VileVile are mythological beings in south Slavic folklore, incarnation of beauty and power, benevolent friends of sufferers, the dwellers of forests and rivers. Shared by most Slavic cultures, in Slovenian tradition they appear in a variety of roles: as Vile (beautiful maidens with magic powers) or Žal žene (Sorrow women), Bele žene (White women), Sojenice (Fates), Rojenice (Birth women).
They love the world of humans and bring great fortune to the human who meets them by chance. Their gift is always offered on a condition and a promise. Once that is broken, they leave and are never seen again.

Little Shepherd Boy and Vile
Once upon a time a boy in Istra was herding a few cows, some goats and sheep near the sea. It was after noon and hot sun baked the earth. Suddenly the boy sees three maidens, who were sleeping in the soft grass. They were fairies/vile (pron.veele). They were incredibly beautiful. They looked very much alike, almost the same. They lay peacefully and at least appeared to be sweetly asleep. It did not occur to the boy, that they might be Vile. He took them to be young girls, who got tired walking in the sun, lay down and fell asleep.

“A pity about their beautiful faces! I must help them!” He went to the linden tree near-by, broke off some leafy branches, and planted them around the girls, so that the sun could no longer burn them with its rays.

It wasn’t long, when Vile awoke and got up, and began to wonder and ask each other, who would be so caring, to wish to protect them from the sun. Well they knew all that had happened, since Vile never sleep, only pretend to be asleep. They were asking each other like this,  in order to discover if the boy would speak out.

The little shepherd did not speak, instead he tried to run away, since he could not look at the fairies, their hair was so shiny, glittering like pure gold.
In an instant they reached him, he could not escape. Then they asked him, what he would like as a gift, for protecting them from the sun. He was too shy to ask for anything. They offered him a magic purse, which would be always full of gold coins. The little shepherd did not want the gift, since he did not understand the use of money. He did not want to play with it or look at it; money was something dead, instead he had his live cattle and sheep, which he valued above all.

When fairies saw this, they said to him:
“When you take your herd  home this evening, you will hear ringing, but don t look back, till you reach your home”. They said it and vanished. Only then did the boy realize that these were not ordinary girls, but likely to be Vile.

Sun slowly began to sink lower and lower towards the sea and the shepherd boy started his little herd towards home. The further he came towards his home, the louder was the ringing and tingling behind him, but he had forgotten what Vile told him to do. He was already half way home, when he turned around to see who was driving their herd behind him. He saw a great number of cows, sheep and goats, walking out of the sea and following his herd. Nobody in Istra had ever seen such beautiful animals.

The instant he looked back, the animals stopped coming out of the sea. Only the animals already on dry land accompanied him home. If the little shepherd had not turned around, he would have had an enormous herd. As it was, he did have enough; he could even help the poor with the gifts of livestock, received from the grateful fairies.

translated by Aleksandra Ceferin

Pastirček in vile
Svoje dni je pasel deček v Istri blizu morja nekoliko krav, ki jim je bilo pridruženih tudi nekaj ovc in koz. Bilo je to popoldne in vroče sonce je pripekalo na zemljo. Kar zagleda deček tri deklice, ki so spale na mehki travi. Bile so Vile. Neizrečeno so bile lepe. Pa bile so si zelo podobne, skoro enake so si bile med seboj. Mirno so ležale in, vsaj na videz, sladko spale. Deček ni nič mislil, da bi to mogle biti Vile. Zdele so se mu navadne deklice, ki so se po soncu hodeč utrudile, legle in zaspale.

“Škoda tako lepih obrazov! Moram jim pomagati!“ Šel je na bližnjo lipo, si nalomil prav košatih vej ter jih zasadil okoli dekličev, tako da jih sonce nič več ni moglo peči s svojimi žarki.

Ne mine dolgo, kar se Vile zbude in vstanejo ter se začno čuditi in vpraševati druga drugo, kdo bi bil tako usmiljen, da jih je ubranil sončni vročini. Dobro so vedele vse, kar se je bilo zgodilo, kajti Vile nikdar ne spijo, le delajo se kakor bi spale. Vpraševale so druga drugo le zato, da bi videle, če se bo deček oglasil ali ne.
Pastirček se pa ni oglasil, marveč je poskušal pobegniti, ker ni mogel gledati v Vile; lasje so se jim namreč bleščali, svetili so se kakor suho, čisto zlato.

Ali v trenutku so bile vse tri pri njem, ni jim mogel uiti. Povpraševale so ga, kaj hoče za dar, ker jih je obvaroval pred soncem. On se pa nič ni upal prositi. Ponujale so mu čudnjo mošnjo denarjev, ki ne bi v njej nikdar zmanjkalo rumenih cekinov. Toda pastirček za vse to ni nič maral, ker denarja še ni poznal. Da bi se z denarjem samo igral, tega ni hotel; pa saj je bil denar mrtev, on pa je imel živa goveda in ovce, ki so mu bile nad vse.

