Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Lilac in its many shades

It's getting closer to the time when lilacs start to bloom. Somewhere. Not around here, but somewhere.
Thinking about a color for L, lilac was the first one that came to mind. In Hungarian, our world for purple is "lila." Also, I love the flower; it has an amazingly sweet scent.

As for the stories: One that pops up a lot is the Telltale Lilac Bush, a version of a folktale type that is favored by ghost story tellers around the world. In this tale, a man's wife mysteriously disappears, yet he does not seem distressed at all - in fact, he is having the time of his newly bachelor life. But one day some of his guests notice that the lilac bush next to the house is beating furiously against the windows, even though there is no wind. Thoroughly disturbed by the aggressive plant, they dig up the lilac bush, and discover the wife's corpse buried beneath.
(Plants growing on graves revealing injustice about one's death is a very common motif in folklore. This version was collected in Virginia. See the book on the link).

Another lilac episode can be found in the old French fairy tale Blondine. I have a visceral dislike for French fairy tales written in the 18th and 19th centuries - they are literary tales, which makes them too long and too convoluted to tell, and most of them are just too sugary sweet for my taste, with pretty princesses fainting all over the place, and princes crying rivers. Ugh. Anyway, this tale includes Princess Blondine getting lost in the Forest of Lilacs, which is a nice image. You can read the story on the link if you want to.

Lilac also has a Hungarian relation: One specific kind of lilac, Syringa Josikaea, was first discovered in Hungary and named after Countess Rozália Jósika. A lot of sources just call it Josika's Lilac. You can see it in the picture above.

For more lilac, check out Andrew Lang's classic Lilac Fairy Book.

For more Hungarian curiosities, check out my other blog (also participating in A to Z): MopDog - The crazy thing about Hungarians...


  1. They use roses in Practical Magic for a similar thing to your lilacs :)

    My favourite colour is purple :)
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  2. I dyed my hair purple on Friday, unfortunately it's so dark you can't see it unless in bright sunlight :). Thinking of Lilacs always brings back recollections of childhood for me, especially if I smell them.
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  3. So the man killed his wife? That's horrible. But I can see how those who tell ghost stories would like the lilac bush element.

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  4. So does the angry body under the earth move the plant, or is the plant defending the body of on its own?

  5. O what a tragic story about burying the killed wife buried under a lilac bush. And what a contrast with flowers so beautiful and fragrant.

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  6. I love the ghost stories (the girl in the lavender dress is another classic) . . . My grandmother had lilacs growing by her deck and the moose used to come in the yard and eat them. It made her so mad.

  7. Swedish for purple is also "lila." Yeah! High five. ;)

    And I laughed at the idea of fainting princesses and princes crying rivers. That is pretty sugary. Though, like you said, wandering in a forest of lilacs would be nice.

  8. I love lilacs. Especially their scent. I also enjoyed the Virginian folk tale you gave us about them. Very creepy.

  9. The first folk tale is quite tragic but certainly intriguing. Wish I had read this before writing my post for L.. Lol...although I have chosen lilac too :) Don't you just love such a merry colour. And I hope your side sees the bloom

  10. Aggressive lilac plants... creepy stuff!
    Lilac reminds me of gentleness...

  11. I wonder if Edgar Allen Poe as inspired by this story when he wrote "The Cat"