I haven’t been online in a while but!! I got a request to translate a song (actually a poem based on folklore) from Bulgarian, called Dragon’s Bridge!! The version they sent me, however, was incomplete, and while I translate it, here’s a bit of info:
The most popular version which we know to this day is a poem by Petko Slaveykov, written in 1873, and it’s known as the Spring of the White-footed, as the main character, Gergana, was seen by the ottoman vezir when she was at a spring, washing her feet. He falls in love with her and attempts to convince her to follow him to Istanbul and marry him, he describes the lavish life she will be able to lead there and all the luxuries he can provide for her, but she refuses as she says that no matter how much he loves her, she is unable to love him as much as her birthplace, her betrothed, and her family (this was written at a time of transition so Slaveykov was very much implying that traditional, family-based morals should be preserved). Gergana’s firmness impresses the vezir and he respects her choice and leaves, but not before ordering to have a fountain built at the location of the spring, to honour the maiden.
However, in the second part of the poem she grows ill and weak and dies. This is because of the belief that a person must be walled into significant constructions (such as city walls, fountains, etc), in order for them to be durable and protected from evil. A very long time ago, slavic peoples would literally wall people in, but even after they stopped, the ritual persisted in another form - instead of literally walling in the person, they would wall their shadow. That happened by measuring their shadow while they aren’t looking and symbolically placing that measurement into the construction. The shadow is an expression of a person’s life force, so even though their body hasn’t been walled in, they still grow weaker and die as a result, at least according to myth. What’s more, it doesn’t suffice to wall in ANY person. It has to be a healthy young person whose character embodies as many qualities important in that society as possible. Beauty was among them, and so was persistence, and so it’s no wonder that they chose Gergana. More tomorrow :)
Samodiva (fairy tale)
I’m going to translate stories from this book (although not in order), which is where my icon & sidebar picture is from. The story I’ll be translating is found in many versions, my favourite one being Kushkundalevo which is much longer than this, so if I find the book it’s in, I’ll be sure to translate it as well.
Notes to help you with understanding the story: About the samodivi; The kaval is a musical instrument the samodivi are fond of; Horo is a traditional Bulgarian circle dance, which is what the samodivi often dance; You can call an elderly person “grandfather” or “grandmother” when you’re familiar with them, but it’s still used with respect (it’s not used much nowadays). In return, elderly people might call younger ones “son” or “daughter”; The Bulgarian name for the flower Geum is “Omayniche” which comes from the word “Omaya”, meaning enchantment;
Beautiful Dobrinka and The Sun (folk song)
Notes you’ll need for the song: Tundzha and Maritsa are rivers, Dobrudzha is a particularly fruitful region in northern Bulgaria, where lots of wheat is grown. Zagora is a region in southwest Bulgaria. Georgeovden is the day of Saint George (Georgi in Bulgarian) celebrated on May 6th. Part of the traditions on that day involve swinging on a swing.
Stories of the sun falling in love with a human girl is a frequent motive. I remember reading a fairy tale that had the exact same plan as this, except her mother DID have children before that, but they were all stolen away from bad forces so she called her Grozdanka (from grozen/grozna = ugly), because a bad name will not attract their attention. However, the Sun is a good force, so an ugly name didn’t protect Grozdanka. In this case, Dobrinka is a good name - “dobur/dobra” means good, or nice.
Click read more for translation of the lyrics.
Samodiva/Samovila & Yuda
As far as I’m aware, all, or almost all, Slavic cultures have them in one form or another, and some call them Vili or Wili (the Wili in the ballet “Giselle” are similar), but as I’ve mentioned before, I’m going to put forward the Bulgarian views on them as I’m familiar with them and therefore will be giving more accurate information. They’re seen differently even in different regions of Bulgaria, and if any of you want to make any additions, don’t hesitate to use either my ask or submit.
Самодива (Samodiva), plural Самодиви (Samodivi);
or Самовила (Samovila), plural Самовили (Samovili);
According to Wikipedia, the root of the word lies in very old Indo-European words meaning “divinity”, “demon”, “rave”, “wild”, “virgin” (as in “pure” and “raw”) and “rage”. I can only confirm the “wild” part as “diva” means just that.
While some might be familiar with the enchanting beauty of the Veelas in the Harry Potter series, the Samodivi go much further than that. Personally, when reading Irish folk and fairy tales, I found that they’re quite alike the Celtic fae folk (but not without their differences).
Yes, as far as I know most (if not all) Slavic cultures have them, but I can’t write about them all considering I only have a grasp on the Bulgarian views of them, some other nations might hold other beliefs and if I claimed it was for all of them I might be giving false information!
It’s the same with other mythical creatures too. If anyone would like to add more information about how any creature I’ve posted about (except right now I only have a zmey post…), or just contribute, please let me know. Oh, and maybe I should allow submissions too :)
Masculine form: Змей (Zmey), plural Змейове (Zmeyove);
Feminine form: Змеица (Zmeitsa), plural Змеици (Zmeitsi);
The Zmey is often found in Slavic mythology, and can be considered a counterpart of dragons. In appearance, they are very similar to the western dragons. The Russian Zmey Gorynych, known in Bulgaria as Zmey Goryanin, is green, spits fire, and has three heads. Likewise, lots of zmeyove in stories have multiple heads (usually three or nine).
They are thought to be extremely intelligent and strong, very wealthy (they often reside in palaces), and are proficient magicians. They’re seldom seen as completely evil, although it depends on the story - in mythology they’re sometimes servants of the evil god Chernobog, which makes them very negative. The negative ones are said to send storms and hail which is basically what a hala does, and that is a different creature that is nowadays confused with the zmeyove. They may also dry out wells, rivers, lakes, etc. and ask for people (usually maidens) to be sent for them to devour in return for water.
A Zmey may also turn into an attractive man and lure over girls (or sometimes outright kidnap them). There are many songs about zmey weddings, and you may hear some Bulgarians say that it’s a “zmeyova svatba” (Zmey’s wedding) when the sun is shining while it’s raining. When a zmey and a human have a child, it’s human in appearance, usually male, with extraordinary powers, and a hero.
A lot of websites I looked up contradict each other concerning which being is good and which - evil, but they all agree that the hali and zmeyove are polar opposites and enemies. This is all written with a little support from the internet but I base myself upon personal knowledge so I don’t guarantee a 100% accuracy, however I don’t think I’m wrong either as different regions hold different beliefs.
The mountain has fallen over
I thought I’d start you off with the sidebar song :)
Притури се планината (Prituri se planinata)
Performed by Stefka Sabotinova (Стефка Съботинова)
The mountain has fallen over,
And it buried two shepherds,
And it buried two shepherds,
Two shepherds, two friends.
The first one begs: “Let me go”
"My first love is awaiting me"
The second begs: “Let me go”
"My old mother is awaiting me"
The mountain opens its doorstep (not),
It guards the two shepherds.
First love grieves until noon,
But mother grieves until the grave.