Ko Vile to vidijo, mu vele:
“Ko boš zvečer domov gnal, boš slišal za seboj zvonkljanje, pa se nikar nazaj ne oziraj, dokler ne prideš domov“. To rekši, so izginile. Zdaj šele je deček spoznal, da to niso bile deklice kakor druge, ampak bržkone Vile.

Počasi se je sonce nagibalo vse bolj in bolj v morje in pastirček požene svojo čredico domov. Čim bolj se je bližal domu, tem jačje zvonenje in bigljanje je slišal za hrbtom, ali pozabil je bil, kaj so mu Vile naročile. Ko je že bil na pol pota, se radoveden obrne, da vidi kdo žene toliko živine za njim. Zagleda veliko trumo krav, ovac in koz, ki so šle iz morja za njegovo čredo. Take lepe živine še nihče ni videl v tistih krajih.

V trenutku pa, ko se je ozrl, se je pretrgala vrsta ob morju. Nič več živine ni prihajalo iz morja. Samo tista truma ga je spremenila do doma, ki je bila že zunaj na suhem. Da se pastirček ni ozrl, imel bi bil neizrečeno veliko blaga. Pa saj mu bilo tudi to dosti, še revne je lahko obdaril z blagom, ki so mu ga dale hvaležne Vile.

J Kelemina, Bajke in pripovedke slovenskega ljudstva (recorded and published in Primorske Novice, 1857 and in Slovenski Glasnik in 1866)

Vila, the farmer’s wife

On Veprinščina lives a family by the name of Polhar, who say they are descendants of a Vila.

On a warm day a strapping, handsome young man was walking from Veprinc to Učka gora and found on the meadow beside the path a pretty girl dressed in white, sleeping in the sun. The young man was struck by the beauty of her face. Afraid that the sun would burn her, he cut a great branch and quietly planted it in the earth to shade her.

After a while, she woke up, saw the branch and the young man standing nearby, and asked him:
“Did you, young man, make this shade?”
He answered: “I did. I was worried that you would be burnt by the sun.”
She went on: “What do you wish for your good deed?”
The young man answered cheerfully: “To be allowed always to look at your beautiful face and have you for my wife.”
“Well”, she said, “ I will be happy to marry you, but be warned. I am Vila and you must not ever speak my name; if you say Vila, I must leave you.”

He promised faithfully not to do it, and took her home with him. He told the parents  everything, what and how it happened, only he did not tell them, that his bride was Vila.

The parents liked the maiden and agreed to the marriage. So they married. They lived happily and cheerfully for a number of years, the house prospered in all and everything. Vila gave birth to a little daughter, who was beautiful like an angel.

One year, early on a summer morning the young husband heard thunder. He got up, went to the window, saw that bad weather was approaching, and said to his wife: “ Wife, damage and misfortune, we have not cut the wheat; Hail will destroy it all!”

So Vila said to him: “Don’t be afraid, it won’t destroy our wheat.” So saying, she got up, went to stand outside the door, and when she came back in, it started to hail frightfully. The husband sighed: “I told you, all the wheat will be gone.” She smiled and said: “Go into the barn, and you will see, that it’s not all gone”.

When it stopped hailing the husband went into the barn and saw in front of him all the wheat stacked into orderly sheaves. When he returned, he exclaimed in amazement: “Oh, Vila is Vila!

In that moment Vila vanished – the husband remained alone, sad and sorrowful with his little daughter, without his wife. Yet Vila did not completely abandon him. She kept coming back, but she was only visible to her daughter. She taught her daughter about all that she needed to know, like the most caring mother, till she reached the marrying age. Then Vila’s daughter married and became the mother of the present day Polhar family.

Translated by Aleksandra Ceferin

Vila, kmetova žena
Na Veprinščini biva rodovina kmetov z imenom Polharji, ki pripovedujeo sami o sebi, da so potekli od Vile.
Nekega toplega dne gre krepek in lep mladenič z Veprinca v Učko goro in najde pri stezi na trati zalo dekle, belo oblečeno, speče na soncu. Mladenič se ni mogel načuditi lepoti njenega obraza. Da bi je sonce tako hudo ne peklo, odreže veliko vejo in jo tiho vtakne v zemljo, da bi ji delala senco.
Ona se nato prebudi, ugleda postavljeno vejo in poleg sebe stoječega mladeniča ter ga vpraša:
“Ali si mi ti, mladenič, naredil to senco?”
On odgovori: “Sem, ker si se mi smilila, da te sonce prepeka.”
Ona mu govori dalje: “Kaj češ za to dobroto?”
Mladenič veselo reče: “Daj, da smem vedno gledati tvoj prelepi obraz in te vzeti za ženo”.
“Dobro”, reče ona, “zadovoljna sem, da se s teboj omožim. ali vedi; Vila sem in ti ne smeš nikdar mojega imena izgovoriti; ako mi rečeš Vila, te moram koj zapustiti”.

On sveto obljubi, da ne bo, nakar jo povede domov. Staršem pove vse, kaj in kako se mu je zgodilo, sam tega jim ne razodene, da je nevesta Vila.

