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Italian Essay on Recurring Situations and Challenges


European countries have a lot in common in terms of history and culture, in fact, in all the legends we can find some common European roots and recurring situations and challenges.

Most of the legends show that  a fight or a challenge is a recurring subject. All the characters, both the winners and the losers, are similar in every legend and usually the  good ones prevail at the end.

The setting for the challenge looks like a common one because any tale could take place anywhere, although a natural environment is prevalent. The strong presence of natural elements  through which the challenges are carried out is another common element : the earth, the wind and the fire are the weapons used to solve any conflict and are often transformed into something else like mountains and lakes which are still present today as witness of the triumph of good over evil. Other times it is the natural environment itself which threatens men, as is the case of the strait of Messina and of the two terrible monsters which the sailors must face and overcome if they want to reach home.

The most typical challenge is in fact the fight between good and evil, the need to defend a city or a girl or a population from an enemy, being it a foreign army, the devil or a terrible dragon or monster.

As one can realize by reading the different legends, the opposition of these two forces has been represented by means of different players. Saints or spiritual figures are the main representatives of good in particular in the Italian tradition (where the strong religious belief influenced the positive development of the challenge), while popular figures like shepherds, monks, nuns and workers play the same positive role in the foreign legends. On the other hand, the evil forces are often symbolized by devils and sometimes by monsters which can anyway be regarded as further pictures of evil, both in the Italian and in the other European legends.

Other typical situations in most legends are: the desire to have more than what you already own or also a sense of revenge and jealousy. In these situations the characters are often punished for their greedy or ambitious nature.

Another recurring situation is the naming of a certain place after the person who died there and it's also easy to find in these legends the transformation of people into natural elements, normally caused by different series of events, like in “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss”.

Family relationships and situations  are also an important element in the legends, in particular the relationship between father and daughter emerges in two legends: in the  Italian legend “ Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss “ and in the Polish legend,”Gingerbread”. The tales are about two completely different female characters: in the Italian tale we have a spoiled girl who doesn’t care about people around her while in the Polish legend there is a kind and helpful girl that everyone trusts. Other legends deal  with some brothers who are fighting for supremacy, as it happens in “Romolo and Remo and the foundation of Rome” or in “Wavel Dragon – 2”


In this legend there is the little girl’s desire for  something more than what she already has and her father’s desire to make his daughter happy.The same thing can be found in the “Tale of Mr Twardowski”, where the man isn’t happy with his life and so he begins asking wishes to the devil. In “Lake Misurina and Mount Sorapiss” we likewise have the transformation of the king into a mountain  and the one of the girl into a lake as the result of the challenge set by the fairy. A similar situation happens in the third Bulgarian legend of the  “Belogradchik rocks”, where people are transformed into rocks , and in “Rhodopa”. Misurina is loved only by her father (legend 1) and by the whole village (legend 2), the principal character in “Rhodopa”  is a beautiful girl loved by everybody, both men and gods. One of the Gods , God Hemus,  falls in love with her and is jealous of everyone who looks at her, so he hides her using some stones but both common people and the Gods can still see her. In the end, God Hemus turns her into a mountain to protect her from men and Gods once and for all. This is the similarity;  however, there’s also a difference in these two legends: in the Italian legend the King accepts to turn into a mountain because he loves his daughter and he would do anything for her. In the Bulgarian legend instead  GodHemus turns the girl into a mountain being extremely jealous of her.

While the two transformations  happen out of love and because of the decision of only one person, in the second legend of the “Belogradchik  rocks” the transformation into rocks is a sort of  miracle that allows the two lovers to remain forever close to each other and hold their baby in their arms.

The family situation appears in the relationship between Misurina and her father, and a similar connection can be made with the Polish legend “Gingerbread”. However, Katharina has a very good relationship with her father built on loyalty and she also helps him in times of need, while Misurina despises everyone and is utterly selfish.

In this legend, there are various situations which recur a lot in other legends, like the protagonist, generally a girl, who is escaping from some enemies and whose escape culminates in a jump and eventually her death. However, there are also important differences, like the result of the jump. In fact, in the Italian legend the protagonist survives miraculously thanks to the angels, but then she does it again to show the miracle to the other villagers and kills herself. In other stories, like The Bride’s Cave, the girl immediately dies and the reason for her action is different, in fact she jumps not to save herself, but to commit suicide, because she got married with someone she didn’t like and couldn’t stand. Then some legends have a different protagonist, like  The Master Builder Manole or Belogradichik Rocks, where the protagonists are two men who both die after jumping. The first one was trying to escape and save himself, meanwhile the second one was pushed by his herd’s ram. In the other legend, St. Petka and the stone bread, the major similarity is the girl escaping from her enemies, but in this case she hides herself in a cave and, after a little break, proceeds to escape by finding another way out.

