Paramisi, (f.) paramisa, (pl.) (Greek) - tale, fairy tale,
The tale is the most formalised, standard form of prose in the folkloric literature of the Roma. From the
point of view of its contents, established story elements are their subjects (type of tales, motifs); from the
point of view of form, there are typical formulas – fogaša.
The storyteller is requested "te vakerel avka sar hin, sar kampel/sar džal
e paramisi/skladnones" - literally, "to tell it as it is, the way it must be/the way the story
goes/ "compactly"", i.e., so he keeps the main idea and tells the story correctly. A
good storyteller must use šukar lava - beautiful words - and
fogaša - standard story formulas. These aspects of content and form pertain to all
types of stories.
Servika Roma differentiate between two main types of
tales: vitejzika paramisa - heroic tales - and
pherasune paramisa - funny stories.
Vitejzika paramisa have another name,
bare paramisa - long story. When old Roma recall
, good storytellers and vitejzika paramisa,
they use the nearly ritual sentence "jekh vitejziko paramisi bari džalas, the
štar pandž ori" – "one heroic tale lasted a long time, four or five hours". Or
"o phuro XY chudňa te vakerel efta, ochto orendar raťi - jekh paramisi
vakerelas dži tosara" - "old XY began to speak at seven or eight o'clock in the evening and told one
tale until morning." The author of this entry experienced listening to a heroic story that lasted seven
hours. The storyteller was Mr. Michal Adam-Janču of Kladno (near Prague) (1976). Transcription of the story
took up 105 typed pages.
Pherasune paramisa – funny stories - have another name that points
out its length: charne paramisa - short tales.
A sub-class of short tales are džunglae paramisa - literally, dirty stories,
"Decameron-like" anecdotes, during the relating of which children are sent out of the
room: "Čhavale avri!" - "Children out!"
Stories classified in one group may contain elements of another. Humorous or "Decameron-like"
elements appear in vitejzika paramisa; charni paramisi - short
tales - can be longer and, on the other hand, heroic tales falling in the category of the
bare paramisa - long story - may be shorter. On the average, nevertheless, types of
stories do correspond to their classification.
Standard formulas – fogaša – are used in all types of stories, even if heroic tales
have more room for them to be applied.
Among the standard formulas are the introductions and the conclusions. The standard introductory formula
would be: "Sas kaj na sas, mre gule (Devla) bachtaleja the čačeja"
– ("Once upon a time, my sweet (God) blessed/blessing and true/real/just"). The word
Devla – God, is often left out because everyone knows that the epithets
gulo (sweet), bachtalo (blessed, happy/blessing) and
čačo (true/real/just) cannot refer to anyone else except God. Introductory formulas
have unimportant variations which include a change in the word order or in the recital of God's attributes
(e.g. "Mre gule, bachtaleja, sas kaj na sas" – "my sweet,
blessed, once upon a time").
The concluding formula is "Te na mule, dži adaďives dživen" –
"They lived happily ever after." The stories deal with heroes who conquer evil – a witch, a dragon, an
evil king, treacherous friends, etc. In a pherasune paramisa, a Rom is usually
victorious over a stingy, stupid, or rich farmer (Gadžo) or parish priest
(rašaj) sometimes a count (grofos). He wins over an enemy
"predžal pre god'i" - literally, "he uses his brain" - or he
outwits him, tricks with him, defeats him with his ingenuity.
The hero of the vitejzika paramisa or the pherasune paramisa
was often a čhavo, a young Rom. He usually came from a poor Romani family – and,
understandably, from a family with many children. If he is such a youth, after the set introductory formula,
there follows another formula: "…sas jekh oro Rom. Sas les ajce čhave, keci
hin pro ňebos čercheňa (a mek jekheha buter)" – "There was a poor young Rom.
He had so many children, as many as there are stars (and one more)."
