Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The story of the Sad Prince

Egyszer volt, hol nem volt, az Óperenciás-tengeren is túl, a tüzes tengerek hetvenhetedik szigetének partján...
Once upon a time, far far away across the Óperenciás sea, on the seventy-seventh island of the Seas of Fire – lived a prince, whose name we do not know; everyone just called him Bús Királyfi, the Sad Prince. His father, the king, kept telling him day after day how useless he was; true enough, he was not particularly brave or exceptionally clever, he wasn’t talented either in war or in politics. His father used to roll his eyes and say „He doesn’t even have a good story to tell.”
So one day Bús Királyfi decided to set out on a journey – if he cannot become a good prince, he will become a good storyteller. He traveled for a long long time, searching for stories – but he didn’t even find people to talk to. At last, he met a little rabbit in the forest.
„Te nyúl, tudsz-e nekem mesét mondani?”
„Rabbit, can you tell me a story?”
„Van nagyobb dolgom is attól!”
„I have other things to do!”
And the Rabbit hopped away.
Bús Királyfi continued his journey, and met a wolf.
„Farkas testvér, tudsz-e nekem mesét mondani?”
„Van nagyobb dolgom is attól. Eridj innen!”
„Leave me alone!” said the wolf, and left the Prince alone.
Next, Bús Királyfi met a bear.
„Medve bátyám, tudsz-e nekem mesét mondani?”
„Van nagyobb dolgom is attól. Eridj az utamból!”
„Get out of my way!” said the bear.
The Prince went on, and reached the place when the forest met the fields; he stopped there, leaning against a lonely willow tree, and sighed.
„Hát ki fog nekem mesét tanitani? Mesélsz nekem, te árva fűzfa?”
„Who will teach a story to me? Would you do it, lonely willow tree?”
But the willow couldn’t even talk.
So on he went, ment, mendegélt; he walked into a town, and came to the door of a house; he opened the door, and here we are, telling our stories...
Bús Királyfi is always standing in the doorway, listening to us.

(The story was told by the traditional storyteller Fejes József, and can be found in the book A magyar mesemondás hagyománya, by Raffai Judit. This is not a literal translation of the tale, but the version I tell with my own words when I perform. Tell and enjoy! :)

Sunday, August 23, 2009

East meets West

Hungarians can't seem to agree about the location of our country. Some say Eastern Europe, others say Central Europe (and are seriusly offended by being called Eastern), many say Easter-Central-Europe, some say Balkans, and there is also a rumor that if you put the map of Middle Earth on top of Europe, we would be in the dead middle of Mordor. Go figure.
Whatever the case is, from a Western point of view we tend to look strange and exotic. It took some getting used to, when I wandered overseas, but I think I can live with being unique :) Which brings us to a new piece about the above (um, below) mentioned FEST conference and festival.
Eastern Europe (for the time being let's agree on this) was represented by the three of us: Birgit from Vienna, Jitka from the Czech Republic, and yours truly. You could say the Habsburg Monarchy reassembled for a guest performance... none of the three countries has any official storytelling organization or network (yet!), so we tended to stick together, first out of curiosity and shared experiences, then out of friendship. We talked, and talked, and talked some more, and we sang, and we laughed, and we made a storyteller out of Jitka who only came to observe the conference for ther phd research. Turns out she isn't only talented in telling, she also sings very well :)
Long story short - the Eastern European Special Interest Group came into being. Yay!

