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In Search of Bulgarian legends

"Bulgaria proved to be extremely rich in stories" - says one of the authors of the book "Myths and Legends from Bulgaria", Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vihra Baeva

Photo: Facebook/vihra.baeva

Dragons, fairies, legends of magical lakes and fantastic mountain peaks, tales of monasteries and extraordinary adventures from the past, sometimes far back to the beginning of time - they all unlock our childlike ability to accept life as a fairy tale, as a battlefield where evil meets good, where courage conquers even the humblest of human beings. A fairy tale to live in.

This magical world is within the pages of a book - the latest popular science book "Myths and Legends from Bulgaria" from the "Grand Book" series by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Veselka Toncheva and Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vihra Baeva. The two ladies have been engaged in folklore studies for 20 years as part of the team of the Institute of Ethnology and Folklore Studies with the Ethnographic Museum at the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Three years ago they have collected in a "Grand Book" everything important and interesting about Bulgarian holidays and customs. In their latest book they focus on the myths and legends in Bulgarian folklore.

Myths were the first stories passed down from person to person that dealt with universal life questions such as the creation of the world, explains Vihra Baeva. Legends came next, and legends referred to specific places, people or objects in the landscape of an area.

In our tradition there were also the so-called transitional legendary tales, which were again related to a specific place, but had a magical element - a miraculous icon or a mythical creature. A good example of this is the legend of Tsar Ivan Shishman, who was beheaded. Where drops of his blood fell, miraculous springs gushed.

"Myths and Legends from Bulgaria" is a collection of 110 stories from all geographical regions of the country. Some of the tales were recorded by the two folklorists personally in the field. Along with the typical folk tales that come from the depths of time and tell of mythical creatures, there are also those that merge with modern times and keep us close to the past.

Vihra Baeva and Veselka Toncheva

"Personally, I was very impressed by a different type of stories that are perhaps less known and are relatively new, says Vihra Baeva. - It is the theme of the poor boy, an orphan with a difficult childhood who, thanks to his enterprise and resourcefulnessbecomes rich, has a fortune and is a respected man in society who develops charitable activities and helps his fellow citizens.

There are several such figures from different places. I am reminded of the story of Krustyo Shipkov from Kazanlak, who followed this folk model."

The story of the village of Sklave, near Sandanski, is also very curious. Legend has it that it was the birthplace of the famous gladiator Spartacus. Among the popular local attractions are the gladiator games, which are held in the village stadium in mid-June, when the village festival is held.

This is a family book. It will appeal to both young children and their parents. But the most important thing for the two authors is that it is a virtual journey through Bulgaria and the places of its legends, and they hope it will evoke a desire for real adventures.


So the stories are arranged by region and each is followed by brief notes on how to get to the location - in some cases there is also information on points of interest such as cliffs, peaks, lakes, fountains, ruins of fortresses, churches and monasteries and other places that root history in the surrounding landscape. Thus, the book is also a kind of guidebook to the "legend tourism", says Associate Professor Dr. Baeva.

"The world we live in is different now, but still it seems to me that there are some fundamental human values that have not lost their meaning even today. And they are related to kindness, courage, not giving up and looking for a way to cope with difficulties. Folklore provides some positive examples and we will not go wrong if we turn to it more often," – says Vihra Baeva. 


Compiled by: Vesela Krusteva (interview by Katia Vasileva, BNR-Radio Sofia)

Editor: Elena Karkalanova

English version: Elizabeth Radkova

Photos: Facebook/vihra.baeva

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