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Literature / Povestea lui Harap Alb

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"Povestea lui Harap Alb" ("The Story of Harap Alb"), or just "Harap Alb" for short, is a Fairy Tale written by Romanian writer Ion Creangă. In the story, the Green Emperor needs a male heir to succeed him, because he is old and can die any moment. Unfortunately, because he only has daughters, he sends a letter to his brother, a king with three sons, asking one of his children to be successor. The King first sends his oldest son, who fails a test created by his father, and turns back at the bridge crossing in fear; his middle son is sent with the same result.

While the youngest son, only called Harap Alb, weeps over the failure of his older brothers, an old woman appears to him in the garden and tells him to accept the quest, foreseeing he will become a great emperor. She informs him that the only way to cross the bridge is to use the clothes, sword, and horse which his father used as a young groom. While initially ridiculed by his father, in the end he accepts; the son crosses the bridge, and sets off on the remainder of his journey.


Harap Alb contains examples of

  • Animorphism: The Red Emperor's daughter turns into a bird.
  • Bald of Evil: The Bald Man, naturally.
  • Bears Are Bad News:
    • The two older sons turned back because at the bridge in fear when a bear, actually their father in disguise, appeared.
    • The Bear from the garden, which guards the salads.
  • Big Bad: The Bald Man.
  • Big Eater: Flămânzilă. His name is actually derived from the Romanian word "Flămând", which literally means "hungry".
  • Cool Horse: Harap Alb's horse can talk, fly, and move with great speed.
  • Deadly Gaze: The Stag has a poisonous gaze that will kill anything that looks him in the eyes.
  • Disney Villain Death: The Bald Man falls to his doom after the horse drops him.
  • Evil Overlord: The Red Emperor.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The King, Green Emperor, Red Emperor, and Harap Alb ("White Moor") himself.
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  • Extreme Omnivore: Aside from large quantities of food, Flămânzilă eats ate dirt mixed with clay.
  • Fairy God Mother: Holy Sunday.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The Green Emperor is good, while the Red Emperor is evil.
  • Meaningful Name: Harap Alb's companions all have meaningful names.
    • Gerilă literally means "Frosty".
    • Flămânzilă a Big Eater whose name translates to "hungry".
    • Setilă, derived from Romanian "Sete" meaning "thirst".
    • Ochilă, derived from "ochi", meaning "eye".
    • Păsări-Lăți-Lungilă whose name comes from the words "pasăre" ("bird"), "lat" ("broad") and "lung" (long), a reference to his power of stretching and the fact that he's a bird hunter.
  • Rats in a Box: Harap Alb and his companions startarguing after Gerilă cooled down the oven house because he liked it the way it was.
  • Ruleof Three:
    • The King's three sons, who each attempted the quest.
    • Harap Alb gets lost in the woods three times.
    • Harap Alb is sent on three quests.
    • Harap Alb and his companions are served three items at the feast (twelve carts of bread, twelve fried cattle, and twelve barrels of wine) by the Red Emperor.
    • The Red Emperor's daughter flies away three times.
    • The Red Emperor's challenge is to bring three items.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • The Green Emperor loves salad and lettuce, especially the ones from the Bear's garden. The Bald Man was also fond of them.
    • Păsări-Lăț-Lungilă loves to eat birds.
    • The Red Emperor apparently loves beef and wine, since this is what he serves his "guests".
  • Voluntary Shape Shifting: The Red Emperor's daughter.
  • Weapon of Choice: The backsword for Harap Alb; the bow for Păsări-Lăți-Lungilă.
  • Youngest Child Wins: Harap Alb manages to complete the quest, unlike his older brothers, who failed miserably.


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