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A dragon sculpture in Romania.

A balaur (pl. balauri) in Romanian folklore is a type of many-headed dragon or monstrous serpent, sometimes said to be equipped with wings. The number of heads is usually around three, but they can also have seven heads or even twelve heads according to some legends.

The balaur in folktale is typically evil, demanding or abducting young maidens or the princess, and defeated by the hero such as Saint George or the fair youth Făt-Frumos.

There is some lore in which the balaur is considered weather-making, and living in an airborne state, but these types of balaur are sometimes interchangeably called hala or ala, being confounded with the pan-Slavic air and water demon. The balaur (instead of the zmeu) is the vehicle of the weather-controlling Solomonari according to some sources.

There are also legends about the balaur in which they can produce precious stones from their saliva. Also, it is said that whoever manages to slay it will be forgiven a sin.

General description[edit]

In the Romanian language, balauri are "monstrous serpents" or dragons. Alternatively, the word balaur can be used to describe any monster like creature. [1] They are many-headed like the Greek hell-hound Cerberus or the hydra[1][2] and are winged and golden, according to Lazăr Șăineanu.[2]

As reported by journalist Eustace Clare Grenville Murray, in Romanian folklore the balaur or balaurul is a serpentine being who guards treasures and princesses, coming to blows against heroic Fêt-Frumos.[3]

The balaur recurs in Romanian folktales as a ravenous dragon that preys upon maidens only to be defeated by the hero Făt-Frumos ("Handsome Lad").[2] The balaur may also be the abductor of the princess Ileana Cosânzeana,[4] although according to Șăineanu the kidnapper of this princess is a zmeu in the form of giant with pebbly tails[2] (or scaly tails).[5] It is noted that the balaur and the zmeu are often confounded with each other.[2][5]

According to folklorist Tudor Pamfile, there are three types of balauri in folk tradition: water-, land-, and air-dwelling.[6] A type of balaur of the first type is a seven-headed monster that dwells in the well of a village, demanding maidens as sacrifice until defeated by either the hero named Busuioc or by Saint George.[6]

The second type of balaur, according to Pamfile, is said to dwell in the "Armenian land" (Romanian: ţara armenească) where they produce precious stones.[6] In Wallachia, it is also believed that the saliva of a balaur can form precious stones, according to American writer Cora Linn Daniels.[7] Romanian scholar Mircea Eliade noted that the notion a precious stones are formed from a snake's spittle is widespread, from England to China.[a][8]

The balaur is often associated with the weather and is alternatively called hala or ala,[6] which is usually a Slavic term for a weather demon. This is the type Pamfile calls the "third type" that is air-dwelling.[6] When two balauri meet and fight in the air, there ensues various meteorological damages such as uprooting of trees, or objects being tossed about.[6] Another tradition is that the balaur uses the rainbow as its path and sucks moisture from any spot in order to cause rain.[6] There is also lore about the balaur which is said to be quite similar to the Bulgarian Banat lore about the lamia (locally called lam'a), which states that the lam'a draw water from the sea to fill the cloud.[9][b]

Although the dragons ridden by the Solomonari are often said to be zmei (sing. zmeu),[10] they were balauri according to some sources. A balaur was controlled by these weather-controlling sorcerers using "a golden rein" (or golden bridle; Romanian: un frâu de aur).[c] The dragons were usually kept hidden in the depths of a lake, until summoned by their riders.[11][12][13]


The term Balaur (Aromanian bul'ar) is of unknown etymology. It has been linked with Albanian boljë/bollë ("snake") and buljar ("water snake"),[1] terms possibly stemming from the same Thracian root, *bell- or *ber- "beast, monster", the traces of which can also be found in the name of the Greek mythological hero Bellerophon ("the beast killer").[14][15]

The Transylvanian Saxon balaur "dragon", and balaura, an insult term in Serbia, are borrowed from Romanian.[15][16] The Serbo-Croatian blavor/blaor/blavur ("European legless lizard") is cognate with balaur,[17] and is regarded as one of the few pre-Slavic Balkan relict words in Serbo-Croatian.[16]

The maniraptor theropod Balaur bondoc is named after this creature.

Popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ Eliade refers to his paper on the snake stone (adder stone) "Piatra Sarpelui," Mesterului Manole, Bucharest, 1939, pp. 1–12.
  2. ^ The scholar, Anna Plotnikova, concludes that this lamia lore has been "contaminated" with aspects of the lore about the water and air demon (i.e., the hala).
  3. ^ German: ein goldene Zaum.


