Romanian Tales

Romanian Tales

Translated by Christina Mambet and Troy Morash

1. A Man's Duty is to Try

"From where are you coming with fish, Costache, Vasile and Gheorghe? Why did you not take me with you?" a man asked his friends.

"You can also fish," said Vasile.


"You take a small branch and tie a piece of string to it, then you tie a worm to the string and you can catch fish."

The man then said to himself, "Why can I not catch fish now?" He made a fishing rod and climbed onto the roof of his house and threw his line with the worm over the side. Somebody who was passing by on the road saw him and asked, "What are you doing Ioane?"

"Can't you see that I am fishing."

"But on the roof of your house? There isn't even water around."

"A man's duty is to try!"

2. The Horse Egg

Once upon a time there was a man who had a garden of white pumpkins. While he was picking pumpkins in the autumn some gypsies were walking by on the road.

"Hey, man, what are these?" the gypsies asked.

Whereupon the man answered, "What else? Horse eggs!"

"What are you doing with them, man? Would you give me one?" the gypsy asked.

"I'll give you one if you give me one hundred lei." The man then gave the gypsy a pumpkin and the gypsy gave the man a hundred lei. The gypsy looked at the pumpkin for a moment and then asked, "Hey you man, what am I supposed to do with this thing?"

The man answered, "Go to your tent and tomorrow morning climb a hill where some carts are passing and sit on the egg for three weeks until it hatches and you will see how you can get, from this egg, a horse." So the gypsy did this. That evening the gypsy went with the pumpkin to his tent, and in the morning after he woke up, he put his clothes on his head and went to a hill where some carts were passing so he could sit on the egg in the middle of the road.

Many farmers passed by for it was autumn and they were harvesting their corn and they could not help but notice the gypsy sitting there on his egg. After harvesting, the farmers passed by again to plow their fields and the gypsy was still in the middle of the road sitting on his egg. Finally the farmers asked, "Hey, who are you, what are you doing here?"

The gypsy answered by making a sound like a goose, to say he was hatching. Others passed by and noticing that the gypsy did not get up, kept walking along, minding their own business and others did the same. Then one day the man who had given the gypsy the pumpkin was passing by on the road and said to him, "Hey you gypsy, get up from there." And the gypsy made the noise of a goose just to be sure that he would hatch a good egg. "Get away from here, you are blocking the road!" And the gypsy again answered like a goose. The farmer then began to beat the gypsy with a whip. Then the gypsy spoke, "You've made me abandon my egg."

Then the farmer kicked the pumpkin down the hill and as it rolled it broke into pieces near a bush and in the bushes there was a baby rabbit which was scared and ran away when the pumpkin broke. Then the gypsy said, "Hey you Romanian, I've worked three weeks to hatch this egg and now the little horse is running away to the woods!"

And with that the gypsy began to run after his little horse shouting, "Whoa, stop little horse!"

3. The Donkey Tied to the Train

When the train appeared for the first time in our countryside, there was a man who had to go to court in Craiova, which was far away. The train station, however, was far from his house so what was he to do? Then he thought to ride his donkey to the station. And so he did. Upon waking up early in the morning, he traveled on his donkey to the station. When the train arrived the man did not know where to put his donkey so he tied it to a train wagon. When the train started to move the poor donkey had no choice but to run with it and when the train began to move very fast the donkey could not keep up and was soon being dragged along behind the train. Seeing this the man began to shout, "Stop, stop, because my donkey is being skinned alive!" However the conductor stopped where he was supposed to stop which was at the next station. And when the man saw that his donkey was dead he said to the conductor, "Oh what is the point of stopping now? My donkey is already dead!"

4. Crossing a Small Bridge

One morning a man went for a walk and came to a large river. The only way to cross this river was by way of a small bridge. So the man stopped to think for a moment and than decided to pray to the Virgin Mary to help him cross the bridge. He prayed and prayed and walked and walked until he was in the middle of the bridge whereupon he slipped into the water. He managed but only with great difficulty to reach the shore and then said, "Oh, to do business with women!"

5. The Tail of a Cat

Once upon a time there were two boys who were shop assistants. When the time came, they married and went their separate ways. One of them married a good girl who did all that he said. From the beginning of the beginning his wife feared him. After the wedding while they were sitting down for the first time at the table in their house it happened that the cat passed near the table and touched it with its tail, whereupon the man quickly attacked the cat and cut its tail off with his knife saying out loud, "Anybody who does wrong to me, receives the same back!" His wife who was frightened, respected his words and so from then on she did exactly as he said. He walked whenever he wanted and did whatever he wanted, and everything was well. He opened a shop and did very well.

