were mainly built in the Middle Ages, were considered to be works of art, feats of engineering or important gateways. Thus their construction was attributed to the devil or other evil spirits as it happened in the Bulgarian legend “Devil’s bridge”. Buildings connected to famous people appear in legends castles or monuments.

The interior of a mountain hides a mysterious world. Caves have always stirred people’s imagination because they were considered to be home for magical beings, like in “The legend about Wawel Dragon” or “The Pirin’s Dragon”, hide extraordinary treasures or represent unreal passages. Caves are also perfect settings for tragic stories, like the one in the Romanian legend “The Bride’s Cave” or shelters for famous characters, like in the Italian legend “Romolo and Remo and the foundation of Rome”. But there are cases when caves are the perfect hide for spiritual characters, like in “St. Petka and the stone bread”. 

Mountains and unusual rock formations are the most impressive natural settings for legends. They seem to exert a magical attraction for ancient people, due to their inaccessibility, energy (positive or negative), dark secrets they seem to hide or simply their formation. In the Romanian legend “The living fire”, the natural phenomenon of the gas escaping from deep within the earth was explained by being the breath of a terrible beast which was defeated by a brave human. Mountains which are also related to mythical creatures are found in legends like “Bies and Czady”, “Legend about Wawel Dragon”, “The Pirin’s Dragon” and “Legend of Mount Ślęża”.  In other legends, mountains witness tragic stories, as in “Beautiful Alda”. 

There has always been a belief that magical powers are hidden in the deep dark forests, which are places of magic and danger, home of mythical characters, perfect environments for strange events. In the Romanian legend “Iele-Nymphs”, these female mythical characters live in the heart of the forest, which provides them not only with a home but also with the perfect setting for their specific circle dance – Hora – or their magic rituals. In the legend “Puntuko stone”, woods are the setting around which where the whole story revolves. But even the formation of the forests can be the result of magic, as it happens in “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss”.  

Landmarks are cognitive anchors and remarkable objects of an environment, with historical as well as touristic value. Beautiful castles, most of which were built during the Middle Ages, as well impressive monuments are often associated with famous rulers. Most of the castles were meant to guard an area, a mountain pass, a road or a river. Some of these awe-inspiring buildings are placed in breathtaking surroundings, either perched on top of a mountain or seemingly floating over the water. Bran Castle, which supposedly was the residence of the Romanian ruler Vlad Tepes (who was the source of inspiration for Bram Stoker’s fictional character, Count Dracula), is placed on top of a former Teutonic Knights stronghold. In reality, there is no evidence that Vlad Tepes lived in Bran Castle, but due to the dark and intimidating stomping ground and the aura of mystery and legend given by Bram Stoker’s novel, the magnificent building continues to attract millions of Count Dracula fans. Other castles gained their fame due to their association with founders of important cities, like in the Lithuanian legends “Legend about establishment of Trakai Castle” and “Legend about Kaunas city foundation”. Although it is not about a castle, the Lithuanian legend about the foundation of Vilnius City made the Monument to Grand Duke Gediminas famous.