Friday, October 14, 2016

A better way out: "New trad" storytelling workshop by Danielle Bellone

A year ago I hosted Danielle Bellone as a guest blogger, and she wrote a marvelous post about "new trad" storytelling. She is a dear friend of mine, and a former classmate from the ETSU Storytelling MA program. This year, the BGSU LGBT Resource Center featured her as a performer during Coming Out Weeks, and she brought her "new trad" tales and workshops to our campus. It was an amazing experience, and a perfect addition to the program. I took the workshop twice, and you can all be jealous of me now.

Danielle presented her workshop, "After happily: Using 'new trad' stories for celebrating diversity", twice this week - once for the LGBT+ community, and one for the general public. We talked about what makes storytelling important (since the participants were non-storytellers), and then discussed problems of cultural appropriation with traditional tales, as well as topics that are usually missing from folklore. Beyond LGBT+ representation, people also suggested topics such as male-female friendships, diverse body types, differently abled heroes, miscarriage, the Internet, and even student loan debt. Danielle then introduced to us the idea of "new trad" stories - tales that are made up, using symbols and tropes from traditional tales, to fill in these gaps in the oral tradition (see her post, linked above, for details). Her presentation was concise, on point, and very inspiring, not to mention spiced with a lot of humor and genuine conversation. Once we were armed with our newfound knowledge of "new trad", she allowed us to break out into smaller groups, pick a topic, and start crafting a tale. I was amazed at the ideas people came up with; everyone was bustling with creative energy, and instinctively reaching back to folklore to pick motifs and symbols to use. We left both workshops with the bones of stories I truly want to develop into performance. People were inspired and bubbly as they walked out.
(I am especially fond of our idea of telling the sad tale of student loan debt through the story of a school of magic, where students pay for spells by turning into statues for extended periods of time, serving as cup holders and balcony columns for wealthy wizards... until something terrible happens, and they are all needed to protect the kingdom).

Apart from the two workshops, as an illustration of "new trad" work, Danielle also brought us a performance titled "A better way out: An evening of queer storytelling." Every time I hear her, I am amazed at her artistic range: She weaves song, slam poetry, adaptations of traditional myths and folktales, and "new trad" stories, into a wonderful set that is full of color, and wonder, and her endless love for the flavor of words. My great favorite of the set was the "new trad" myth of Soli and Panna, two women in love creating the Universe. She used it as an example in the workshop, so I got to hear it three times in two days, and each time I found new gems in the way she worded it, and each time I loved it more. Danielle is the kind of person who, when listing animals in Creation, uses words like "pangolin" and "limpet" and "sugar glider" instead of plain old "tigers and elephants." Her prose is poetry, and her poetry is lively storytelling.

"New trad" storytelling is an emerging genre, and it is vital for oral tradition to keep moving forward. Danielle Bellone is blazing a trail with her work. Pay attention. Follow along. Be inspired.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Folklore Thursday: Following Folktales around the World

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.

This spring I started a weekly blog series on my Hungarian blog, titled "Népmesék nyomában a világ körül" - "Following folktales around the world." It was my version of the famous A year of reading the world challenge, in which people read one book from every country in the world (or, mostly every country). Since I have always wanted to develop a storytelling repertoire that contains at least one story from every country, I decided that the 10th year of my storytelling career would be as good as any to start my journey.

Here is how it works:

1. I picked a starting country, and read a folktale collection from there (it was China, because I just happened to have a new book of Chinese folktales at hand)
2. I read the book, and wrote a blog post about it
3. I picked the next folktale collection from one of the countries that border China

Every post contains a short review of the book I read, connections to stories in other parts of the world, highlights of the best tales and the most interesting motifs, and a short note on what comes next.

This way, the reading journey is not only a list of countries - it is also an adventure in cultural geography, where I slowly work my way all around the globe. The Hungarian series has 10 posts so far, and I am currently island-hopping in Southeast Asia. The English series will pick up with the next post, in Papua New Guinea.

After some hesitation, I decided to bring this series to the Multicolored Diary, and start posting in English as well. It has been tremendous fun so far, and all the books I read have been in English anyway, so it doubles as recommendations for storytellers, folklore enthusiasts, and other folktale-minded people.

This is my official announcement: Following Folktales around the World is coming soon, to a Multicolored Diary near you!

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Folklore Thursday: Girl versus Dragon

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.

Once again I am doing a folktale translation for Folklore Thursday, to help a friend with their research. This tale is a version of Molly Whuppie, and I am translating it from Hungarian. 


Original title: Rebeka
Folktale type: ATU 328 (Treasures of the Giant) - Hungarian Folktale Catalog MNK 328f
Source: Nagy, Olga. Mindentudó Dongó. Székelyudvarhely: Erdélyi Pegazus Kiadó, 2004.
Hungarian folktale from Transylvania. Storyteller: Kapás Gyuri

Note: This is a mirror translation, therefore might be clunky.
Note 2: The story exists in a couple of versions in Hungarian tradition. In one that I have not managed to track down yet, the heroine allegedly rescues another girl from the dragon.

