Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Important questions, great discussions: FEST 2024, Glasgow

This year's FEST (Federation for European Storytelling) conference took place in Glasgow, organized by representatives from four nations: Scottish, Irish, English, and Welsh. They created a great program in collaboration, running parallel to The Village Storytelling Festival with all its marvelous events.

Fun fact: this was my 10th FEST conference! I attended in 2009 for the first time. Even more fun than that, we had a whole lot of Hungarian attendees this year. I traveled with my long time friend Kata Orosz (who is a volunteer storyteller from Világszép). In addition, Meseszó was represented by Klitsie-Szabad Boglárka, Hungarian Heritage House by Sándor Ildikó, Holnemvolt (Onceuponatime) Festival by Szabó Enikő, and Világszárnya by Hajós Erika, Zámborszky Eszter, and Bedőházi Beáta. Three of us (Bogi, Enikő and I) even presented workshops. Although I didn't get to see the other two, I heard they were really popular.

I arrived in Glasgow Tuesday evening, missing the first evening's welcome events, but welcomed by friendly storytellers in the lobby of the hotel anyway. It always feels like coming home when I arrive to FEST, seeing friends from all over Europe. 

The conference program itself began Wednesday morning, with welcome speeches and keynote presentations. The organizers introduced themselves and welcomed us officially, then handed the stage over to the keynote speakers. Steve Byrne talked about intangible cultural heritage in Scotland, and the work it took to record and register traditions as such (my favorite quote: "Cultural heritage is not just what we used to have."). DrStephe Harrop talked enthusiastically about creating storytelling spaces in Glasgow, and the work of women storytellers in this process. We also received a warm and friendly welcome presentation from Amadu Wurie Khan, who talked about identity as a "new Scot", as well as finding a place among cultural similarities and differences between Scotland and his native Sierra Leone. At this point, the conference program was running a bit late, but no one minded much - we heard a lot of fascinating things in one morning. During the breaks we were treated to coffee, tea, and pastries in the cafeteria; we even received reusable coffee mugs in the spirit of sustainability.

I chose to attend a fascinating presentation after the break. Peter Chand and Aoife O'Connor promised us "a provocation and a discussion", and that was exactly what they delivered. They dropped some hard truths about diversity (or lack thereof) within FEST and the larger storytelling community. The talk revolved around representation of marginalized identities (by race, nationality, gender, sexuality, ability, language, etc.), and the ways FEST and other storytelling events in Europe could be more inclusive in general - especially to young, upcoming tellers. They also touched on the topic of cultural appropriation, and doing justice to stories from other cultures - from learning to pronounce names all the way to dealing with people from colonizing countries telling stories from the groups they had colonized. The presenters didn't only open up a lot of important questions, but they also allowed time for feedback, discussion, and expressing feelings (even uncomfortable ones). The entire presentation was just the start: whoever wanted could sign up to a mailing list to continue the discussion. It was a very important session, much needed for the European storytelling community - and all the while honest, friendly, and open. The presenters held the space well. I am glad I attended.

After the lunch break there was another selection of workshops. In the first half hour I did my presentation on MythOff and bringing mythology and storytelling to new audiences. I got some great questions at the end. After my time was up, I hurried over to Dougie Mackay's workshop on wolves. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially because the reintroduction of wolves to Hungary sparked some debates (not to mention the shooting of a Swiss wolf by a Hungarian hunter recently...). And I love stories where wolves are not evil or dumb. Dougie led a great discussion on wolves, their importance to the environment, and the responsibility of storytellers. He also told us about his adventures tracking wolves in the wild.

I doubled down on environmental storytelling in the next session: after a coffee break I attended Cara Silversmith's workshop on environmental literacy and storytelling. Cara is passionate and enthusiastic about nature, and educating people - through stories - about our relationship with it. We got to touch some leaves and try to guess what tree they came from; we talked about different types of knowledge, and the emotions nature can evoke in us. It turned out the leaves were from an elm tree (and I was a little ashamed that I once wrote a whole article on elm trees in mythology, and yet I did not recognize the leaf). It was a lovely workshop, and great discussion.

After having dinner, we returned to the Centre for Contemporary Arts for the evening shows. Kata and I arrived early, so we got to sit and chat with people in the cafeteria - among them Ronni Gurwicz who runs a really fun podcast series, and also published a book alongside Arjen Barel and Stu Packer (yes I bought it). The evening performance I got to attend was Queens of Albion by Stephe Harrop. She masterfully combined personal stories with the foundation legends of Britain and some Greek mythology. She is a sparkling, humorous storyteller who owned the stage with minimal props - a few rocks, and a shiny jacket that transformed into various things in her hands. It was a stunning performance. I was too tired to stay for the late night shows (toddler mom), but I was happy I made it to that one.

