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Cosanzeana, Ileana

by Samantha Anselmi di Cardano
In Romanian folklore, Ileana is the original concept of feminine beauty, the most beautiful amongst the fairies: her eyes look like the sun, her body is like the sea and her garments are made of flowers. When she sings, pearls and gold flow out of her mouth. She gives flowers their perfume, but she has the facility to take it back. She appears to men only once a year, on St John's day. The wind loves her, but can never catch her. Her own brother fell in love with her, therefore she -- in order to avoid incest -- plunges herself to the depth of the ocean and turns into a fish and then into the moon.

Ileana is also represented as a young woman who will marry only the man who beats her, that is to say, the one who is stronger than her or otherwise, the one who hides himself so well that she cannot find him. A wicked emperor asks her hand in marriage. She accepts on the condition that he prepares for her a bath with milk from wild mares. The emperor's servant manages to prepare such a bath. The emperor enters the bath first, but the servant's horse blows hot breath onto the milk, which starts boiling and kills the emperor. Then, the horse's breath becomes pleasantly lukewarm so that Ileana takes a bath with the servant and marries him.

Sometimes, Ileana appears as the royal warrior of the Land of Women. She steals the baptismal font from the River Jordan, at the moment when the font's guardian is sleeping. He makes a curse that the thief be it a woman, turns into a man or vice versa. For this reason Ileana becomes an emperor.


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