Once upon a time there was a poor widower. His wife had died young, and left him to raise three daughters. When the youngest, called Rebeka, turned sixteen years old, the father died too, and the three girls were left alone in the world. What could three orphans do to make a living? The youngest spoke up:
"Dear sisters, we are old enough and strong enough. Let us go, find a place where they need help with the harvest. We will earn enough with harvest work to survive the winter."

The other two agreed; they picked up their sickles, and went looking for work. They walked and they walked until they came to a golden-ripe wheat field.
"Let's stop here" said Marika, the eldest "Let's get to work."
"Leave it" Rebeka told her "This filed is too small for us. Let's find a bigger one."
They walked on until they came to a filed so vast it expanded beyond the horizon.
"This one is for us" said Rebeka "We can work here, and make enough money to survive the winter."
"Will it not be too big?" asked Rózsi, the middle sister.
"Come on, we are hard-working girls, we can manage it."
They got to work, harvesting the wheat. As Rebeka swung her sickle, it rang out os loud the sound carried across the kingdom. It reached the ears of the owner of the field: The seven-headed dragon.
"What?! That Rebeka girl was no bigger than a spark the other day, and now she is harvesting my field?"
Because the dragon's mother had prophesied that he would be destroyed by a girl named Rebeka. He appeared at the field in the blink of an eye.
"I knew it was you, Rebeka! Who gave you permission to harvest my field?"
"Why wouldn't I? It is ripe, it needs to be harvested."
"Very well then! But only work if you can finish it by tonight. Otherwise you will be sorry!"
"I shall try. We can cut it down somehow by then, I am sure."
"I will bring you some breakfast, then."
"He is up to no good" Rebeka told her sisters "Don't eat anything but bread. He would not dare poison that. Don't eat anything else or you'll regret it."
By the time the dragon returned with breakfast, half the field was already harvested and tied up.
"You have made progress! Come, eat a little."
The girls sat down, but they ate nothing except plain bread.
"Come on, eat some delicious meat! I even brought wine! You will need your strength."
"Thank you, but we are fasting today. We only eat bread." answered Rebeka. At noon, the dragon offered again, but they only took bread. No matter how he coaxed them, they told him they had enough.
By the time the sun set, the harvest was done. They took their sickles, and went to the dragon, asking to be paid for their work.
"I will pay you well. But why don't you stay here for the night? Where would you go after dark? Let's have dinner, you can get a good night's sleep after, and leave in the morning."
"Very well." said Rebeka; but when it came to dinner, they only ate bread once again. After dinner, the dragon took them to a large room with six beds in it.
"This is where you will sleep, along with my own three daughters!"
The two older sisters fell asleep immediately; but Rebeka stayed awake, knowing that the dragon was up to something. Some time later he saw the dragon sneak into the room, and place red cloth on his daughters' beds, and white on the other girls'. She knew immediately that he did that so that he could tell them apart in the dark. As the dragon left, Rebeka got out of bed, and switched the cloths - white for the dragons' girls, and red for themselves. The she shook his sisters awake, and told them they needed to leave immediately.
They ran away from the dragon's house, and arrived to a great big river. The sun was coming up by now, and in the light they noticed the ferryman's hut. Rebeka knocked on the door.
"Please, dear ferryman, take us to the other side! The dragon is right behind us, he wants us dead!"
"Get in the boat then, girls!"
They got in, and the man began rowing towards the other shore. While all this was happening, the dragon got up, tiptoed into the girls' room, watching for the white cloths in the darkness. He grabbed the first girl, and dragged her outside. His wife had fired up the oven the night before, and the dragon planned on throwing all three harvesting girls into the oven, to make sure Rebeka was dead. But as he was dragging the girl to the kitchen, she woke up and began screaming.
"Eek! Father, what do you want with me? Why don't you let me sleep?!"
"Who are you to call me father?!"
"Who would I be?! I'm your daughter!"
The dragons wife was woken up by the screaming.
"What are you doing, you murderer! Are you trying to throw your own child into the fire?!" she grabbed up a rolling pin, and began beating the dragon.
"Dammit!" roared the dragon "Rebeka tricked me!" He returned to the bedroom, lit a candle, and saw that the harvesting girls were gone. He ran after them, but by the time he got to the river, the boat was almost on the other shore. He shook his fist after them:
"Rebeka, you cheated me! I almost burned my daughters. But you will be back one day, and you will be sorry!"
"I will be back!" yelled Rebeka across the water "I am not afraid of you, and you still owe us money for the harvest! I will collect the debt!"
They made it across the river, and the dragon went home, fuming. The girls thanked the old ferryman, and walked on, seeking their fortune. They finally came to a city, and in it the king's palace. They knocked on the door; when the guard asked them who they were, and what they wanted, they said that they were poor girls seeking service.
"Let them in. Let us see what they can do." said the king, when the guard reported to him. The girls were led to the throne room.
"I hear you three are seeking service. What can you do?"
"We can do whatever you wish, your majesty. We are poor girls, we earn our own living."
The king consulted his wife about what work was needed; then he sent the two elder girls to the kitchen, and Rebeka, who was quick and clever, became a maid.