The second full day of the conference also had a lot to offer. I chose the workshop titled Finding Your Voice run by Irish storytellers from the Leprechaun Museum. They had done a project on Erasmus+ funding, reworking traditional stories with LGBT+ youth. We got to go through a shorter version of the workshop they designed, and had great fun with it. We discussed what queer stories do exist in tradition, and what storytellers can do to queer other tales - also, what kinds of heroes and plots we would love to see in stories 100 years from now. We had a great group of people at the workshop, and it was lovely to see folklore research combined so well with creativity.

The second half of the day was Open Space - attendees could suggest topics of discussion, and we gathered in small groups all around the Centre. I joined the table where the topic was "how much can we change myths when we tell them?" We sat in the cafeteria, and we were "violently agreeing" with each other. It was great fun. Sadly, the program was running a bit late, and we soon had to return to the main room to share our thoughts.

All that was left now was to close the conference, and pass the torch on to Paola Balbi - next year we will be in Rome!

We ended the conference with singing, laughter, and gifts - but the day was not over yet. In the evening we had a gala dinner at the National Piping Centre (with some great Scottish music). We heard stories between courses, and after dessert a surprise guest appeared: a Mari Lwyd came dancing, and we all sang and cheered. It was a great way to celebrate us being together. The evening was so lovely that in the end I only said a few goodbyes and slipped out to go sleep. 

Kata and I spent the remaining day on the Isle of Arran, walking the beach, enjoying the sunshine, and visiting the Bodick Castle botanical gardens. It was a gorgeous place to visit, with friendly people. On the morning before we returned to Hungary we also got to browse some bookshops around Glasgow, and have lunch with folklorist Maggie Mackay. We made the most of our time to the last minute.

This was my second time in Scotland, and I was once again enchanted by the place, and by the storytelling community. I am sure I will be back. And next year, I'll see you all in Rome!

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

2024 A to Z Challenge Reflections - and Theme Reveal


I adore the A to Z Blogging Challenge, but this year was just not kind to me over the course of April. A bunch of work and family stuff happened in rapid succession, which means that I was mostly distracted by being on the struggle bus - and almost completely fell out of visiting other blogs. Which makes me sad, because I saw and bookmarked so many great themes this year! I only completed the challenge because I had all the posts scheduled in March. Whew!

So, to make up for the mess this April has been, I have two things planned:

1. I will go back and read those awesome themes during the Road Trip! It might take me a while, but at least I will have lots of stuff to read :)

2. I might as well announce it now that I already have my theme for next year! As I have mentioned, deciding this year's theme took a lot of work. But next year's theme just came to me and I already love it. It happened too late in March to pull off this year, because it will take a lot of reading.

So, my theme for 2025 is:


I have done an Epics A to Z theme in 2015, and I greatly enjoyed it. This time - 10 years later! - I will again read 26 epics (over the course of one year), all of them featuring women protagonists! Can you name any of them? I already have the list for all 26 letters. I'm excited!

Thank you all so, so much for sticking with me this year! Thank you for the lovely comments, the likes and shares on social media, and of course, congratulations if you participated in the Challenge! You are truly an awesome community. Thank you!

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Z is for Zaddy (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


That's it, I'm officially done :D I managed to get through April, and I scheduled all these posts by March 31st! I might be scraping a little here, but Z was not very easy, in folklore terms. Thank Merriam-Webster for defining this term for me so I can use it.

(As for the image, Google has spoken.)


So, by the definition, a zaddy is a man who is stylish, attractive, and charming. The term is usually applied to older men (or at least men who are not in the "young adult" category). Since all this seems very subjective, I'm just going to list some of my favorite folklore characters who fit the bill.


Zal (Persian Book of Kings)

Always my favorite folklore crush, the white-haired prince from the Shahnameh. Abandoned at birth in the mountains, raised by the legendary Simurgh bird, returned to his father's court as an adult to take his rightful place. Hero of an epic romance, father to the great warrior Rustam, loving husband, caring father, damn clever and honorable man through and through.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Ireland)

Leader of the Fianna, legendary warrior band of Ireland. Raised in the wilderness (alright I have a type sue me), blessed with wisdom, single father raising one of the most famous bards in tradition. Golden-haired, fearsome, clever. Raised by a female couple and he turned out mightly fine.