Deklica je ugajala staršem in radi so privolili v ženitev. Nato se poročita. Živela sta nekoliko let prav lepo in veselo, hišna sreča je v vsem in vsakem prav dobro napredovala. Vila mu tudi porodi hčerkico, ki je bila lepa kot angelček.

Neko leto zatem sliši mladi mož prav zgodaj v letnem jutru grmljavico. Vstane, gre na okno, vidi da se pripravlja strašno vreme, in pravi svoji ženi: “Žena, škoda in nesreča velika, da nismo pšenice poželi; vso nam jo bo toča pobila!”

Ona mu reče: “Ne boj se ne, naše ne bo pobila!” Tako rekši vstane, gre pred duri in ko se vrne, počne strašno padati toča. Mož vzdihovaje govori: “Sem ti rekel, da bomo ob vso pšenico. Smehljaje se mu ona odvrne: “Pojdi v skedenj, boš videl, da nam je ni pobila.”

Ko toča neha, gre mož res v skedenj in vidi ondi vso pšenico lepo zloženo v snopje. Vrnivši se, zavpije ves začuden: “Ah, kar je Vila je Vila!”

V tem trenutku mu ona zgine – mož ostane otožen in žalosten s hčerkico brez žene Vile. Čisto ga pa Vila vendar ni zavrgla, temveč je že zmerom dohajala nazaj, toda bila je samo hčerkici vidna; učila jo je v vseh potrebah kakor najskrbnejša mati, dokler je ni vzgojila do ženitvenih let. Ko je prišla Vilina hči do te dobe, se je omožila in je tako mati sedanje Polharske rodovine.

J Kelemina, Bajke in pripovedke slovenskega ljudstva (1930, reprinted 1997 by Humar Publ.) from Novice 1853

Vilenica Cave
One day, a long, long time ago, a little girl was herding livestock.
She liked to sit in the shade, and many a time she nodded off; no wonder, since she spent waking nights by her baby brother. Sometimes the animals escaped from the pasture. One day she fell asleep again. When she woke up, the animals were nowhere to be seen. She searched and searched for them in vain.

Suddenly she found herself at the entrance of a cave. It was a large entrance, so big that a  n adult could step through without stooping. The little girl was drawn to it. She saw a light far, far away in the distance, and heard wondrous music, as if someone was playing a violin. She simply had to go in.

Soon she saw before her maidens, dressed in lace, dancing in a circle. The little girl stopped dead. The loveliest of the maidens approached her, saying:

“Wish for three things, and all three wishes will be granted.”
The little girl thought and thought, and finally said:
“Just tell me who you are, where are you from?”

The maidens told her that they were three Fate sisters who foretold lives for the newborn.
The girl was to spread the word that the name of the cave was Vilenica.

*    Vilenica = the dwelling place of Vile/fairies

Jama Vilenica
Enkrat dolgo dolgo od tega, je ena punčka pasla živino.
Rada je posedela v senci in dostikrta jo je zmamil spanec; ni čudno, saj je cele noči prečula ob majhnem bratu. Kakšen bot ji je živina ušla s pašnika. En dan je spet zaspala. Ko se je zbudila, ni bilo živine nikjer. Hodila je in hodila, pa je ni našla.
Naenkrat zagleda pred sabo jamo. Tako je bila velika, da bi odrasel človek lahko šel noter, ne da bi se sklonil. Nekaj jo je kar samo vleklo naprej. Je videla daleč, daleč pred sabo eno luč, slišala je prečudno lepo muziko, kakor da bi kdo igral na vijolino. Morala je stopiti naprej.

Kmalu je pred sabo zagledala mladenke, oblečene so bile v same čipke, ki so plesale v krogu.

Punčka je obstala kot vkopana. Najlepša od plesalk je stopila do nje in rekla:
“Zaželi si tri reči in vse tri želje se ti bodo izpolnile.”




Zmago Šmitek

Dr. Zmago Šmitek was born in 1949 in Kropa, Slovenia. He graduated in 1973 at the Faculty of Arts in ethnology and history of art. In the same year he was appointed to the Department for Ethnology and in 1974 was elected assistant. In 1979 he completed the degree of Master of Arts (“Division of work as a part of social culture of Vitanje”) and in 1983 the PhD (“Horizon of Slovenes in the field of non-European cultures”). In-between he spent one year (1979-1980) on professional development in New Delhi. He was nominated Associate Professor and in 1995 Professor for non-European Ethnology and Ethnology of Europe. For several years he acted as Chairman of the Department. Prof. Zmago Šmitek lectures on Religious Anthropology and Ethnology of Asia, and conducts seminars in both fields. His fields of study are History of Slovenian Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, religion, comparative mythology, culture of Slovenes and Slavs, Slovenian links with non-European cultures, cultures of Asia. He has published several books and a number of articles in his field of studies, notably Slovenian folk narratives: Myths and Legends (2006) Most recently the exceptional Slovenian mythological series of eight books The treasury of Slovenian Tales, in cooperation with Roberto Dapit and Monika Kropej.