In a vitejzika paramisa, the young man meets his enemy and evil embodied in
supernatural and "natural" beings appearing in tales within the whole European-Asian
cultural radius. They are a dragon (šarkaňis), a devil/demon
(beng), or a witch (bosorka, inžibaba). Among the hero's
"natural" enemies are a wicked king (kral'is) or a jealous, wicked
A bosorka does not need to be unequivocally evil. A čhavo can
win her over "te džanel lačho lav te phenel" - if he is polite to
her; literally, "if he knows how to say a good word". That politeness is expressed with another set formula
of greeting: "Mi del o Del lačho d'ives, mri kedvešno phuri daje" -
"May God say good day to you, my dear old mother."Upon hearing this, the witch answers:
"Mi del o Del the tuke (vitejzina). Te mange na džanľalas kada lav te
phenel, imar pal e žeľeno čar na phirďalas/imar tut chaľomas pal o svetos" – "May God say the same
to you (hero). If you had not been able to say those (polite) words, you would no longer walk on green
grass/you would already be eliminated from this world."
Usually the king demands that the Romani youth perform an impossible task in order to get rid of him. The
demand ends with the threat "miro charo, tiri men" – "my sword,
your head", i.e., if you do not perform the task, you will be one head shorter.
A further threat which is intended to terrify his adversary is expressed in the formula,
"Adad'ives imar tiri zumin na chala, tiri zumin chava me"-
"Even today you will not eat your soup; your soup will be eaten by me."
The princess is also described in a standard formula: "Sas ajsi šukar, hoj
andro kham šai dikhehas, pre late na (ajsi žara andal late demelas/somnakaj pal late čuľalas" –
"She was so beautiful that you could look at the sun, but not at her (such a glow emanated from her/gold
streamed down her body)." Gold Princesses often "jekha jakhala rovel,
jekha jakhaha asal" – "cry with one eye, laugh with one eye". They believe that a
čhavo will set them free, but, at the same time, they are afraid for his life.
In Romani tales, one finds old, archetypical expressions reminiscent of the original Indian home of the Roma,
of Indian mythology. There is usually the phrase trin sveti (Sanskrit
triloka) – three worlds. "Oj (e princezna) sas ajsi
šukar, hoj pro trin sveti la para na has" – "She (the princess) was so beautiful that she had no
equal in three worlds.""Sas les trinesvetengeri zor" – "He had
the strength of three worlds." When the author of this entry asked storytellers the meaning of
trin sveti, she learned nothing more than "avka pes
phenel" – "that's how it is said". The philosophical-mythological background was lost and only
the expression remained.
Perhaps in all vitejzika paramisa God is an implicit or explicit force which supports
the hero, holds him and helps him win. In comparison with the ideology of non-Romani tales (adapted as
literature) in which the hero must always win with his own strength and his own ingenuity, in Romani tales
more than one hero wins thanks to God, thanks to a miracle of God. Del - God - also
appears in standard
formulas and phrases: "Diňa o Del tosara/ďives/rat" – "God gave
the morning/day/night.""Le Devleske som andro vast" – "I am
in God's hands.""Sas les trinesvetengeri zor. O Del sas jekh, jov pal o
Del aver" - "(The hero) had the strength of three worlds. God was the first; he was second after
God.""So o Del dela, oda ela" – "What God gives will be."
The villain asks the hero, "Kames te dživel čino, abo but?" –
"Do you want to live a short time or a long time?", upon which the čhavo answers,
"Aňi čino, aňi but, ča sar o Del dela" – "Neither short nor
long →as God wishes."
God's power or God's blessing is implicitly manifested in the clairvoyance of the hero and heroine.
Clairvoyance is also expressed in a standard formula when the beloved (freed) girl addresses the Romani
youth: "Mek andre la dakero per salas, imar džanavas, hoj aveha miro
rom" – "You were still in your mother's belly when I knew that you would become my husband."
The ages of the hero and heroine were unimportant in real time. Time played no role; it was a part of the same
mystery as the plot.