Sir Kay (Arthurian legends)

Generally known as she sharp-tongued and grumpy senechal of Camelot, he is Arthur's foster-brother and the reason all those knights have food on the table. I always liked this character because he is fundamentally flawed yet extremely interesting. Also, there is a romance (Girar D'Amiens' Escanor) that features him in falling for an equally sharp-tongued lady. SOMEONE PLEASE TRANSLATE IT.

The wild man (Austrian folktale)

This is an obscure one, but one of my favorite folktales. It features a poor charcoal burner trying to find a godfather for his newborn son. In a thunderstorm he finds a hut in the forest, and in it encounters a great strong man. The man agrees to be the godfather. He rides a giant black cat, knows the secrets of wild herbs and plants, and is inexplicably rich. He gives the boy the name Wood-Cat, and helps raise him when he enters his rebellious teenage years.

That's it, everyone! Thank you for sticking with me for another year of A to Z!

I don't think my blog search hits will ever recover. :D

If you were participating, congratulations on finishing the challenge! Pat yourself in the back! 

See you next week for Reflections!

Monday, April 29, 2024

Y is for Years of waiting (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


There are romances where one party has to wait for the other for a long time before they can be reunited in love. Sometimes, they have to wait for years and years.This is a trope of consistancy and faithfulness.


Staying faithful while waiting for long periods of time is actually a much valued strength in folktales.


The tortoise husband (Italian folktale)

Returning to this story for a moment after V, because it also features a patient wife. To break the curse, the tortoise husband has to travel around the world, and she has to wait for him to come back. She does wait, faithfully and patiently, and defends herself cleverly from  various men who want to seduce her.

The pigeon's bride (Balkan folktale)

This one is the same tale type as the Italian Canary Prince: a princess lives in a tower, and a pigeon keeps visiting her in secret. When he bathes in a bowl of milk he turns into a prince. She promises never to betray him, but eventually tells her secret to her parents, and the pigeon disappears. She wears out three pairs of iron shoes looking for him but fails. Then she opens an inn and waits for a long time for someone to bring her news of her beloved. Finally a girl does, and the lovers are reunited.

Lindu in the sky (Estonian legend)

Lindu is a girl who directs the flight of birds. Many celestial beings court her: the sun, the moon, the north star. However, she falls in love with the Northern Lights, because they are free and ever-changing, and she loves her freedom. They get engaged, and he promises to return, but fails to appear again. She waits and she waits, and finally after a long wait her father lifts her into the sky. Her wedding veil becomes the Milky Way. There, she can sometimes meet her beloved again and dance with him, although they never get married.

The three pieces of advice

This one is actually a whole folktale type. It usually features a man who has to go on a long journey, either for service or for military duty. After his work is completed, he is given three pieces of advice - one of which usually states he should never act rashly in anger. He travels home, goes through many adventures, and makes good use of the advice he got. In the end he arrives home, and sees his wife embracing a young man. He flies into a jealous rage, but remembers not to act rashly, and questions his wife first. It turns out the young man is his own son who has grown up while he was away.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

X is for Kisses (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


Who doesn't love a good romantic kiss scene? Pop culture is full of kisses that are memorable, or even iconic. 


Kissing in folklore has recently come under fire for reasons of consent: the whole "magic kiss" concept seems a bit iffy when one party is asleep (and has never seen the other party in her life). On top of that, it is not even very traditional - Disney introduced more magic kisses than the Grimms ever did. But it is still worth looking at traditional stories and the kisses that do happen.


The panther skin knight (Georgian epic)

One of the best kiss scenes in all of epic poetry. A young king is separated from his beloved, and spends the entire epic trying to find and rescue her. In the end, there is a huge fight scene as he and his friends besiege a citadel where she is kept. At the end of the fight they win, and our hero hurries inside, throwing off his armor and weapons to find and kiss his beloved. Pretty epic scene (pun maybe intended).

The tyrant's daughter

This one is a legend that has its roots in ancient Greece and Rome, and was still popular during the Middle Ages. It goes like this: a tyrant (often Pisistratus) has a beautiful daughter, and a young man is in love with her. Once, he carelessly embraces and kisses her in public, in plain sight of her mother. The mother, incensed, demands that her powerful husband executes the cheeky young man. But the tyrant answers: "If we kill those who love us, what do we do to those that hate us?" And allows the young lovers to marry. You can find versions of this story here, here, and here too. More sources here.