Time went by. All three girls lived comfortably, but the two oldest still grumbled about having to work in the kitchens, peel potatoes, wash dishes, clean the tiles, while Rebeka was cleaning in the nice rooms, watering flowers, and serving the queen herself. They envied their little sister, and they wanted to hurt her.
One day the king organized a great ball for the servants in the palace. Butlers, maids, valets, coach drivers, hunters, stable boys, everyone came to feast and dance - everyone except for Rebeka, who did not like to dance. She preferred walking in the gardens, weeding flowerbeds. As the servants gathered around, Marika, the eldest sister, spoke up:
"Our little sister is such a great lady, she does not even deem us worthy to join us!"
"Why does she think so?" asked a servant.
"She says that if she wanted to, she could steal the Shining Cabbage from the dragon's garden!"
The servant told the king what he heard the very next day, as he was serving his lunch. After the meal, the king summoned Rebeka.
"What did you say at the ball?"
"I wasn't at the ball!"
"I hear you have been boasting."
"I didn't!"
"Don't lie to me! Your own sisters said it: You boasted that you could steal the Shining Cabbage from the dragon's garden."
Rebeka knew immediately that her sisters were working against her. But out loud she only said:
"Very well, your majesty. I will steal it!"
Sadly, she left the palace, and went back to the great big river. She waited until the ferryman rowed the boat to her side, and then asked him to carry her over, with tears in her eyes, for she had to go to the dragon's garden.
"Do not worry, my daughter" said the ferryman "Just be careful. At night, when you sneak into the dragon's garden, you will see the cabbage immediately for it shines with a bright light. Make sure to gather it up in your arms, and don't let even the smallest leaf touch the ground - for it one does, it will ring loudly, and wake the dragon, and that will be the end of you. I will wait for you here, and ferry you over."
Rebeka waited until night fell, then she went to the dragon's garden, and sneaked through the gate. She went straight to the shining cabbage. She lay down on her stomach, wrapped her arms around the cabbage right above the roots, and lifted it so that not even the smallest leaf touched the ground. She carried it back to the river. The boat was already halfway to the far shore, when the dragon woke up, and ran after her.
"Rebeka, you took my cabbage! But you will be back, and you will be sorry!"
"Or you will be sorry!" yelled Rebeka, and got out on the other shore. She returned to the city, and placed the cabbage in the king's garden. It shone so brightly that everyone admired it. Rebeka became famous in the court, and earned the king's approval; he ordered her to serve at his table. The two sisters were green with envy - they did not only fail to humble their sister, they actually made her rise higher!
Soon after, the king organized another ball. The two sisters whispered among themselves, thinking up things to get Rebeka in trouble. Rózsi, the middle girl spoke up:
"Let's say that Rebeka boasted that she could steal the dragon's horse!"
"That will work!" said Mari. So they spread the rumor all over the celebrating crowd, and it soon reached the king's ears. Next day at lunch, he called to Rebeka:
"My daughter, I am the last to know what you have already told the entire court!"
"What did I tell them, your majesty?"
"You boasted that you could steal the dragon's horse!"
"How could I say such a thing? No one can do that!"
"Do not skirt around the truth, Rebeka! If you do this, I will respect you like no other; but if you refuse, you will be the lowest of the low."
Rebeka left the palace sadly, wondering what she could do to obey the king's orders, and yet stay alive. She went to the great big river crying, and found the old ferryman there.
"Why are you crying, my daughter?"
"My father... for I love you more than my father... The king ordered me to steal the dragon's horse!"
"That is not easy to do" said the ferryman "But do not despair. I will ferry you over, and you can sleep in my hut. We will come up with a plan by morning."
The next morning, when they woke up, the old man said:
Yes, I found a picture of a golden cabbage
Thank you, Internet
"You can't do this on your own. But I will help you! I will go with you this evening, and go into the dragon's garden. I will dig a great big pit, and pull out a cabbage by the roots. I will touch it to the ground, and it will ring out; then I will throw it in the pit and bury it. The dragon will come out, see a cabbage missing, and go looking for it. He will go down to the river to see if you fled that way. While he is away, you can go into the stables, untie his horse, get in the saddle, and ride down to the river. The horse can swim, it will take you to the other shore. I will hide behind the fence, and when the dragon comes down to the river, I will already be there, and tell him I have seen no one.
And so it happened. When the dragon heard the cabbage ring out, he ran straight to the garden; he saw the empty spot where the cabbage had been, and ran straight to the river. The old ferryman took a roundabout way to get back to his boat; Rebeka untied the horse from the stables, and rode down to the water. When the dragon returned for his horse to go looking for a thief, he saw that it was gone. He ran back to the river and asked the ferryman:
"Did you take a thief across the water?"
"I did not! But I did see a girl go into the water on horseback."
The dragon shook his fist at Rebeka, who was only getting out of the river on the other shore.
"One day, I will have my revenge!"
"Or I will!" she yelled back.