After a time the other man married too but his wife controlled him. In the morning she wouldn't let him get up early to open his shop. Instead they'd go walking and would do nothing. Today, tomorrow it was all the same until they were bankrupt. What could he do? Then remembering his friend, he went to him and asked what he had done to make himself successful and ask why he himself was so unsuccessful after he was married. His friend replied, "Hey you, when you got married did you cut the tail off the cat?"

"No. What is this trick?"

The other then told him the story of what he had done and the unsuccessful man said, "I'll go home and cut the tail off of my cat as well."

"Well, if you didn't cut it off from the beginning, it's too late now!"

6. The Educated Man and the Peasant

An educated man made a wager with a peasant; if the peasant couldn't answer the man's questions he would have to give up three Lei for each question. The educated man asked the first question and the peasant answered, "I don't know. I will give you three Lei." The same thing happened with the next two questions so the educated man took from the peasant nine Lei. At his turn the peasant wished to ask the educated man a question but if he could not answer it he would have to give up five thousand Lei to the peasant. The educated man agreed. "What goes in the morning with two legs, at noon with four and in the evening with six legs?" The educated man did not know the answer and so give up five thousand Lei to the peasant. Afterwords, the educated man was curious and so asked the peasant what the answer was. The peasant said, "I don't know. I will give you three Lei."

7. Father is in the Attic

A man stole a goat from someone and told his children and his wife that if someone should ask about him, to say that he was not at home. The man who owned the goat went straight to the thief and shouted at the thief's wife to get out of the house. The wife said, "My man is not at home." The children also left the house and one of them said, "Father is not at home. Father is in the attic, he's skinning the goat!"

8. The Thief and the Priest

Once upon a time there was a thief who stole often and so decided one day it best to go to the priest to take confession. At that time the priest wore a purse around his neck, under his robes, where he kept money he had taken from the people, although it was not common among traditional priests. The thief knelt down and with a knife cut the purse from the priest's neck without the priest noticing. The thief then said, "Look, I've stolen a purse full of money. What should I do with it?"

"You must give it back for it is a sin," the priest answered.

"Why should I go from here to there, I'll just give it to you. Please take it."

"No, no, go and give it to the man you have stolen it from."

The thief answered, "I did and I begged him to take it but he refused."

"Then you can keep it," the priest said, "because I can do nothing for you."

The thief then said to the priest, "But I've done something even worse. You know when your horse was stolen? Well it was I who had stolen it."

"Boy these things will be forgiven as well," the priest answered, "but look what you must do: in the afternoon we must call the whole village, men and women, to the church and I'll preach and you must tell the truth. I'll tell the truth first and then you tell the truth after me."

"Well," the thief answered, "that sounds okay."

After lunch the village came and the priest began to preach, "Good people, this man, all he says, is the truth. He tells no lies. Listen to what he says."

The thief then went to sit on a high place so everyone could see him and said, "Brothers, you know, all children from our village who have red hair are the priest's children!"

9. My Pipe is with Him!

Once upon a time there was an old gypsy walking along the Olt River together with other people. Then at a certain moment, after climbing into a tree, the gypsy fell into the river and drowned. The people who pulled him out saw that he was dead and met up with the dead gypsy's son and said, "You, Ioane, your father is dead!"

Whereupon son replied, "Oh and my pipe is with him!"

10. Money Attracts Money

Once upon a time there was a poor man who wanted to become rich and wailed all the time because he was poor. He went to work for a rich nobleman and after serving him for a long time; he gained a gold coin. After that he saw where the nobleman kept his money and one night he went and put his hand through the nobleman's window with the gold coin in his hand and repeated over again, "Money attracts money."

In the meantime, some dogs smelled him and ran at him, one even bit him in the leg. At that moment he dropped the coin and ran away muttering to himself, "It's true, that money does attract money!"

11. Give me your Hand

A priest was walking along the water and somehow he fell into it. Some people saw this and rushed to his rescue saying, "Priest, give us your hand! Priest, give us your hand!" The priest, however, did not want to give them his hand thinking that they were asking him for something and so he drowned.