As for Hungary...
I told three stories at the festival; two of them were Hungarian folktales and one was a great story from the American South, which I coudn't help but tell at one of the evening story swaps. (I'm thinking there are some people out there who wouldn't think it appropriate to tell an American story when I'm out in the world, representing my culture and my country all alone... well, those are the people I don't really care about)
The first story was that of the Sad Prince (I'll put it on this blog later). It's more like a story opening, really; it's short, it's simple, and it fell right into place at the first evening of the festival. People seemed to like it. A lot. And when some telers cem up to me afterwards and asked me if they were allowed to tell the tale, I couldn't have been more proud... not of myself, but of the story!
(What did I say? Of course I said yes. Folktales are supposed to travel! :)
The success of the Sad Prince gave me a lot of self-confidence for the next day, when my performance was the very last one of the festival. I spent a lot of time pondering about which Hungarian tale to tell; actually, I have been thinking about it for months, and I came up with the right story on the morning of that very day. This is how it usually works with me.
The story I chose was that of Ludas Matyi (I'll also post it on this blog later, or maybe include it in my next Multicolored Newsletter... we'll see). It's a kind of trickster tale, funny and smart, and it includes some characters that are from other countries (or so they say). I had the silly idea to have some of the other tellers help me with the tale... it was already too late in the day for traditional storytelling, and after 4 days spent together with the great crowd of people already mentioned, I felt really, really playful. So this is how it happened that the story suddenly had a Czech architect (Jitka) and a Swedish doctor (Love) in it. (In the original story it's an Italian architect and a German doctor, and I couldn't care less...:) It was amazing! I've never had so much fun on the storytelling stage before. The three of us were the youngest at the conference; playing together at the end of those 5 days was everything I could wish for to make the Lausanne experience just perfect. The story worked, the improv came out just perfect, and the audience seemed to like it too.
And so we closed the festival, with laughter and playfulness.

Moments like this make me proud of my country. It has stories that work no matter where I take them and no matter which language I use; it has unique and curious things to tell, and I have ways to tell them to people from all over the world. Sharing the tales of my own culture is a great responsibility, but also a great joy; it is one of the things I want to keep doing all my life.

Left to right: me, Birgit and Jitka, a.k.a. the storytellers of Eastern Europe :)

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

F.E.S.T. report - the nutshell version

A very wise American lady once told me that herding storytellers is like trying to nail jello to the wall. Well, try the same with about 70 European tellers from more than 18 countries, speaking 14 different languages, and that jello thing will suddenly seem like a welcoming way of relaxation.
For those of you who live far far away: F.E.S.T. stands for Federation for European Storytelling. Yay to that! This amazing organization had its first conference last year in Oslo, and now it was time for the next gathering! This time it took place in Lausanne, a wonderful city by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Even better, this time I had the opportunity to join the conference, thus representing Hungary among a very international and multicultural crowd of amazing and friendly people. Storytellers.
Describing these 5 days in detail would (will) take a lot of time and several blog posts. Right now I have to work on my official report for F.E.S.T., as well as this same enthusiastic post in Hungarian for my other blog, so going into all kinds of delicious details and stories will have to wait a bit. I'll get to it as soon as I can. Until I do, I just want to give you a taste of "what happened in Lausanne". Because it definitely won't stay in Lausanne ;) So here comes the essence of F.E.S.T. 2009:

- The countries: Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Belgium, plus Canada and Cuba as outside-Europe guests.
- The languages: German, English, French, Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, Spanish, Portuguese, Gaelic, Italian, Greek, Czech, Hungarian, Dutch, Catalan and Basque.
- The time: 3 days of F.E.S.T. conference, followed by two amazing days of the Les 7 langues du dragon Storytelling Festival.
- The place: the ever-so-beautiful city of Lausanne, in Casino de Montbenon, overlooking Lake Geneva and the Alps. Beautiful sunshine, excellent weather, and a fountain to play in. Um, yeah. It can't really get any better than that.
- The stories: More than you can imagine! Mostly legends, folktales, myths, and all kinds of traditional stuff with some personal stories thrown in. Continuing their journey across Europe from mouth to ear, stopping by in Lausanne.
- The audience: besides the other tellers, we also had a crowd of local people coming in for the festival. They mostly speak French, but the understood English and German quite well. As for the storytelling - they seemed to understand quite a lot, no matter what the language was, actually :)
- The telling: all kinds of tandem and bilingual you can imagine - we spent most of our time playing around and experimenting with ways of translation. Most of them were great fun, and worked perfectly. I'll write more about them later on.

So, this is it for now. Stay tuned, I'll return with all the stories and details soon enough. Believe me, I have a lot to tell! :)

Oh, and as for the jello on the wall: we nailed it.