Rebeka took the horse to the king, who was overjoyed at the prize. He did not even know how to reward Rebeka; he made her the boss of all servants in the palace. Her sisters despaired, watching Rebeka rise while they sank even lower. She was now their boss, and she could order them around. They knew that next time, they would have to come up with something impossible to do, to manage to knock their sister off the highest shelf. At the next ball they began spreading the rumor that Rebeka boasted she could bring the dragon itself to the king!
The king summoned Rebeka.
"My daughter, if you do this too, I will be the happiest king in the world, for that cursed dragon keeps stealing my livestock, terrorizes my people, and threatens me that one day he will cross the water and destroy my kingdom."
"I did not say anything!" insisted Rebeka.
"I know you always deny it. I am used to it. Go, fulfill my wish, as you always do. If you succeed, I promise to make you my daughter, and marry you to whoever you choose, even if he is a prince or a duke, or anyone else."
Rebeka could see now that she had to obey, or die trying. What could she do? She was the one that threatened the dragon... She went back to the great river, and waited for the ferryman.
"You just left, my daughter, and you are already back?"
"I am, but I think this is the last time. I either succeed at what the king told me, or I die."
"What would that be?"
"He wants me to bring him the dragon."
"That is near impossible for sure. But come, stay with me, and we will come up with a plan."
Rebeka spent the day in the old man's house, and the next day, thinking about what could be done. Finally the old man said:
"You can't bring the dragon to him alive... unless he is in a coffin."
"How could I kill the dragon to put it in the coffin?"
"You don't have to kill him... just convince him to lie in the coffin. He doesn't have to be dead."
"How can that be?"
Burying horses
with warriors
was common
practice in pre-
Christian Hungarian
"Listen! First, he can't recognize you; he hates Rebeka. We need to disguise you so that your own father wouldn't recognize you. And then you go to the woods, cut down a great tree, and make a large coffin. Wait until the dragon comes by, and asks you what you are doing. Then tell him that you are making a coffin, because Rebeka is dead, and the king ordered to make a coffin big enough so they can bury her horse with her too. The dragon will be happy. You have to convince him to try the coffin, and when he is in it, close the lid, nail it down fast, and I will help you transport it back."
The old man got to work. He cut Rebeka's hair short, made her a beard, and made her eat a lot of onions so her voice would be thick. He gave her a bag and an ax, and a big hat, and thus disguised as a woodcutter, Rebeka went into the forest. She searched until she found a great big oak tree, so thick that three people could not have wrapped their arms all the way around it. She got to work, and worked day and night. She felled the tree, cut off the branches, carved out the coffin, worked for a whole week shaping it, until the giant coffin was finally ready.
Days passed. Rebeka sat down and smoked a pipe, chasing mosquitoes away. She grew hungry; she took bacon, onions, and bread out of the bag, and ate some. On the third day she was chewing on some bacon when the dragon finally appeared.
"What are you doing, you wretched man, in my forest?!"
"Please have mercy, great dragon! I would not have come here, but your neighbor the king forced me. This is the only place where I could find a tree large enough for a coffin."
"A coffin? For whom?"
"For Rebeka, his most loyal servant, who did everything the king asked her."
"Rebeka is dead?"
"She is, poor girl. Her horse threw her, and she broke her neck."
"Thank God!" the dragon jumped with joy "My greatest enemy is dead, and all the world is mine now!"
"She is indeed dead, and the king ordered a coffin large enough to fit her and her horse, for she deserved to be buried with it."
"Oh my, and you made a coffin that large?"
"It is almost done! Come, look at it! I am just not sure if it is big enough, and if the king will be satisfied with it."
"Why wouldn't he be? Even I could fit into this coffin!"
"I don't think so, my lord. You are much bigger than to fit into this."
"You don't think so? Let's make a bet! If I fit, you will serve me as my own court carpenter."
"Very well, let's try!"
The dragon lay in the coffin, and Rebeka slammed the heavy lid shut on him, and nailed it down fast. The dragon roared and struggled, but there was nothing he could do. He promised her everything, bags of gold, half a kingdom, but to no avail. The old ferryman showed up with a cart and a donkey; they managed to push the coffin onto the cart, and then, as the donkey pulled and they both pushed, they managed to get it down to the river. They put it in the boat, and rowed to the other side. Once there, Rebeka sent word to the king to send men and horses to transport the dragon. The king himself came with soldiers and horses to meet her. They put the coffin on a cart pulled by four horses, and took it to the palace. The dragon roared, begging to be let out, for he was suffocating.
"What will you give us if we give you your freedom?"
"Everything I have, and they I will leave and no one will see me again!"
"Very well" said the king "Take him outside the kingdom to the highest mountain, and let him go there."
They did, and they threatened him so severely, that no one ever saw the dragon again after that. Not even I. The king adopted Rebeka as his daughter, married her to the son of the neighboring king who has had his eyes on her for a long time. Rebeka became a queen, and her two sisters joined her at court. She did not take revenge on them, and they stopped trying to destroy her. Rebeka's husband married them to a coach driver and a stable boy, and they all lived happily ever after.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Folklore Thursday: The Slightly Less Handless Maiden