The people went to his wife and told her what had happened. The priest's wife then replied, "Well, why didn't you tell him that you were offering your hand to save him instead of telling him to give you his hand for you know he is a very greedy man and will never give you anything. It was better for him to drown then to give up his hand in order to be saved."

12. Tale with a Piglet

A gypsy man and a Romanian went to a fair one fine day to buy a piglet together. Afterwords the gypsy man said, "Now that we have the piglet, how shall we share it?" The gypsy man, however, was only thinking of how to trick the Romanian.

"Well, what do you think we should do," the Romanian asked.

At that moment the gypsy man answered, "My idea is to fry the piglet and then have us take a nap. The one who dreams the nicer dream shall be the one to eat it." The Romanian agreed. They fried the piglet and after that they went to sleep. The gypsy man didn't sleep because he was thinking of a story to tell. At the same time the Romanian could not sleep as well, for he suspected that the gypsy man was planning to trick him. Finally after thinking too much, the gypsy man fell asleep. Seeing this the Romanian quietly arose from his bed, ate the piglet and just as quietly slipped back into his bed. The gypsy man did not know what had happened.

In the morning, after they woke up, the Romanian asked the gypsy man, "What did you dream?"

"Well, I dreamed that I was in a beautiful field with many, many flowers. While I was walking there I saw a tall, tall ladder that reached the sky. I climbed up the ladder and in the sky I saw a house, and guess who was there that God and his Wife. They were seated around a table. That God said to his Wife, 'Ask that gypsy man to join us for dinner.' Then I went to their table and ate a lot. Isn't that a nice dream?"

"Very nice."

"And you, what did you dream?"

"Well, it was something like your dream. It had a beautiful field with flowers, a ladder which I climbed and then I saw that same God sitting at the table. That God told his Wife, 'Send that Romanian to eat the piglet, for the gypsy man is eating with us!'

"What did you do?" the gypsy asked nervously.

"I ate it of course." The Romanian said patting his stomach.

13.The Tailor

In one village a peasant wanted a new coat. First he bought the fabric and then he went to a tailor. However the tailor said that there was not enough fabric for a coat of that kind. The peasant, discontent, decided to go to a different tailor. Finally he found one who agreed to do his coat. A few days later when he returned to the tailor to take his coat, the peasant was surprised to see the tailor's boy wearing a coat made from his own fabric. He asked, "How is it possible that the first tailor told me there was not enough fabric and now with you there remains enough fabric for the child's coat?"

"Well," the tailor said, "I have only one small devil of a child, but the other tailor has three."

14. The Wife and the Cow

One day a peasant's wife passed away. He became quite upset because they had lived together for many years without quarrels or misunderstandings. He mourned her for a few days, talked about her to some people but after a short period of time he left her to rest in peace and turned all his attention on his business. A short time later the peasant's cow became ill and after a few days of being in pain it also died. The cow was a dowry because with the milk it gave, the peasant could support his entire household. After its death the peasant mourned and grieved for many, many days. He complained to everyone and told everyone how good she was. Even after an entire month he still couldn't accept the fact that it had died. Seeing this the priest in the village said to him, "Well my son, are you not ashamed of yourself? When your wife died you mourned for her only one or two days and you lived with her in good peace for a whole life. Now when your cow dies you grieve for it for more then a month. Don't you see that people are laughing at you?"

"Of course I am complaining Father. Ever since my wife died more than seven people have come to my house with their daughters proposing that I marry one of them. But do you think that someone has come to give me a cow?"

15. In Hell

As everyone knows, all the weak and sinful people, the murderers, the villains, the unfaithful man and even the ordinary thieves, go to hell after they die. There the devil makes them toil, burns them and then throws them into boiling tar and the more guilty they are, the deeper they sink, from their heels to their head.

One day a priest died and his wife being very upset, cried a lot because she loved him. Awhile later she became ill and died as well. Her soul went directly to where it was supposed to go, which was hell, because she did many bad things during her life. After she entered hell she became extremely surprised when she saw her poor husband, the priest, who was wading in tar up to his knees. She went over to him and felt pity not only for him but also for herself because she had tar up to her ankles. She started to complain: "Oh my sweet priest, why do we have such a horrible fate? I feel a burning pain up to my ankles, but poor you, it's worse for you must feel it up to your knees."

The priest leaned over to her and pointed upwards, "Be silent woman, we are lucky, look at his Excellency the bishop; how he is swimming in tar up to his neck!"

English Translation © 2002 Troy Morash. All Rights Reserved.