Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories | Annotated Tale

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Why is it called the bull-fly?

The Story of God, the Sun and the Bulls.

IN THOSE days when God used to walk through fields and lanes carrying his knapsack on his back and feeding his herds and flocks, his oxen and cows, his sheep and goats, it is told that, once upon a time, feeling very tired, he went to sleep with his head upon a hillock of earth. He slept for a long while, and woke up very late. Before lying down, he told the older and stronger oxen to take care to behave themselves well, and also to look after the younger ones, so that there should not be any fight or trouble among them. But no sooner had he closed his eyes, when such a shouting and bellowing was started that one might think that the hills were falling and the earth was breaking up. The Lord sprang upon his feet as if he had been touched by fire, for the holy sun had come to him, and waking him up had said:--"O Lord, these creatures of yours have bellowed all night long so loud and so vigorously that you might have thought that they intended driving me away from the face of the earth. Look and see what they have done to me. They have fought against me so long that they have well-nigh torn my clothes into shreds and tatters, and with great difficulty I saved myself behind that flower-bed."

               "What beetles are you speaking of?" asked the Lord.

               "I mean your oxen which have behaved so badly. They are not worthy to be anything else but horned beetles."

               "Let it be so! But I must first look into the matter, and if I find them guilty, I will punish them just as you wish."

               And as the Lord had said, so he did. For, finding them guilty, he drove them away into the forest. There they climbed up the oak-trees, and suddenly they all became horned beetles, bull-flies, with larger and smaller horns, viz. the cows became cow-flies with smaller horns and the oxen bull-flies with larger horns, through God's punishment. That is why they are called the Lord's bulls and cows (Lucanus cervus).


According to another legend, the bull-flies were originally the angels who refused to help St. Elias in fastening the felloes to his fiery chariot. Therefore their mouths have been closed as with a vice, for ever, so that they be no longer able to speak, and that is why they are also called wheelwrights.

               The horns of these bull-flies are used by women, who tie them into their hair against the evil eye. The sharp points of these horns have the same magical properties as the sharp points of the coral, or of the horns, fingers, etc., which figure so largely in the magical charms and amulets against the workings of the evil eye.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Why is it called the bull-fly?
Tale Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Book Title: Rumanian Bird and Beast Stories
Book Author/Editor: Gaster, Moses
Publisher: Sidgwick & Jackson
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1915
Country of Origin: Romania
Classification: unclassified

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