The Snakes and the Gold Rock of the Danube Delta

Informant Data:

The informant is a Romanian American who was born in Bucharest, Romania in 1935. At age 37, my informant left Ceausescu’s Romania and arrived in the United States in 1972. She is a skin care specialist who currently resides in Los Angeles, California. She speaks slowly but very impassionedly.


Contextual Data:

My informant and I were at the dinner table during a family get-together. Several of my family members and family friends (all originally from Romania) were recounting memories from their childhood. At some point in the conversation, my informant mentioned the legend of snakes and gold in the Danube Delta. I asked my informant if she could tell the whole story of the snakes and gold and if I could record her telling the story and she agreed.

When I asked her why this legend appealed to her, she said how she liked the idea of being one of the intelligent few who would know how to take the rock of gold and avoid the snake’s attack. She also mentioned to me that her mother told her this story.



(Audio recording transcribed)

“So it’s an old story among the villagers of the Danube Delta…which is this really remote place, and I understand that even to this day, it looks quite pristine. Unchanged…really, really…so imagine the delta…imagine something quite marshy with a lot of vegetation and stuff. And supposedly during the night, when there’s a full moon, when there’s a summer solstice with a full moon, in the middle of the night at midnight, people could see in this marsh…this is what I imagined when I was a kid hearing this story…just imagine this marsh with some water and trees and things growing there because it’s green there. And these perfect nights with the full moon at midnight…if people had the courage to watch the water, there would be these snakes that would merge in these marks. And in the dark of the night, the water only lit by the full moon, you would see these snakes, and they were poisonous I think, and they’d be fighting. And these snakes, during their fight, they’d be spitting venom that would be creating a rock of actual gold that would become really shiny at night. And then after a while when it gets big enough, the snakes would seem to disappear. Now, if any unfortunate person, pushed by greed, sees that rock of gold, goes in the water, and tries to take it, they would be instantly attacked and killed by all those snakes that were hiding. But the legend says that every now and then, somebody who is really special, who knows when to wait, and they’re able to wait just long enough, and go in the water in a certain way, they might’ve had to also sing a song to lull the snakes…that once special person would’ve been able to go in and snatch this rock of gold and run away with it.”



This legend seems to represent society’s negative view of greed and how a sort of uncontrollable greed that drives you to recklessly go after wealth (without any thought of consequence) can lead to failure or death. This legend seems to say that is only by using your mind and approaching life intelligently that one can be successful in achieving wealth.