Danila Prepeleac – The Man Who Tricked the Devil
Romanian mythology and folklore present a more comic image of the Devil. Also, in many cases, the Devil is fooled by clever humans who manage to escape him by means of various tricks. One example of a human trickster is the character Danila Prepeleac, from the tale written by author Ion Creangă.
Ion Creangă, the creator of the character Danila Prepeleac. (Public Domain)
As he had gotten himself into a lot of trouble, Danila Prepeleac stole his brother’s mare to run away. He entered a forest and reached the lake in the middle of it. Danila looked at the plain near the lake and thought that he might make a good monk. So, he decided to build a monastery there. He marked the place with a wooden cross and began to gather the wood he needed to start the construction.
Danila Meets a Devil
Suddenly, a devil came out of the pond and asked him what he was doing. When the man replied that he was building a monastery, the devil said that the place belonged to him and his kind. Seeing that there was no way to reason with the human, the devil jumped back into the lake and told Scaraoschi (the Romanian name for the chief of the devils, Satan himself) what was going on.
Suddenly, a devil came out of the pond and asked him what he was doing. (1975 Animafilm)
Desperate, Scaraoschi sent a devil to give Danila a huge sack full of gold in order to stop him from building the monastery on their space. When the devil gave Danila the sack, the man accepted - admitting that he preferred money over being a monk.
Upon returning to the lake, the devil saw that Scaraoschi was very upset over having lost the gold. As the man was getting ready to leave with the money, another devil came out of the lake. He told Danila that before he could rightfully take the money, they had to have a contest of strength. Should the man win, he would keep the money; if not, the devil would take it back to his leader.
The Contests Begin
The first contest implied carrying the mare on one’s back and running in circles around the lake three times. The devil took the mare and ran without stopping and without putting the mare down. Having seen the devil’s strength, Danila said that he could do better. He said that instead of holding the mare with his arms, he would hold it with his legs, so he jumped on the mare and rode it three times around the lake.
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Having been tricked, the devil had to come up with something else, so he decided on a running contest. Danila said that he was way too good at running and, if the devil wanted to compete against him, he first had to compete against his son. The man showed the devil a rabbit and told him that was his youngest son. The rabbit soon won against the devil and, again, the devil had to think of something else.
The devil proposed a wrestling competition. Once again, Danila told him that if he wanted to compete against him, he first had to defeat one of his family members – this time his 999-year-old uncle. The man took the devil to a cave where a bear was sleeping. He told the devil that it was his uncle and that he had to wrestle him first. The bear quickly defeated the devil and the devil had to come up with some other way of retrieving the money.
The bear quickly defeated the devil… (Animafilm)
The devil ultimately proposed a screaming contest. He screamed first making the earth tremble. Danila said he had barely heard that, so he made his opponent scream two more times.
When it was the man’s turn, he said that he could scream so loud that his scream could kill the devil. As a protection method, he had to tie the devil’s eyes and ears for his own good.
Then, Danila went behind the devil and smacked him hard with a large oak bat he found on the ground. The devil begged him to stop, but Danila said he too had to scream three times just as the devil had done, so he smacked the devil again and again in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Desperate, the devil finally jumped back into the pond.
As a protection method, he had to tie the devil’s eyes and ears for his own good. Then, Danila went behind the devil and smacked him hard with a large oak bat he found on the ground. (Animafilm)
A Third Devil
Suddenly a third devil came out of the lake. He carried with him a huge mace and proposed a final mace throwing contest. The devil threw the mace so hard that it went down to the depths of the earth and made the entire world tremble. When it was the man’s turn, Danila made the devil look at the moon.
He showed him some dark spots on the moon and said that those were his brothers from another world. He added that they were always in great need of iron, so there was no way to retrieve the mace one it had been thrown.
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As Danila was getting ready to throw away the mace, the devil quickly stopped him. He explained to the man that the mace had been with them for generations and that it was a very precious heirloom. Then the devil took the mace and jumped back into the pond.
Danila prepared to throw the mace “to the moon.” (CC BY SA 4.0)
Danila Defeats the Final Devil
Soon enough, a fourth and final devil came out of the lake proposing a cursing contest. The devil began to curse and curse, until one of the man’s eyes exploded. Even though he was in pain, Danila could still think and came up with a plan. He told the devil that all his curses were at home, so they both had to go there to finish the contest.
Romanian postage stamp depicting the devil carrying Danila and the bag of gold to Danila’s home. (1982) (Jocuri din copilărie)
This also solved another one of the man’s problems, namely that of carrying the huge sack of gold all the way home. The devil took the sack on his back and Danila jumped on top of the sack. In this way, the two went to the man’s house.
Ion Creangă’s Bojdeuca (tiny hut) in Iaşi, Romania. (Andrei Stroe /CC BY 3.0)
There, Danila asked his children to take out all the rough iron combs (normally used to prepare wool) and to give the devil “a makeover”. The children scratched at the devil’s flesh, making him run away in terror…
That was the last of the man’s dealings with the devils, and he led a happy life surrounded by his beloved family.
By: Valda Roric
Featured Image: The devil carrying Danila Prepeleac. Source: Vali Petridean
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