The mysterious Salmon of Wisdom of Balea Lake


Reading time: 5 minutes

Tags: Dacian Warrior, fishing, hunting, wild animals, Balea Lake, bravery, betrayal, perseverance, Kharma

If you like the story, please share it. We are giving a free bottle of Romanian wine away (if you can collect from our Bucharest or Brasov office) to the best comment posted below. Closing date, 60 days from publication date.

It was around 61 BC, in Balea Lake area of Transylvania, there was rumoured to be an elusive fish known as the Salmon of Wisdom. It was rumoured that the first person to taste its flesh would be wiser than all living men. Orola was a writer and scholar who lived in the village of Cartisoara near Sibiu, and he would visit the lake to go fishing and to find inspiration to write books and poems. He was already one of the cleverest men in Transylvania and had tried since childhood to catch that Salmon but without success. But his lifelong mission was to achieve the status of infinite wisdom.

Mokson, a young Dacian warrior, named after a brave Dacian king from a time a few centuries earlier, had also moved to the village of Cartisoara after returning victorious from the battle of Histria and falling in love with a local young maiden, Rescuturme. Mokson would often hunt in the surrounding areas.

One cold cloudy day, while climbing down from the mountains known as the Fagaras Peaks, after hunting for game, so his lovely wife Rescuturme could cook for them, he heard a faint cry for help. Suspicious as he was, from his military experience against the fierce Romans, he was careful to make no sound but to seek out the source by walking on the outer edges of his feet so as to present the smallest contact with the look ground. Eventually, approaching the noise source from higher ground, he came across the injured scholar, Orola, who had fractured his ankle and was trapped in a crack in the rocks. Mokson tried unsuccessfully to free the stuck leg but it was impossible. So covering Orola with his coat, he determined to go down the mountain to fetch tools to break open the rocks.

He first made a fire nearby to scare off predator animals and keep Orola warm overnight, laid out some simple noise-creating traps from tree branches in the most likely approach routes, so that any foe might be heard and then he set off down the mountain for home. Two hours later, he arrived, greeted by Rescuturme.  He explained the predicament, reassured his concerned wife, then gathered his essential tools and weapons, and returned to search for, and rescue, Orola. The darkness was falling so the task was especially challenging. But Mokson had learned celestial navigation during his previous experiences at war and was indeed a very brave individual. Navigation of this kind was a rare talent in those times.  After many slow and painful hours, Mokson came upon the sleeping Orola and just in time.

Again Mokson approached from high ground, but from an alternate direction so as not to use the same route twice when approaching an unknown situation.  Mokson peered over the final crest of the rock, for it is always safer to approach unknown danger in this fashion, giving the advantage of surveillance and one’s own gravity as a weapon should any surprise foe need to be dealt with. Conversely, the enemy would have trouble climbing up quickly to attack him should that be the case.

Indeed it was the case. As Mokson carefully peered over the last week, his heart sank as he saw a wild and dangerous Lynx sniffing around the sleeping body of Orola. Or at least he hoped Orola was only sleeping and not already dead.

Mokson and Orola would have been doomed had it not been for the dying flames to give an outline to aim at. Lynx is not known for their timidity, and if they think they have a good chance, will attack rather than flee. Missing the aim in his attempt to kill, would attract the cat’s attention and result in a quick death. Maiming would draw upon himself the wrath of a wounded predator of phenomenal agility and strength. He had one option: an instant and quick kill.

He drew out his Rhomphaia, a sort of spear-like device, raised it high about his head and almost at the instant of release, the Lynx turned to face him, on hearing his exertion. In the dim firelight, the two warriors faced each other, neither afraid of the other, but equally, both aware that one of them was about to die, and it was no sure thing who that would be. What seemed like an age was in fact only a few tense seconds. All of a sudden, the Lynx backed down, looking sideways in submission, and then looking back at Mokson. Mokson knew that look very well and lowered his weapon as a sign of respect to the cat. And with a flash, the Lynx turned and vanished up the mountainside. Both would live to fight another day.

Mokson first set about rebuilding the fire to ward off any other interested attackers. Orola woke up cold and very afraid, but pleased to see the warrior had returned, true to his word. The two of them took turns to break up the smaller of the two rocks trapping Orola’s leg. And within an hour they had succeeded. But it was not fit for walking on, so Mokson made a splint for Orola’s leg. He made some hot Nettle tea from the vegetation (Urtica dioica) to warm and revive them, and in the morning light, they set off together down the mountain.

Mokson was completely unaware of the legend about the Salmon of Wisdom. When Mokson asked Orola why he spends his days fishing in such a small lake as Balea was, Orola just smiled without response. But they had grown to be friends and spent time walking and fishing together. Orola would teach Mokson how to write, and Mokson teaches Orola how to hunt, build, fight and protect himself.  Then one morning up at Balea Lake, Mokson heard a shout of joy and some commotion. Orola had caught a Salmon. It was a stunning fish, with a body of shimmering gold. Orola immediately knew he had caught the Salmon of Wisdom. Finally, he could fulfil his childhood dream of infinite wisdom.

Orola was not skilled at field craft so asked Mokson to help build a fire and cook the magical fish. Orola warned Mokson not to eat the fish, not even a bite. Mokson built a fire and cooked that Salmon very carefully, but when he was turning it over, the hot fish skin burned his thumb and he instinctively put his thumb into his mouth to suck away the pain. Mokson thought nothing of it and carried on cooking the fish. But when Orola came to see how progress was, the wise writer noticed there was something different about Mokson. There was shining wisdom in Mokson’s eyes. “Have you tasted a part of the Salmon?” Orola asked angrily? Mokson assured Orola he hadn’t, but then he remembered he had put his burned thumb in his mouth.

Orola knew at once that Mokson now had the wisdom of the Salmon of Wisdom. Orola was very jealous. He knew he would never fulfil his life’s ambition be the wisest man in Transylvania.  He had to think of something, and fast. He convinced Mokson that there were more fish to be caught and that by night, there would be bigger and tastier fish. Mokson readily agreed to the adventure of staying overnight.

Orola felt he only had one option to remedy the events of the day. He planned to kill Mokson using a rock on his skull, while Mokson slept, and to blame it on an accidental fall.  Nervously, Orola made conversation and plotted his actions. They agreed to sleep in shifts for protection. It was Mokson’s turn to sleep finally in the hours after midnight. He slept deeply with the day’s exertions and mountain fresh air.  Around an hour passed before Orola found the courage to pick up the largest rock. He raised it high above his head, crept slowly up to Mokson. He counted to three. One, two…

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a Lynx appeared, leapt down from an overlooking ledge pounced on Orola, sinking his claws into his chest, and his bite into Orola’s neck. Mokson heard the noise and leapt from his slumber, dagger in hand, ready to fight the foe. The lynx had killed Orola almost instantly. He turned to look at Mokson, and at that instant, Mokson realised it was the same cat as the previous encounter, the one he allowed to escape.  He lowered his dagger, and the 2 warriors again shared a moment of eye contact. Mokson sensed a warmth, a bond, a certain level of respect, and then the cat turned and walked slowly away. He had no sorrow for Orola because his friendship was betrayed.

He came to realise that one’s friends may want you to do well, but never more than themselves. An important lesson in life.

Mokson went on to be the leader of a regional battalion of warriors and the greatest warrior they had ever known.

The end.

What parallels do you draw from this? what lessons? Please comment below, and please share the story on facebook if you liked it.