Monday, April 9, 2018

H is for Heroic Devils (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.

One of the strange characteristics of Hungarian folktales is the presence of devils. We have a bunch of them - when we say "ördög", it refers to demons, rather than the Devil himself. We even have versions of them, like "kisördög" (little devil) vagy "öregördög" (old devil). And they are not always evil, either... probably because they got tagged as 'demons' when our folklore got Christianized.

Here are some examples of nice devils:

The Three Devil Brothers
Folktale from Ung county (Transcarpathia), told by blind storyteller Diószeghy Mária. Three devil brothers compete for the inheritance of magic items left to them by their father. Usually at this point in a Hungarian folktale a hero would show up and cheat all three of them out of the items - but in this case, the youngest devil wins all, and then goes on to use the items to rescue a princess frozen inside a mountain of ice (with some help form his devil uncles and cousins). He marries the princess, and moves into an enchanted castle with her. They live happily (and, according to the storyteller, "devilishly") ever after.

The Bald Prince
This is a long and amazingly elaborate folktale featuring a young man who is bald, and therefore is kicked out by his father. Along his journey he becomes friends with a young bear, and also a young devil who has a kind heart (and was kicked out of hell). They defeat a monster together, rescue a princess, liberate a city, and besiege a castle. The devil turns into a human in the end, having done many good deeds to help people. 

Pinkó is the mischievous son of the old devil Pluto. When he steals food from a poor man, his father punishes him by ordering him to serve the poor man for three years. Pinkó uses his strength to help the poor man become wealthy, and then returns home much wiser. This tale was also turned into a lovely cartoon in our Hungarian Folktales series.

Kalamona Binds the Winds
This is a tale about an unlikely hero setting out to release the winds that have been bound by an evil force. On his journey he witnesses a bunch of devils having a race to elect a new king. He helps out a limping devil by giving him a ride on his horse (apparently cheating is okay in this race). In return, the new king of the devils helps the hero by gifting him a magic sword from his underwold treasury.

The Devil's Godfather
This is a tale from my new folktale collection. A priest makes an uncomfortable deal with the devil, and becomes the godfather to the devil's 97th baby. The little devil, in turn, makes friends with another, human godson of the priest, and the two boys set out together to kill two dragons, and open up the well they had been guarding. The little devil helps his friend by drinking up the water that bursts out, preventing a flood.

Having some sympathy for the devil yet? ;)


  1. Godfather of the Devil? Kind of an oxymoron, isn't it? ;)

    1. It totally is, and I love it :D One of Pályuk Anna's many great inventions.

    2. He made him an offer he couldn't refuse.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Sympathy indeed - it's troubling how they achieved devil/demon-hood! But I love the tales, especially The Devil's Godfather. How perfect,

  4. Apologies for deleting my previous comment, somehow I managed to paste a previous comment in with this one. Let's try again.

    I like that devils can be good and they can rescue princesses and live happily ever after :).
    Tasha's Thinkings - Movie Monsters

  5. This post totally reminds me of the Indian epic Ramayana - where the rakshasas (demons) have both good and bad, sometimes in the same character.

    A much more nuanced and real view of the world we live in, I think, in those old folktales, than the polarisation and sharply defined categories of 'good' and 'evil'.

    Loved the devil's godfather story concept btw. Very neat!

  6. I guess the Hungarians view Demons differently to how we view them in the UK. Interesting take on them

  7. These tales are really interesting and could be transformed into retellings. The bald prince reminded me of the classic movie of Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Rudolf, the Abominable Snowman, and a misfit Elf save Christmas. Great stories!

  8. I guess good demons have a different name here.

  9. Ah, gotta love the Christians coming in 'changing' everything... O.o;

    1. Omg I posted the wrong link, and didn't even notice... O.O;
      Jamie Lyn Weigt | Theme: Odds and Ends Dragons | Writing Dragons

  10. I love how demons have such a positive depiction. A lot of people can't think outside of their own culture's views/symbolism on certain creatures, animals, etc., and don't realize other cultures view them much differently.