Beautiful Alda is also similar to The legend of Mount Ślęża because in both legends Angels help humans to face difficult situations. The condition of danger often leaves the characters with no other choice but praying the angels, the Virgin or the saints for salvation. This is what Alda does. The same situation is found in the Lithuanian legend “The hill of Crosses” (a father prays the Virgin to save his daughters) and in the Romanian legend “The Lady’s Rock” (a girl asks for salvation from the Turks)


In this legend, the main situation is the eternal battle between good and evil, between man and the devil, who tempts him or fights him whenever he can. This is probably one of the most common situations which can be found in the majority of the tales. Anyway, there are also  differences that make every story special: in the Legend of Mount Ślęża, the clash is between the angels and the devils, who disturb the people by covering the area with rocks, while in the italian tale it is between St. Ambrogio and the Devil itself, who wants him not to be the Archbishop of Milan. In Bies and Czady, the devil figure is represented by the beast Bies, who was envious of his land and didn’t want to share it with anyone, showing a completely different plot compared to St. Ambrogio’s. Then we have Punkutas Stone and Devil’s Stone, which have a big similarity between them: they both have devils that, to mess around or hurt people, use a gigantic stone, but at the end it is a big failure. To follow, there is the Lady’s Rock story, which differs in its plot, where the devil wants to steal the goods of a wealthy king and by doing so, he dies with the queen  when some rocks crush down on them. At the end, we have the Tale of Mr.Twardowski, a celebrated doctor in Poland who wants to be known all over the world and have more power. So he proceeds to meet the Devil, who gives him what he desires in exchange for his soul. He accepts, but in the end, when the devil comes to rescue his spirit, he flies off with a magical rooster to the moon. The whole story is different, but the Devil always has a mayor role and is always defeated in the fight against good.


In this legend, we can see one of the most recurring scene ever, the battle between the dragon and the hero, which can be seen also as a clash between good and evil. Legends with this plot  are very common and they usually end with the defeat of the beast and the marriage between the young boy and a beautiful lady or princess. Saint George and the Dragon  is similar to  the Polish “Legend about Wawel Dragon”, where a dragon that menaces a city and creates fear is killed by a young man.

Similar stories are the “Dragon Garden” with a fight between a young boy and a dragon (victory of the human), and also “The Living Fire”, where a rider fights and defeats the dangerous dragon.

Saint George is put to death because he hasn’t given up his Christian faith. His aim is to reach the highest number of  non-believers through his miraculous deeds, in order to convert them to Christianity.

The same task is pursued by the Order of the Dragon, one of whose members is Vlad’s father, also known as “Dracula”. As a matter of fact, the main goal of the Order is to protect the interests of Christianity and to defeat  corruption and crime. This is the reason why Vlad imposes his will by  standing mercilessly in the way of the  enemies and using the most wicked methods ,such as impalement.


All the legends are based on the fight between positive and negative forces; at the end of each story, stones remain as a memory of the struggle. The stone bread, the rocks in Raigard as well as the rock in Saint Galgano’s tale are the present sign of what happened in the past and remind us of  the defeat of evil forces.

The legend of San Galgano also presents the situation of a woman (Galgano’s mother) who started to pray and invoke the Saints to get pregnant. We can find a similarity in the third legend of the “Belogradchik rocks”, where thanks to a miracle a woman already resigned gets a triplet, but while the three of them were killed by a crazy man (so they didn’t decide their own destiny), Galgano first decides to lead a life of crime and then converts himself to Christianity

The temptation by Satan is a similarity between Galgano and the protagonist of the legend about  Mount Ślęża (Poland) and the legend The Devil’s bridge (Bulgaria); while the dream as the means to point out the good path is a connection with the Romanian legend about MasterulManole

People have always created legends to give explanations on how the cities were founded and  by who. One of the most famous is the Italian legend talking about the brothers Romolo and Remo. After an unusual childhood (raised by a she-wolf), they decided to found a city but, led by the desire of owning the entire city, Romolo killed Remo and so he became the absolute king.

The “Legend about Kaunas city foundation” is very similar, because the city is founded by a family unit and at the end someone is killed. Another city foundation can also be found in the “Legend about Vilnius city foundation”.

An additional  comparable legend to the Italian one is the Polish “Legend about Wawel Dragon”. Here two brothers  fight to have more honor and power, like Romolo and Remo, not because they want to found a city but because they want to kill a dragon.  Their end is similar to the Romans’ one: one of them kills the other one but, instead of getting all the power, the credit goes to the murdered brother.

A further situation that can link the Italian legend to an international one is the relationship of the mother of the two brothers with a god. This type of relationship appears in “Rhodopa”, where a god falls in love with a human, in the “Legend about Naringa’s conquest” and in “The Pirin’s Dragon” with the union of a woman with a dragon.

The only difference is that, while in the Lithuanian and in the Italian legend the two figures defend their humans, in the Bulgarian one the god cannot live with the knowledge  that his woman is desired by other men and decides to transform her into a mountain.

The role undertaken by the she-wolf in the legend about Romolo and Remo can be compared with that of the nymphs in the Bulgarian legend “Belintash”: in fact both of them look after the newborns like they were their birth mothers. 

The legend of Scylla and Charibdis has many situations similar to other legends.

The never ending challenge between good and evil is to be found in this legend: be it a fire-breathing dragon or a sea monster, the supernatural creature stands for the evil influencing people’s life. So we find the knights fighting against the dragon (Saint George and the dragon and the wavel dragon) or the sailors fighting against Scylla and Charibdis. As the good sailors worked hard to avoid being caught in the whirlpools created by the evil monsters, so the knights fought against the dragons.  The wrath of sea creatures who destroy everything around them is common to the Lithuanian legend of Neringa’s conquest. Also Bies in the Polish legend is so envious of his possessions that he spreads fear and destruction around him.

Another recurring situation is the transformation of beautiful girls: the Bulgarian Rhodopa transforms into a mountain, just like the Italian Misurina, the Iele nymphs are another example. The difference is that in the Italian legend os Scylla and Charibdis, the two girls turn into horrible and violent monsters who have nothing of the charm of the nymphs or of mountains.