Vile are mythological beings in south Slavic folklore, incarnation of beauty and power, benevolent friends of sufferers, the dwellers of forests and rivers. Shared by most Slavic cultures, in Slovenian tradition they appear in a variety of roles: as Vile (beautiful maidens with magic powers) or Žal žene (Sorrow women), Bele žene (White women), Sojenice (Fates), Rojenice (Birth women).
They love the world of humans and bring great fortune to the human who meets them by chance. Their gift is always offered on a condition and a promise. Once that is broken, they leave and are never seen again.
The Little Shepherd Boy and Vile
Once upon a time a boy in Istra was herding a few cows, some goats and sheep near the sea. It was after noon and hot sun baked the earth. Suddenly the boy sees three maidens, who were sleeping in the soft grass. They were fairies/vile (pron.veele). They were incredibly beautiful. They looked very much alike, almost the same. They lay peacefully and at least appeared to be sweetly asleep. It did not occur to the boy, that they might be Vile. He took them to be young girls, who got tired walking in the sun, lay down and fell asleep.
“A pity about their beautiful faces! I must help them!” He went to the linden tree near-by, broke off some leafy branches, and planted them around the girls, so that the sun could no longer burn them with its rays.
It wasn’t long, when Vile awoke and got up, and began to wonder and ask each other, who would be so caring, to wish to protect them from the sun. In truth they knew all that had happened, since they had only pretended to be asleep. They were asking each other in this manner, in order to discover if the boy would speak out.
The little shepherd did not speak, instead he tried to run away, since he could not look at the fairies, their hair was so shiny, glittering like pure gold.
In an instant they reached him, he could not escape. Then they asked him, what he would like as a gift, for protecting them from the sun. He was too shy to ask for anything. They offered him a magic purse, which would be always full of gold coins. The little shepherd did not want the gift, since he did not understand the use of money. He did not want to play with it or look at it; money was something dead, instead he had his live cattle and sheep, which he valued above all.
When fairies saw this, they said to him:
“When you take your herd home this evening, you will hear ringing, but don t look back, till you reach your home”. They said it and vanished. Only then did the boy realize that these were not ordinary girls, but likely to be Vile.
Sun slowly began to sink lower and lower towards the sea and the shepherd boy started his little herd towards home. The further he came towards his home, the louder was the ringing and tingling behind him, but he had forgotten what Vile told him to do. He was already half way home, when he turned around to see who was driving their herd behind him. He saw a great number of cows, sheep and goats, walking out of the sea and following his herd. Nobody in Istra had ever seen such beautiful animals.
The instant he looked back, the animals stopped coming out of the sea. Only the animals already on dry land accompanied him home. If the little shepherd had not turned around, he would have had an enormous herd. As it was, he did have enough; he could even help the poor with the gifts of livestock, received from the grateful fairies.