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.

Since two of my storyteller friends are working on an awesome book about the female hero's journey, including variations of Grimm's Handless Maiden, I am doing my small contribution to their research by translating this fairy tale from Hungarian to English. Enjoy!

Queen Julika

Original title: Julika királyné
Folktale type: ATU 706, Handless Maiden
Lizanec, P. - Tordon, Á. (1973). Három arany nyílvessző [Three golden arrows]. Budapest: Móra Ferenc Ifjúsági Könyvkiadó. Pp. 100-105.
(The book contains Hungarian folktales from Transcarpathia, collected by a team from the Uzhhorod National University)

Note: Translation might be clunky, because I am doing it word for word.

Once upon a time there was a greedy and evil woman. That greedy and evil woman had a beautiful daughter. The beautiful daughter was called Julika. That heartless woman even kept her daily food from Julika, and dressed her in rags. One day, she tied her hands behind her back, and threw her out into the forest. She left her there as prey for the forest beasts, and went back home alone.
The poor girl wandere up and down the great dark forest. She cried so pitifully even the rocks felt sorry for her, but they couldn't help. No beast, bear or wolf, harmed her, so she made her way through the forest to a meadow with silver grass, collapsed, and fell asleep there. She only woke up late in the moonlit night. The Moon was harvesting the silken grass with a silver scythe.
"A good evening to you, grandfather" she greeted him politely.
"To you too, Julika" the Moon squinted at her, for he had left his glasses at home. He did recognize her, and even patted her on the head, but he didn't notice that her arms were tied behind her back. She was too ashamed to say so.
The Moon was just about finished with the harvest, so he walked with her for a stretch; at the king's orchard he said goodbye, and jumped back into the sky.
In the king's orchard grew golden apples, shining and glowing from far away. The king had two old soldiers serving as guards to the orchard. One guarded it during the day, and the other one at night. They both had been given guns by the king too, to shoot whoever dared to steal his apples.
Julika waited until the night guard nodded off, then she sneaked into the garden. Because her hands were tied behind her back, she could only reach the lowest golden branches with her mouth. She jumped - hop! - and bit into a golden apple. And then she jumped again - hop! - and bit into another. And so on, one hop, one bite, one hop, one bite.
In the morning the king went into the orchard, and got furious at the sight of all the bite marks in the apples. The night guard swore up and down that he had not seen anyone, it had to be witchcraft, but the king still fired  him, and decided to guard his apples himself the following night. When night fell, he hid himself in the garden, and waited for the apple thief.
During the day, Julika slept in a pile of silver hay. When night fell, she woke up hungry, and hopped to the garden; since she did not see anyone around, she began biting the apples. But suddenly the king appeared and grabbed her.
"I have caught you, apple thief! You are done now!" he yelled angrily. But when he took a closer look at the person in his arms, he was stunned by Julika's beauty. His anger dissolved, and he asked her kindly who she was, and how she ended up in his orchard.
Julika was scared, and she wept as she told the king her story and her troubles. The king untied her hands, and invited her to live with him in the palace. She was treated well, bathed in milk and butter [a Hungarian expression meaning she was treated like royalty]. The king sent her gifts, and one day he asked her to marry him. A year later Queen Julika gave birth to beautiful, golden-skinned twins. The king was happy with his children, and treated his wife with even more care than before.
Meanwhile the greedy and evil woman, Julika's mother, wanted to find out what happened to her daughter in the forest. She knew about a magic fountain, so she went there and looked into the water. And by God, what did she see! She saw Julika in a golden dress, with a diamond crown on her head, playing with two golden-skinned boy in the garden of the royal palace. She decided immediately to steal the boys and enchant them. Because she, Julika's mother, was the evilest witch of them all. She turned into an eagle, and flew in circles over the palace. But the queen never left her children alone even for a moment, so finally the witch had to fly home angry, and empty-handed.
That evening the Moonlight leaned in Julika's window, and told her what her evil mother was planning. Julika was scared, and she would have run to her husband straight away, except he was visiting a neighboring king. So she wrote a letter instead, asking him what to do. She sent the letter with a messenger to the neighboring king's palace.
