About a life devoted to the love for Folklore, Mythology, Legends and.....Art

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tell me a story; The Iele

The following story was send to me along with some touching words. Iulia told me how much the following myth meant to her as it was one of those tales she was raised with. She also shared her "concerns" as she noticed how the stories of her people are less and less well known among the younger generations.

Unfortunately this is not only true in Romania. It is a shame. But we must recognize our oral heritage is declining, and worst of all we are responsible for it ourselves.

I do not want to sound overly pessimistic but I am often disappointed in the lack of interest people have in their own culture. On the other hand I am also often pleasantly surprised to see how a myth survives in modern times. And this, luckily, happens often as well.

Like Marie, who submitted the story of the Breton Ankou, Iulia did not wanted me to give her credit for the story as she said the story did not belong to her but to her people. It is always very touching to hear these words, because this is the true nature of folk tales. It is not the voice of one person but those of an entire people. And as long I am hearing these words I am not at all that concerned, because I know there are people out there knowing the true meaning of the words.....

NOTE: would you also like to see your story get illustrated? please check out my previous blog post here and read the guidelines.

(Please, click picture for bigger and better view)

Story Title: The Iele
Submitted by: From the Romanian people
Country: Romania

Not so long ago, living anywhere in the countryside, you could often hear words such as “Oh dear, such a pity of this boy! He must have been charmed by the Iele”.
Ielele are often described as very beautiful girls with charming powers, extremely talented dancers (usually in groups of three, seven or twelve), and living in nice and isolated places; small flowering meadows, in the forests or sometimes at abandoned crossroads or homes. The life in the forests gives them all they need; feeding themselves with the fruits and herbs and drinking clear water from the cold mountain springs.

Some say they are protectors of nature and their place of living is a sacred one, others say they are just mischievous spirits, taking revenge on people for having seen them or interrupting their ritual.

One thing is for sure, they do like dancing and singing! The beautiful girls have twinkling bells on their ankles and go dancing in the forests at night, when the moon is high. Their dance is light; some even say they dance in the air, flying. Oh, and when they dance…they do dance charmingly, with yellow flowers in their hair, holding hands in a fast hora (a very fast traditional circle dance from the Carpathian – Balkan region, encountered mostly in Romania and Bulgaria). Many say that where they have danced, next morning, you can see the burned ground and grass in the form of a circle. In this place, there will hardly be any vegetation growing again and if it grows, no animal would want to eat it.

Many legends in many different regions in Romania speak about young boys and men who have been caught spying on them. The Ielele took their revenge by charming, seducing and taking their minds away (making them crazy). If you hear them singing you will turn deaf, and if you answer to them when they call your name, you will lose your voice. This is the punishment a human receives when interfering with the natural course of a sacred ritual performed by the Iele.

There are many folk songs, poems and “zicatori” (popular sayings) about common people’s encounters with these beings, some good, some bad, some as the people’s heart.

(* grammar note: “Iele” – always used in plural. There is no singular term, since they are always seen as a small collectivity. “Ielele” is the articulated form.)


  1. Oh, how I love this series! It's a wonderful collection you're building.
    I wonder if perhaps the Internet is taking the place of some of our oral traditions, and the larger community taking over the regional ones. Old stories like this were the urban legends of their day, after all; made to explain or address concerns of their time (why these circles? Why are these men daft?), and we need new stories to serve the same now...
    Ah, ignore me, I'm rambling. But this is a great collection!

  2. Thank you Carapace and please, don't apologize for sharing your thoughts. In fact I think there is truth in what you just said...