Baba Dochia

Romanian tales and stories series

Baba Dochia, old woman Dochia, was living with her son.  Life was probably a disappointment for her, because she was the kind of woman always bitter, sarcastic and in general angry at everyone and everything. When her son married a young and kind woman and brought her home, Baba Dochia could not stop nagging and scolding her. The poor girl could not do a thing right.

On top of that, that year, when the daughter in law moved into the house, the winter was the harshest, longest ever. People could not get the cold out of their bones anymore. The snow blizzards were devastating. The wood and coals were running out. And it was already end of February.

Baba Dochia blamed the daughter in law for bringing along this cold winter. One day, she was so mean that she pushed the young woman outside in the bitter cold. Then she told her not to return until she found snowdrops and brought her a bunch of them to show her that Spring was arriving. The girl cried and begged but the door was kept shot.   

The girl decided to walk through the forest and climb the nearest mountain until she couldn’t anymore. She was freezing cold. All she could see was deep, thick snow and ice. Until, she heard some voices. She walked a bit further and to her surprise, she saw around a big fire, twelve men. They all looked different and dressed different. One was leading the discussion and the girl understood that they were the twelve months and February was talking. She burst into tears and the month slistened to her story. They were baffled. Who would do such a thing? March was so upset that he pushed February away, took the lead and as a miracle, a bunch of snowdrops appeared.

Thanking the months for helping her out, the girl quickly returned home and her mother-in-law, Baba Dochia was very much surprised. She let the girl in and she was happy with the snowdrops. But, she thought, I should have asked for something much better.

The next day, Baba Dochia send the girl away again and this time said not to return unless she brought a basket full of strawberries. The girl cried and begged again, but no chance. She walked to the place she found the twelve months, but they were gone. The girl was devastated and didn’t know what to do … when an old man appeared. He had a long, grey beard, his body was wrapped in a heavy, woolen clog and he was holding a big stick. He presented himself as being Saint Peter and listened to the girl story. He also found Baba Dochia outrageous. He kneeled down and prayed to God together with the girl.  When they opened their eyes, a basket full of strawberries was standing in the snow.

Baba Dochia could not believe her eyes when her daughter in law handed her the strawberries. She looked outside, it was all still white and cold. But she believed that spring had returned on the mountain the girl told her she found the snowdrops and strawberries. She decided to wear her nine coats to keep warm and take her sheep and walk up the mountain. Her son and daughter asked her not to leave, it was still winter, but she would not listen.  

All this time, March was watching her. He felt for the girl who he met before. He could now see that Baba Dochia was so arrogant, so defying all the rules of nature that March decided to talk to Saint Peter and God. Together they decided to teach her a lesson. March asked February to give him a few days to start earlier. And February did. So, March started to send sunshine, and then blizzards, and then storms, and then hazel and then rains all over Baba Dochia. Her coats got drenched and heavy and she had to get rid of them.

On the ninth day, March decided to send in the heaviest frost ever. Baba Dochia froze to death together with her sheep and they eventually all turned into stone.  

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There are two stone formation in the Carpathian Mountains that are referred to as Baba Dochia or Babele. It is believed that these stones stand for the transition between old and new, the changes of the weather. In Romania today there is still a custom of choosing your baba-day; day between the 1st and 9th of march, and how the weather will be that day, so will be the rest of the year for you.  

The beauty about folktales and other old stories is that if you look closer, you see how history and changes in society unfolds. The legend of Baba Dochia, the Romanian tale I am sharing with you today, is one of those. There are actually two main versions of the story. But today I choose to share this one, mainly because I know that this version has direct connections with similar stories in Bulgaria and other regions.

The roots of this legend are ancient, long before Christianity made its entrance in Europe.  It shows us a setting where the people were more connected to the laws of nature and the lunar pace of the months during a year. The surprising appearance of Saint Peter is a clear sign that the original story has been altered with after Christianism started to mingle and even in some places take over the yearly celebrations, since then called pagan.

Today, on the 9th of March, a newer, Christian story is being celebrated as well. “Mucenici” is the orthodox celebration of the 40 martyrs of Sebaste.  Forty roman soldiers who died because they chose the Christian belief in 320 AD. Traditionally, women bake 40 sweet pastry breads in the form of the infinity shape. Once again, old stories and new stories meet and mingle.

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