The horse of the messenger became lame, and as night fell, he looked for a place to stay. He knocked on the door of the first house he came across, which just happened to be the witch's house. She cooked him a good dinner, and set a pitcher of sleep-wine in front of him. When he fell asleep, she took the letter from him, read it, and then blew on it. The written words disappeared, and a different message replaced them, in the queen's own handwriting: "My dear husband, I hope my letter finds you in good health, as we are all on good health here as well. There is no trouble here at home, so you can stay as long as you want." Then she replaced the letter in the messenger's bag, and went to sleep herself.
The next morning the witch gave breakfast to the messenger, and told him to stop by on his way back. The king took his wife's letter happily, and answered that he planned on staying for six weeks.
On the way back, the messenger knocked on the witch's door again. He ate the dinner, drank the sleep wine, and fell asleep. The witch took the letter, read it, then blew on it, and sent the following message in the king's own handwriting: "My dear Julika, take our sons and move immediately from the palace to our hunting castle. You will be safe there, and I am going there too."
This was the letter that the messenger handed to Julika the next day. She read it, and began packing immediately. By noon she was in a carriage with her sons, and drove to the hunting castle in the woods. But on the way the axis of the silver carriage broke, and they had to spend the night in the woods. This, of course, was the witch's doing, who had turned herself into a black bear, and lurked there in the woods. But all of this was seen by the Moon who was just above the forest; he took Julika by the hand, and led her and her golden-skinned boys out of the forest. No witch would challenge the moonlight, so this evil one had to go home with empty hands again.
The Moon hid Julika and her sons in a cave and then hurried back to the sky, flying over to the palace of the neighboring king. There he knocked on the king's guest room window, and told him about the danger his family was in. But he could not give advice, for the Sun came up, and he had to flee. The king didn't know what to do, since he was seven days' travel from home; he saddled his horse, but then he decided to stay, and he just sat, moping around.
In the morning the other king invited him to a hunt, because people brought news of a deer with golden antlers in the mountains. The two kings ventured deep into the forest, but they did not see a single glint of a golden antler. Night fell. Dark clouds gathered on the sky, separating the Moon from the earth. The kings got lost. The guest king was more worried by the minute, thinking of Julika and his golden-skinned sons. Suddenly thunder clapped, and lightning lit up the forest. At the light of one of them, the two kings noticed the deer with the golden antlers. Taken by the hunt's thrill, they reached for their guns. But before they could fire, the deer spoke:
"Dear kings, please let me live!"
"Don't shoot!" yelled our king, seeing his host take aim. The other king put his gun down with a huff. The deer stepped closer:
"Thank you for not letting me die. I am the King of the Deer; I will fulfill a wish for you. What is your wish?"
"Hear my wish, King of the Deer" said our king "Fly me home to my kingdom, to the cave where my wife and sons are."
"I cannot take you there myself, but I can lend you my magic horse that has twenty-four legs. It will take you home faster than the wind."
With that, the deer rubbed its antler against a fallen log, and the log turned into a magic horse with twenty-four legs. The king jumped on its back, pulled up the other king behind him, and the horse took them flying across the dark, stormy night. When they got to the palace of the host king, the horse landed, they said their goodbyes, and then it rose into the air again, carrying Julika's husband back to his kingdom.
The witch was happy for the stormy night. Nights with no moon are the true nights of witches. She turned into a she-wolf, and searched for the hiding family from one cave to the next. There was only one left, and the she-wolf was headed towards it at a lope. But the moment she reached the cave's mouth, the magic horse descended, breathing fire, carrying the king. The witch fled into the bushes, terrified, but the king noticed the great wolf and fired his gun. The witch screamed and died. When they went to look for the wolf, they only found two torn slippers.
"You can come out now!" the king called into the cave to Julika and the boys. They ran outside happily and embraced him.
The king thanked the magic horse, and sent it back to the King of the Deer. But the horse insisted on flying them home to their palace first. The rain stopped, the wind cleared up the clouds, and it was a clear, moonlit night. As they flew over the silver meadow, they saw the Moon taking a break from its harvest, sitting on top of a pile of hay.
"You will live happily from now on!" he yelled after them. And he was right. The king and Julika raised the boys without a problem. They grew up to be handsome young princes, and they married two beautiful princesses. One inherited the king's lands, and the other ruled his father-in-law's kingdom. They still live somewhere if they have not died yet.