Filenia and Hippolito

This version of the story was published by Straparola but it exists in many different versions in folklore. The tale type is ATU 1418 (Equivocal Oath). Filenia is a beautiful young woman married to a jealous, horrid old husband. She secretly keeps up an affair with a young man named Hippolito, whom she has loved since before her marriage. When her husband grows suspicious, he demands a trial: Filenia has to place her hand in the mouth of a serpent, and swear that she has been faithful. If her oath is false, the serpent will kill her. On the way to the trial, Filenia's hands are bound. Hippolito disguises himself as a madman, jumps out of the crowd and kisses her. Right after, she puts her hand in the serpent's mouth, and swears that she has never been kissed by anyone but her husband and the madman. Her oath is technically true. Her husband dies soon after, and she gets to marry her beloved.

(This legend was also told about the famous Bocca della Veritá in Rome.)

The Nymph and the Dryad

I am not entirely convinced that this is a folktale at all (despite the source's claim), but it is lovely so I'll include it. In the beginning, where fairies still lived in the world, two fairies set out on a journey and got lost. One of them grew angry, and yelled at the other - this was the first and last fight between fairies. A booming voice declared they shall be separated, one living in an oak tree and the other in the ocean, until "forest and ocean meet, and dryad and nymph kiss." The two fairies spent centuries apart. Finally, when the oak tree was about to die, the sea rose, and the water reached the forest. Dryad and Nymph kissed. Since then they continue helping people and animals together - teaching them how to resolve their quarrels.

Do you have favorite kiss scenes from popular culture?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Friday, April 26, 2024

W is for Widows and Widowers (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

 This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


A widow or widower finding love again after suffering the great loss of their first spouse is also a common trope in romance stories. It deals with grief, loss, healing, vulnerability, and second chances.

(Image above is from the Australian TV show Love me, which I highly recommend.)


When one thinks of classic fairy tales, second marriages is not what usually comes to mind. But in the wider tradition of folklore, widows and widowers do find love again sometimes (and not just in the form os jealous stepmothers).


The widow of Ephesus (Roman legend)

This story had a long life from ancient times (Petronius' Satyricon) all the way through the Middle Ages. It deals with a widow grieving for her husband, who slowly falls in love with one of the cemetery guards. When the guard fails at guarding the body of a crucified criminal, and is about to be executed for neglecting his duties, the widow volunteers the body of her own husband to save his life. Over the course of history, this story was often touted out as an example of the inconsistency of women, but it also has a reading where it is about saying yes to life and second chances.

The beggar and the kind boy (Hungarian folktale)

The hero of this one is a kind-hearted boy that helps and old beggar, and in exchange wins the ability to transform into the shape of three different animals. When the king needs a fast messenger to warn his daughter (the widow queen of a neighboring kingdom) of an impending attack, the boy takes on the task. During his visit, he falls in love with the queen, and leaves her a feather, a fish scale, and a piece of rabbit fur from his transformations. Later he is almost destroyed by a jealous soldier, but eventually he manages to reunite with his beloved queen.

Qamar Al-Zamaan (Lebanese folktale)

This one is actually a quite beautiful two-part folktale I have mentioned earlier (under C). In the second part, jealous women have the hero Qamar's wife and childrne killed, and he has to go through a long journey of grief. He sets out into the world to find healing, meets a barner and befriends him, finds a home in the barber's house with his kind mother who has also suffered grief, and eventually falls in love with the princess who lives next door. 

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!

Thursday, April 25, 2024

V is for Vampire lover (Romance Tropes in Folklore)

This year, my A to Z Blogging Challenge theme is Romance Tropes in Folklore! For each letter, I will pick a popular trope from romcom movies and romance novels, and see if I can find the same trope in folktales and legends. Because it's fun. Here we go.


Come on, you know this one.


The other option for V was Virginity, and I am not touching that because folklore does not handle it well. And honestly, sexy and hot vampire lovers are not all that common in folklore either, contrary to popular belief. What I do have, however, are some stories that are amusing in the context of vampire romances.


The snowman husband (Algonquin folktale)

A haughty maiden rejects a suitor and mocks him, so he decides to take revenge. He makes a handsome warrior out of snow and sends him to her village. She falls desperately in love with the pale and cool warrior and marries him. When they set out on a journey, she notices he is behaving strangely: he hides from the sun, keeps away from fire, and doesn't eat human food. Eventually, he melts.

This story always reminded me of this meme.

The tortoise husband (Italian folktale)

The original title is "The man who came only at night", which makes it more amusing. It's about sisters being courted by a mysterious man who only ever appears at night. Two of them refuse, but the youngest agrees to marry him - only to find out that she turns into a tortoise during the daytime. 

I always imagined it would make a fun story for a modern-day girl to expect a brooding hot vampire husband, and then boom, tortoise.

Do you have favorite romance stories that feature this trope?

Do you like the folktale versions?

Don't forget to leave a link in the comments so I can visit you back!