One of the important functions of the vitejzika paramisa is to present and strengthen
ethical values such as goodness, obedience, humility before God, submission to God's will, and the ability to
pardon. We often find that ethical values are not only described in a story but also emphasised in
These proverbs are different from the practical everyday sayings such as,
"Manuš dživel, sar pes del" – "Man lives as he can" – or,
"Savo bur, ajso bur, ča te pre tute na cirdel" – "It doesn't
matter what the bushes are like as long you don't feel the wind." Proverbs excerpted
from a tale of the Servika Roma are ethical imperatives:
"Vaš lačhipen, lačhipen užareha" – "For good, expect good.""Aves lačheha, arakhes lačho, aves phujeha, arakhes phuj" –
literally: "You come in good will, you will find good; you come with ill will, you will find ill."
The ethical value of forgiveness is expressed in the proverb,
"Sar dživaha, te na džanaha te odmukel" – literally: "How are we
going to live if we are incapable of forgiving?" This value is manifested in different contexts we do not
find in the tales of other nations: At the end of the story, the hero forgives his treacherous brothers who
had wanted to ruin him because of their jealousy; the miraculously resurrected woman forgives her husband who
killed her because of his lover – and at the end everyone lives happily ever after.
Forgiveness is usually limited to members of the family, though sometimes it extends to people in general
(mainly if they want to improve). Monsters are not forgiven; they must be killed so that
"phujipen/zrada te na avel buter pr'ada svetos" – "there be no
more evil/betrayal in this world".
The philosophical formula "Sar upre avka the tele, sar tele, avka the
upre" – "Above, just as below; below, just as above" – does not appear in most tales, but some
have been recorded, e.g., in that extensive epic story already mentioned by Michal Adam-Janču.
We often find stupid and immoral heroes in tales. They appear mainly in pherasune
paramisa (funny stories). The stupid person is not necessarily a Gadžo. In a group
of humorous stories
the audience is entertained by the "dilino Rom" (stupid Rom) or, on
the contrary, "baro špekulantos" – the sly guy – who cheats the
innocent person for his own benefit. Such "heroes", whose morals sometimes shock people
often also appear in tales of the whole Eurasian region.
Many types and subjects of Romani stories, including those like vitejzika and
pherasune, may be listed in the Aarne-Thompson catalogue, and are thus repeated in the
tales of non-Romani neighbours. From this, some Gypsyologists (e.g. J. Vekerdi, 1980, p. 5) judge that Gypsies
do not have their own folklore and merely translate and reproduce the folklore of dominant societies
(Hübschmannová, 1996). Even such clever Romists as A. Fraser (1998) have succumbed to this error. The
outstanding German Folklorist Köhler-Zülch correctly points out that subjects and types of tales are a
common, "travelling" cultural heritage of the entire Eurasian region (1992).
The excellent German folklorist, ethnologist and Indologist, Prof. Heinz Mode, an expert in Indian tales,
proves with statistical analysis that an outstanding number of Romani stories correspond with Indian,
Persian and Turkish models - and on the basis of this he hypothesises that Roma were among the bearers of
models and motifs of Indian stories to Europe. (Mode 1983-1985).
The Indian background of Romani stories also recalls some typical figures, although
"clothed in European cultural garments". In Indian and European tales, the figure of
"Bluebeard", the man who murdered his wives, appears. He is changed from a monster into a
(handsome) "marriage swindler". As a handsome man he proposes to an unsuspecting girl and
then changes into a monster, who devours
her. In Indian tales, the monster has the form of a tiger (Tauscher, 1959). However, as tigers do not live in
Europe, Romani tales from Serbia change the tiger to a dog, (collection of Romist and folklorist Rade Uhlik),
and in tales of the Servika Roma about the Evil Sorcerer Preparud,
Proměňovač("The Man Who Could Transform").