Note: Hungarian language doesn't have gendered pronouns. It is only my translation that made the Moon a "he"

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Folklore Thursday: Farts, folktales, and feminism

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.

Today we talk about ancient tales about women farting.

This is not a joke, so much so that the folktale type I am talking about has its own number: ATU 1453**** (those are not four tiny farts, those are asterisks for a sub-type, thank you very much). It is commonly known as "The Flatulent Girl," but the type also has a fancy Latin name, Puella Pedens, which means the same, but sounds more scientific, because it's Latin.
This story exists in many traditions around the world, but in vastly different versions, and with vastly different morals. Some folklorists posit that it is of Eastern origin, because it exists in the Birbal tale cycle of India.
Whatever the case, it is worth talking about.

Here is the gist:

A man (or a party of men) arrives at a house to propose to a girl. While they are there, the girl lets out a fart, which absolutely scandalizes the guests, and they leave immediately. After this, the story can take two turns: One, "this is why women should never fart" - and Two, which is obviously why I am talking about this today.
In Option Two (several Hungarian versions), the mother is so embarrassed by her daughter's mistake that she bribes the men with a length of home-made linen to not tell anyone. When his daughter finds out that they are walking away with the linen that she made with hard work, she runs after them, takes it back, tells them off, and marches home. The "tells them off" part is especially entertaining, and it can take various forms, such as:

"You take your groom, I'll take my linen. And you can go find a house where nobody farts!"
"Guess what: I farted a lot more than this while I made an entire length of linen with my own hands!"
"I farted because my father's house has good food. Does yours?"

In one version, the men feel ashamed, admit that the girl is clever, and propose anyway. In another, the storyteller concludes "she had more brains than her mother." In the third, the "clever girl" never marries, but the story notes that she was unjustly judged for "one mistake."
All of these versions of the story have been collected from female storytellers, by the way.

While many versions of this tale type fall under your typical run-of-the-mill "women-policing" category, the ones mentioned above carry a very important feminist message: That there is a bias in people when they compare a woman's behavior (and bodily functions) to the worth of her work. "Real" women, according to society, don't fart, don't burp, don't sweat, don't grow hair, and bleed blue. Watching to make sure they adhere to these rules come before actually paying attention to what they are working on, what they are saying, or what their personality is like. It is so important that a girl's shoulders should be covered that she is sent home from an educational institution, placing "propriety" above knowledge (because clearly no one has seen a naked shoulder before). When women in the media are meticulously criticized for their looks and their etiquette instead of what they stand for, we have a problem.
Sure, accidentally having bodily functions in front of guests is not good etiquette - but neither does it make a woman unlovable, undesirable, or worthy of eternal damnation.

And it is definitely not worth losing a perfectly good length of linen.
(SCAdians, can I get an amen?)

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Meanwhile in Spain, television history is STILL happening

I will keep saying this until my head explodes: WATCH. THIS. SHOW.

A lot of things happened since I last blogged about El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time), Spain's new hit TV show:
- The second season concluded, with 13 stellar episodes
- A book was published, containing 3 additional episodes from the second season (because transmedia storytelling is a thing)
- The rights for the show have been bought/optioned by several other countries, including China, Portugal, and France

They also broke out the wigs
By the second season, the show has found its footing and its audience - not that the first one wasn't amazing, but this time, every single episode delivered quality TV that you rarely ever see, especially when it comes to historical topics. The show navigates between entertainment, historical authenticity, emotional impact (without crossing over to melodrama), and presents an admirable sobriety when it comes to facing Spain's own history with all its ups AND downs. 

Here are some things that I absolutely loved this season (with minor spoilers):

26 episodes into a show, the main characters, who have been working for the Ministry and traveling in time for years, still have problems adjusting to the modern era, and their own sentiments and values still show at odd places. For example, Amelia, the team's history-savvy, early feminist leader fights for women's rights at every turn, BUT since she comes from the 19th century, sentences like "only women can be kleptomaniacs, it is in their nature" still fall out of her mouth occasionally. Alonso, our 16th century softie of a soldier, gets told halfway through Season 2 that maybe he should start bathing (even though he's just mastered the microwave). Pacino, the new guy on the team from the 1980s, is as amazed by modern technology as the medieval guy is (and the 19th century lady explains to him what a flash drive is). The show is FULL of small details like this, highlighting that these characters, time travelers as they may be, still have ingrained habits and values that can't just be flushed out from one day to the next.
A 19th century lady, Diego Velazquez, and a 16th century soldier
watch Terminator 2

Evil Americans trying to buy the
manuscript of Don Quixote
2. The Americans are evil - and have bad accents
Okay, so I don't think Americans are evil, but GOD IT IS REFRESHING to watch a show where a (badly done) American accent means that someone is an evil businessman who wants to make time travel into a source of wealth. The show takes several hilarious jabs at Americans and their knowledge of European history; and I am pretty sure that having a Spanish actors portray J. Edgar Hoover and Charlton Heston is one of these intentional jabs... Why hire a native speaker if one of our actors can do a passable accent, riiiiight?

