In Romanian folklore, Muma Pădurii (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈmuma pəˈdurij]) is an ugly and mischievous or mad old woman living in the forest (in the heart of virgin forests, in a hut/cabin or an old tree). She is the opposite of fairies such as Zână. She is also the protector of the animals and plants, brewing potions and helping injured animals. She cures the forest if it is dying and she keeps unwanted trespassers away by driving them mad and scaring them.
She can be associated with witches (like the witch from the story of "Hansel and Gretel"), but she's a neutral "creature", harming only those who harm the forest.
Muma Pădurii literally means "mother of the forest", though "mumă" is an archaic version of "mamă" (mother), which has a fairy tale overtone for the Romanian reader (somewhat analogous to using the archaic pronouns like "thou" and "thy" in English). A few other such words, typically protagonists of folktales, have this effect.
Muma Pădurii is a spirit of the forest in a very ugly and old woman's body. Sometimes she has the ability to change her shape. She lives in a dark, dreadful, hidden little house.
This (step-) mother of the forest kidnaps little children and enslaves them. In one popular story, at some point, she tries to boil a little girl alive in a soup. However the little girl's brother outsmarts Muma Pădurii and pushes the woman-monster in the oven instead, similar to the story of Hansel and Gretel. The story ends on a happy note when all kids are free to go back to their parents.
In modern culture
Instead of saying "She's ugly", Romanians sometimes say "She looks like Muma Pădurii".
- Culture of Romania
- Religion in Romania
- Baba Yaga
- Black Annis
- Boo Hag
- Mother Nature
- Onibaba (folklore)
- The Witch (fairy tale)
- Lăzărescu, George, Dicţionar de mitologie. Dicţionarele Editurii Ion Creangă, București, 1979.