  1. ^ a b c Nandris, Grigore (1966), "The Historical Dracula: The Theme of His Legend in the Western and in the Eastern Literatures of Europe", Comparative Literature Studies, 3 (4): 377; Reprinted in: Aldridge, Alfred Owen, ed. (1969). Comparative literature: matter and method. University of Illinois Press. p. 124.
  2. ^ a b c d e Sainéan, Lazare (1901), "Terminologie folklorique en roumain", La Tradition, 11: 227
  3. ^ Murray, Eustace Clare Grenville. Doĭne: Or, the National Songs and Legends of Roumania. Smith, Elder. 1854. p. 137.
  4. ^ Feraru, Leon (1929). The Development of Rumanian Poetry. Columbia University. p. 14.
  5. ^ a b Prut, Constantin (1983), translated by Sergiu Marcus, "The World of Fabulous Creatures", Romanian Review, 37 (2–3): 170
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Pamfile, Tudor (1916). "bălaurii". Văzduhul după credințile poporului român. Academia română. Din vieața poporului român, culegeri și studii, XXV. București: Socec & comp. pp. 313–316. Alt URL
  7. ^ Daniels, Cora Linn Morrison; Stevens, Charles McClellan (1903). Encyclopaedia of Superstitions, Folklore, and the Occult Sciences of the World: A Comprehensive Library of Human Belief and Practice in the Mysteries of Life. J. H. Yewdale & sons Company. pp. 1419–1420.
  8. ^ Eliade, Mircea (1996) [1958]. "167. The Degradation of Symbols". Patterns in Comparative Religion. Translated by Rosemary Sheed. U of Nebraska Press. p. 207. ISBN 0803267339.; (originally in Romanian) "Tratat De Istorie A Religiilor"
  9. ^ Plotnikova, Anna (2001), "Ethnolinguistic phenomena in Boundary Balkan Slavic areas" (PDF), Славянская диалектная лексика и лингвогеография, 7: 306
  10. ^ Florescu, Radu; McNally, Raymond T. (2009). Dracula, Prince of Many Faces: His Life and His Times. Little, Brown. ISBN 9780316092265. Ismeju [the correct Romanian spelling is Zmeu, another word for dragon] ISBN 9-780-3160-9226-5
  11. ^ Marian, S. F. (1879): "Cînd voiesc Solomonarii să se suie în nori, iau friul cel de aur şi se duc la un lac fără de fund sau la o altă apă mare, unde ştiu ei că locuiesc balaurii", quoted in: Hasdeu, Bogdan Petriceicu; Brâncuș, Grigore (1976) edd., Etymologicum Magnum Romaniae 3, p. 438.
  12. ^ Marian, S. F. (1879), pp. 54–56, German (tr.), Gaster, Moses (1884), "Scholomonar, d. i. er Grabancijaš dijak nach der Voksüberlieferung er Rumänen ", Archiv für slavische Philologie VII, p. 285: "Mit diesem Zaum zäumen die Solomonari die ihnen anstatt Pferde dienenden Drachen (Balauri)" or, "With these [golden] reins, the Solomonari rein their dragons (balauri) that they use instead of horses".
  13. ^ Ljiljana, Marks (1990), "Legends about the Grabancijaš Dijak in the 19th Century and in Contemporary Writings", Acta Ethnographica Hungarica, 54 (2): 327
  14. ^ The dictionary of Juan de Corominas, cited in: Gáldi, L. (1961), "(Review) Diccionario Etimológico Rumano, Biblioteca Filológica. Colección publicada por la Universidad de La Laguna by Alejandro Cioranescu", Acta Linguistica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, 11 (1/2): 197–198 JSTOR 44309193
  15. ^ a b Ciorănescu, Alexandru (1958–1966), "balaur", Dicționarul etimologic român, Universidad de la Laguna, Tenerife
  16. ^ a b Skok, Petar (1988) [1971]. Etimologijski rječnik hrvatskoga ili srpskoga jezika (in Serbo-Croatian). Vol. 1. Zagreb: Jugoslavenska akademija znanosti i umjetnosti. p. 170. ISBN 86-407-0064-8.
  17. ^ Draucean, Adela Ileana (2008). "The Names of Romanian Fairy-Tale Characters in the Works of the Junimist Classics". In: Studii și cercetări de onomastică și lexicologie, II (1-2), p. 28. ISSN 2247-7330
  18. ^ "Balaur Dreadnought" at

Further reading[edit]