3. The ministry works about as well as any ministry would
Disaster is usually only avoided because the people working there are bending the rules into pretzels - otherwise, the Ministry has some serious issues with its logistics. It is not perfectly equipped with high tech, or operating in complete secrecy. Things leak all the time, and they have to scramble to mitigate the situations; funding is cut all over the place, and they don't have enough agents to cover all their bases, which repeatedly leads to security breaches and administrative problems. The new boss they get knows nothing about history, but has 3 online degrees... All in all, they take at least as many jabs at their own administration as they do at the Americans.
They even get audited by the IRS. And spend an episode doing paperwork. (And still make it exciting)

There are entirely too many guns in this  "Ministry of Public Transport"

4. They definitely had more budget this season
Still not as much as HBO, obviously, but they ventured into larger concepts, compared to Season 1. We saw larger sets, more costumes, more extras, war camps, castles, and even part of New York City in the 1920s...

5. They go into WHAT IF stories and alternate history
New this season, we actually see the modern world change a couple of times due to historical events being altered. Some of them are minor, while the season finale delivers a whole alternate world - excellently done and heartbreaking at the same time. I don't want to spoil it, but I'll tell you that it was an amazingly well done episode, and it put our GOOD protagonists through internal struggles between their own privilege and the suffering of others. If you do alternate history, this is how you do it.

+1. Hungary was briefly featured!
Okay, so only Hungarians are gonna get excited about this, but the characters briefly visited Hungary at the end of the 19th century - and, unlike the American characters, the actress speaking Hungarian in this episode had no accent at all. And was singing an actual Hungarian song. It was perfect.

All in all, Season 2 presents El Ministerio del Tiempo at the height of its potential. It is entertaining, educational, exciting, and LOVABLE. And it shows no sign of slowing down. I can't wait to see what they come up with for Season 3.
(They still owe me some Romans. Apart from the ones they locked into the bathroom during inspection, that is.)

Eat both your hearts out, Doctor.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Folklore Thursday: Teaching consent through fairy tales

Today is Folklore Thursday on social media! If you want to find out more, follow this link, or click on the #FolkloreThursday hashtag on Twitter! Hosted by @FolkloreThursday.

There have been a lot of discussion lately about consent and fairy tales - mostly focusing on Sleeping Beauty, and whether or not it is a good message to kiss a sleeping girl (or, as in the case of Sun, Moon, and Talia, to have sex with an unconscious woman) (spoiler alert, it's not). The more I read about it the more I started to wonder about finding fairy tales that do teach consent - or have symbolic elements that can be used to do so.
Well, I have been reading Hungarian folktales from Ung county (historically northeastern Hungary, currently split between Slovakia and the Ukraine), and I found a moment in one of them that explains the concept of consent perfectly.

The story is a classic fairy tale type, about the golden apples (pears) that mysteriously disappear every night, and the youngest prince that discovers that they are being stolen by fairies-turned-birds. He falls in love with the fairy queen, but she can't stay with him; the young prince (in this case named Árgyélus) sets out to find her.
Things get interesting (and relevant) when he finally gets to the fairy palace at the end of the world:

He was almost there when the middle sister [of the fairy queen Ilona] told her:
"Árgyélus is here!"
"Are you sure?" Ilona asked.
"Sure! As sure as we are here right now. Shall we let him in?" she asked.
"No, we shall not, until he tells us where they came from and who they are looking for."
When the prince knocked, the girl said:
"Come on in, the door is open!"
But the horse [the magic horse of the prince] told him:
"Wait, don't rush in!"
He waited, and then knocked again. Ilona said:
"The door is open."
But she didn't open the door, and the horse said:
"Let's wait until they open the door themselves."
The prince said:
"Open the door for me!"
Ilona then came out and said:
"You can come in, the door is open."

The magic horse (a táltos - the same word we use for shaman) acts as the prince's guide and conscience in these tales. He is the one that warns him not to rush, not to break through the door - to wait until the princess opens it herself. The first time he knocks, someone else (the sister) tries to give consent for her, stating the door is open; the second time Ilona states the door is open, but does not invite him in. He waits until she opens the door herself, and asks him, out loud, to enter.

This is the definition of "yes means yes," people.

I wanted to share this little tidbit because it is a motif that can be inserted into most stories; it is a small moment, but it has a very clear message, without shedding the symbolism of fairy tales. All folktales are build of smaller building blocks, recurring motifs; this is a less common one, but it can be very useful, without sounding forced or didactic.

Feel free to take it and run with it!