In Romanian folklore- the story of Muma Padurii is very similar to the story of Hansel & Gretel. Muma is a very ugly old woman who lives in the forest and boils children alive. It is also very comparable to the slavic Baba Yaga stories- which I’m guessing, has the purpose of scaring children so they have endless nightmares about being baked or boiled (ok, maybe that’s just me. Seriously… who thought Hansel and Gretel was a good bedtime story? WHO?)
Muma, whose name translates to “mother of the forrest” appears in many stories as a guardian of the trees. She is a shape-shifter, appearing as a beautiful woman- then an old woman with skin made of tree bark. She steals children, torments mothers who gave birth out of wedlock, and if you steal her magic twig for kindling- your house will burn down.
There is also a demonic entity called Martolea in Romanian mythology. Mortolea is also a shapeshifter that lives in the mountains and punishes women for working on Tuesday evenings (what?) Martolea demans that Tuesdays are a holy day and forbids “women’s chores” on that day. She kills by ripping, and hanging guts on walls, or taking their children.
Yet another Romanian evil entity- Joimarita- who just punishes lazy children on Thursdays.
The Romanians don’t mess around.
Baba Yaga, who’s story is very similar, is a deformed old woman who flies around the forrest in a mortar wielding a pestle (wouldn’t a broom be easier?). She is a “fearsome witch with iron teeth and bony legs.” But unlike Muma- Baba is not harmful to the pure of heart.
I’d like to read more about all of these folklore witches and the origins of the stories – but I’m afraid I will never, ever, ever fall asleep again. I already jump into my bed from six feet out (thanks Poltergeist clown.)