A different Indian socio-cultural reality metamorphosed the figure into the spiteful second wife (in a
polygamous society). She wishes to eradicate the first wife or her children (also, -,
Kajkéjí in the Ramajanam epic) By the time the Roma arrived in Europe, polygamy no
longer existed and so the destructive "second wife" changed in Romani tales to a witch, a
cook-witch, a servant-witch. In the tale Pal e romaňi princezna the pal
e indžibaba – "The Romani Princess and the Witch's Intrigues, they tell that" -
"O kraľis peske ľikerlas indžibaba, sar čirla sas indžibabi, džanes, na, ta
kajsi inžibaba sas le kraľis pre dvora" – "That king kept a witch who was like witches of old - you
know what I mean. That's the kind of witch the king had in his court." (Hübschmannová, 1973, p. 62) The
witch wanted to get rid of the Romani princess with whom the king had fallen in love, and she tried with all
her might to rid the world of her. But why would the king have kept such a witch in his court? Isn't she the
prototype of the second wife who had a reason to get rid of her rival? This subject is very frequent both in
Indian tales and in Romani and European tales in general.
In commentaries on tales contained in the four-volume collection of Heinz Mode (1983-1985) or in those of
tales collected by Milena Hübschmannová (1973), it is clear how many stories are "original",
either because their subjects do not appear in international catalogues of tales or because they are mixed
together in a quite unusual way. Actually, it is through the storyteller's original mixtures of subjects or
creative improvisations that the vitejziko paramisi gains its great length.
Some bare paramisa – long tales - are not very different from epics. What is special
about an epic is that it tells about several generations of heroes; the hero of each generation has greater
strength, more clairvoyance, and a greater measure of God's blessings than his father, grandfather, or
great-grandfather. A typical example of such a tale is "Nemtudomka" (Hübschmannová, 1973)
or the still unpublished "epic" by Michal Adam.
Storytelling was still an immeasurably important and popular cultural event at the beginning
of the 1980's. Adults told each other tales. Public storytelling was done by men, while women told tales
"at home" or in special women's gatherings. It is almost unbelievable how drastically the
storytelling tradition broke in two with the entire complex changes in contemporary Romani life.
Finally, we wish to point out one more special characteristic of Romani tales which has to do with their
formal contents. Until very recently, they took not only traditional folkloric form but a form mirroring daily
life, its problems and "props". Therefore, in one tale of the
Servika Roma side by side were the peace-loving king and a social
worker; the beautiful princess who glowed like a "200 Watt light bulb"; a king who put ads
in newspapers or on TV, etc. These connections may seem absurd and funny to intellectual
Gadže, but most Romani listeners took this to be quite "normal".
However, actualisation and improvisation may not occur at the expense of the continuity of the story; they may
not "mess up" the traditional subject.
A great number of "Gypsyologists" have collected Romani stories. It is enough to read
through the commentaries in the four-volume collection of tales published by Heinz Mode (1983-1985). Stories
told in natural narrative situations pro paramisa often differ from
tales which (Gadže) collectors had Romani storytellers dictate to them, in unnatural
circumstances. This was understandably noticed by both the Austrian Romist Mozes
Heinschink, (Cech et al., 2001), who's tape recordings may present the most extensive collection of Romani
folklore in the world, and the author of this entry (Hübschmannová, 1996). Earlier, fairy tale specialists
analysed "dictated" stories (usually because tape recorders didn’t exist). Today there is
an increase of authentically recorded collections. From these, material has been arising which calls for
Even more beautiful than researching Romani fairy tales is, of course, reading them. And even more beautiful
is listening to them being performed by a Romani storyteller to an eager audience. Unfortunately, these events
are rare in the Czech Republic or in Slovakia. But Romani authors such as Andrej Giňa, Vladislav Haluška,
František Demeter, Helena Demeterová and Magda Hoffmannová, as well as the late Elemír Baláź and Šani Dzurko,
often return to fairy tales they heard in bygone pro paramisa gatherings. They reproduce them and put them into literary form, put on their own final touches and so
open the way for natural development from oral folkloric works to written literature.
Mi del o Del, kaj oda drom te avel phundrado
"May God assure that the road will stay open"