Tuesday, April 10, 2018

I is for Ilona the Forgetful and Occasionally Murderous (WTF Hungary - Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales)

Welcome to this year's A to Z Challenge titled WTF Hungary - Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales! You can find all other participating blogs on the A to Z Challenge main blog.

I have blogged about Tündér Ilona, Queen of the Fairies before. I am circling back to her because I want to talk about how different her portrayals can be, depending on what folktale you read, and who is telling that tale. So, I have two stories for you today.

Exhibit A: Palkó Lily-of-the-Valley
This story has been told and re-told as a Hungarian folktale, but in fact folklorists can find no proof that it existed anywhere before collector and author Benedek Elek put it in his book sometime in the 19th century. It does not fit any known tale type, so many suspect that Benedek made it up. Whatever the case, it is a very pretty story. I wrote about it in detail here.
This tale portrays Ilona the Fairy Queen as a jealous, evil woman who wants to destroy a Dwarf princess just because she is prettier. She is more witch that fairy, and she pursues the fleeing lovers on a seven-legged horse, until the Sun breaks her power. She is not a very likable character at all.

Exhibit B: The Dream of the Fairy Queen
This tale, included in my new book, was collected from a female storyteller named Pályuk Anna. In fact, this was the first folktale I read that was collected from her, and this was also the story that made me fall in love with her tales. Ten years later, many of them are a part of my repertoire... but this one is still my favorite.
In this story, a young man runs away from home because his parents gave him a horribly embarrassing name (Anna does say what the name is, but I'm not gonna tell you). He flees into the woods, where he encounters Ilona and her court, out to pick some lilies-of-the-valley (sensing a pattern here). The young man accompanies them, but when he enters the clearing of flowers, he is cursed along with a bunch of the fairy maidens, and turns into an old man, trapped. Ilona wows to rescue him, runs home to ask for help, and... kinda sorta accidentally forgets about the whole thing. For years. (Ever had that feeling when you walk into a room and you suddenly forget why you came in? Apparently fairies have that too.) Eventually she sees the young man in a dream, and remembers she meant to rescue him. She then goes on to fight the Spirit of the Forest, break the curse, give a new name to the poor guy, and eventually marry him.
I love this story because this Ilona is so weird in it - she is the Fairy Queen, with great power, but she is also easily distracted, and a little forgetful. She likes the guy, but doesn't like the name; and when he takes her home, she goes exploring in a church, and accidentally turns herself human. Oops.
Pályuk Anna's take on her is much more likable than any other I have ever heard.

How do you like your Fairy Queens? Good? Evil? Powerful? Forgetful? A little bit of all?


  1. I like my fairy queens a little human and hopefully not too distracted...not forgetfully murderous. That wouldn't do for me at all :)

  2. The first story is akin to Snow White, but the second one is much more fun. I'll try to read this one soon, mainly to find his horrid name.

    I is for Innocence

  3. Oh, tough choice, I do like a good 'bad' queen, they are the more interesting characters!

  4. Fairy queens tend to be a bit of everything. There are indeed those who are murderous - and those who are the beautiful lady who meets a knight in the forest, gives him everything and then asks him nicely not to mention her when he goes home. You know - the story of Sir Launfal? But Launfal forgets. Queen Guinevere goes after him and he tells her that he has a lady far more beautiful than she is. She demands he prove it or die. Just in time, the beautiful fairy queen comes to the rescue, with her ladies in waiting, and forgives him for breaking the rule. Usually, they simply leave and never come back!

    Is Is For Illustrators


  5. Interesting character. I love that opinion is so divided on her that one story has her as a heroine, and another a villain!

  6. I like the fact that she's forgetful. Flawed characters are always the best!

    Is This Love by Whitesnake

  7. I love the idea she's a little forgetful. I expect different thing matter to fairies, so real world problems might not seem so important :)
    Tasha's Thinkings - Movie Monsters

  8. Csenge, melyik kötetben adták ki Pályuk Anna meséit? Köszi :)

    1. Az enyémben :)
      Találsz néhányat a Felsőtiszai népmesékben is.

  9. I like nice a combinations of good and powerful fairy queens. Another set of interesting stories. Thank you for sharing :)

  10. Those are quite the vastly different takes on the same character.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    My A to Z’s of Dining with IC
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  11. Those are wild stories--I like them, and I, too, may have to read it just to find out what the horrid name was!
    Rebecca who is NOT doing A to Z

  12. um, I have a little girl here at daycare who could fit that description. She easily forgets her purpose until, voila! she suddenly remembers. lol It's gotta be a child who influenced this writer. :) katytrailcreations.com

  13. The second Ilona is me! :)

    My blogs in the A to Z: Self discovery via travel and a separate Interactive story.

  14. Probably time is completely different for fairies and other magical folk. What seemed like years to the poor prince, probably passed like a blink for the queen.

  15. Exhibit A reminds me of Sleipner from Norse mythology. He was an 8-legged horse ridden by Odin.

  16. I like story B. I can definitely relate to the fairy queen's forgetfulness!

  17. I think I like my fairy queens mostly good, with a hint of mischief and foreboding.

  18. Yep, I'll definitely take door #2... I'd hate to have a powerful fairy witch queen after me!
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Theme: Odds and Ends Dragons | Writing Dragons