Monday, October 4, 2010

Reporting from the National Folktale Conference

It was the 6th National Folktale Conference, and I have no clue how I missed the first 5. Really, no clue.
But. I have been to all kinds of story conferences, and this one was smaller, and shorter, and maybe less crowded - but it is ours, and it was awesome.

It took place in a small city on the Danube south from Budapest; the place is called Százhalombatta, and it was there even before the Romans came here. As a reminder of the town's rich and logn history there is a big open-air archaeological park and a museum worth visiting. They also have a brand new building for cultural events and conferences. They decorated it for the occasion with big puppets of fairy tale characters.

As for the conference itself, I give you only the highlights:

1. Hungary now has a unique Fairy Tale Therapy Centre, dreamed and designed by psychologist and story therapist Boldizsár Ildikó, specifically for children. Read the information on the homepage, it really is fascinating!

2. We heard about HUNRA's (Hungarian Reading Association) latest program; the name of the program would translate to 'Reading Partner', and it has dozens of volunteers who go out to families and children in need to read with them (and tell them stories!) and help them improve their literacy skills, and their enthusiasm for literature.

3. We heard tons of good lectures on folktales and folklore; this year's focus was the Croatian minority, so we got equal parts from the folklore of Hungarian minorities in Croatia, and the Coratian minority in Hungary. Lots of amazing stories! Lots of book titles I had to write down. I'm hitting the libraries tomorrow.

4. And then there was STORYTELLING. From master Berecz András, who is in my (and many other people's) opinion the greatest living storyteller in Hungary, to young girls from various parts of the country who recited folktales in wonderful regional dialects; from Kóka Rozália, traditional folktale teller to Kovács Marianna, a lady with delicate features and a rich, deep voice who told stories in Croatian and in Hungarian (she was my personal favorite). There was Agócs Gergely, the mentor of the only storytelling course available in Hungary (in a place called House of Traditions) and his current and former students, a lively and colorful group of story-loving people who took every opportunity during the two days to tell a good tale or two. It just felt like suddenly storytellers were springing up from the ground left and right. I was so happy!

5. And then, I told a story too. I told the Jewish story about the baby storyteller and Laila the angel, and it was a very precious moment. It's one of my favorite tales, and it is a perfect story for a huge goup of tellers and listeners. And people listened, so intently it felt like everything stood still. After the performance, some of them told me they had goosebumps, and some people said they cried. Lady Rozália shook my hand and told me she'd collected a story in Transylania that begins with the same words. Funny; they were my words. I translated the story from English.

6. There was a lot of storytelling, amazing folk music, some dancing, and many stories. More cute, amazing, cheerful and memorable moments than I could recall in one blog post.

I felt completely at home - after all, I was home.


  1. Oh wow! It's so inspiring to hear about how other countries honour the storytelling tradition and believe in its power. Thanks for letting us know about this conference in Hungary. Wish I could have been there!


  2. Thank you for telling the story of the conference in such detail. I wish I was there too (and that I understood more Hungarian so I'd be able to enjoy it fully!) Would you tell the story of Laila the Angel in your next Multicolored Newsletter? And The Three Dolls?