Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Nadeshiko Pink, and what that actually means

So, N is not an easy letter to start a color with. We have Navy and Neon,  and neither of them is going to help in my quest for folklore and mythology. So, once again I have to resort to linguistic sleight-of-hand.
Looking at my trusty list of color names, I came across a shade called Nadeshiko Pink. It is a soft pink color named after the Japanese word for carnations. It has a very important place in Japanese flower symbolism: Yamato nadeshiko is the term they use for the ideal Japanese woman, for the ultimate delicate feminine beauty.
Sadly, my search for a tale that explains the connection did not yield any results.

I do have a story that involves carnations.

Szegfűhajú János (János Carnation-hair) is a Hungarian folktale with one of the most peculiar heroes I have ever seen. I came across the story when I was doing research for my book, and ran into a problem (much like with the letter N) with finding folktales about telepathy. After scouring the whole world for a story, I found it right under my nose, in Hungary. Duh.
We never did figure out why János is called Carnation-hair; we just know that his hair is somehow peculiar and important. I asked a bunch of people, including folklorists, and got a bunch of answers. Some said his hair must be red (red carnations are common in Hungary), or pink, or purple, or wavy, or fragrant, or smooth, or just straight up made of flowers. It was a delightful poll to do.
The story itself is very long, and full of fascinating imagery. It tells about a boy who is raised by a fairy in a castle under the sea. His stepmother repeatedly cuts him into pieces and puts him back together, giving him more and more superhuman powers every time, including telepathy and astral projection (this is probably related to early Hungarian shaman beliefs). Eventually he sets out to find the Diamond Princess he saw in a dream, and adventures his way across the kingdoms of Copper, Silver, and Gold, breaking other princesses' hearts and being hanged for it more than once (yeah you read that right). I like this story for the deadpan tough love of the fairy godmother ("and then she killed him and cut him into pieces, and put him back together again"), the various personalities of the metal (heh) princesses, and just the overall weirdness of a telepathic fairy tale hero.
You can find the full English translation and notes in my book.
For those of you who read Hungarian, here is the Hungarian version online (of the story, not the book).


  1. I love the sound of this tale, so very direct and you don't usually find that the hero is repeatedly killed :). I wonder what exactly it was about his hair.
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  2. That sounds like an absurdly wonderful tale - chopping you hero into bits and reassembling him is certainly unusual, and getting him hanged repeatedly as well, not the norm ;P The only other story I know of slightly similar, as in, dissecting of heroes, is a movie I haven't finished watching yet, because I got interrupted, called Dororo - Japanese, about a man who had his body stolen by his father as a child and bits of it were given to demons. His adopted gather made him a new body and he is hunting down the demons who hold his body parts, killing them and reclaiming them, however, as he reclaims his body, he loses his powers to be human.
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  3. What an interesting looking flower. When I read carnation I immediately thought of the red one, which happens to be my states flower, Ohio so picked by President William McKinley. Thanks for your visit, and best of luck with the remainder of a -z
    Traveling Suitcase A-Z

  4. I love it and what a cool theme! I have AMAZING Japanese Gardens down the street from me in DELRAY BEACH, Florida and I love the attention and detail their plants receive. #AtoZchallenge ☮Peace ☮ ღ ONE ℒℴνℯ ღ ☼ Light ☼ visiting from

  5. Traditionally, pink carnations (when given) mean, "I will never forget you."

  6. Fascinating! I learn something new every time I visit. Love the story of carnation-hair and trying to picture it as a movie. Johnny Dep, maybe?

  7. So interesting! I'll have to check this one out for sure.

  8. What a fascinating tale and tied to such a unique flower.
    I applaud you for the research you do.

  9. I like the sound of that fairy tale--dark and disturbing. Very cool.

  10. I love this choice of yours...and this was such a wierd story! Wow the effort you go to finding such amazing folktales for us! Thanks!

  11. Wow, that does sound like a fascinating story. Thanks for sharing. :)

  12. I like the concept of "the ultimate delicate feminine beauty."

    And "kingdoms of Copper, Silver, and Gold" have my imagination running riot! Delightful images...
    A "telepathic fairy tale hero" with lots of superhuman powers, sounds really interesting.. so cool!