Monday, April 23, 2018

T is for Tulip Soldiers (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.

You have probably already guessed that tulips have a special place in Hungarian folklore.

This one is a historical legend featuring one of our great national heroes, Rákóczi Ferenc II, the leader of the 1703-1711 revolution against Habsburg rule (which we lost). He is a very common figure in folktales and folk legends, along with his mother, the legendary Zrínyi Ilona. There are "Rákóczi trees" all over the country, ancient trees people claim he either slept under, tied his horse to, or, in the case of the one in my home village, watched a battle from under it. And this is not his only connection to flora either.

According to a cute little story, Rákóczi as a child once had a dream that his mother's tulips were in danger. He crept out of his bed and took his blankets, covering the flowerbed and protecting it from a sudden frost. As he did so, an angel appeared, and handed him a golden horn.
Some time later the boy was playing in the courtyard when he heard the sound of an alarm: The enemy was attacking their castle. They had no soldiers to defend themselves. The boy blew into the magic horn, and suddenly all the tulips in the garden transformed into soldiers, and picked up their swords to defend the family.

I have a soft spot in my heart for this story. I found it while researching Transcarpathian folklore for my latest book; Pályuk Anna, the storyteller whose tales I translated, also had many stories about flowers transforming into people. Maybe it's a Transcarpathian thing.


  1. A magical story! Sort of Arthurian, really, in that there are all those places connected with this hero. Interesting that there is already folklore around a real person after only a few hundred years!
    Tulip soldiers - I can actually see red tulips turning into red coated soldiers...

    T Is For P.L Travers and Shaun Tan

  2. I like that the tulips transformed into helpful soldiers after he saved the plants from a frost. Somehow that so much more fitting than some of the other tales that have been covered. :)

  3. Oh - I love this story. I can just picture the boy blowing his horn and the tulip/soldiers marching!

  4. I love this! Tulips are among my favourite flowers.

  5. This is such a beautiful story. So tender. Love it. I love tulips too:)
    T is for Tales of Tailors

  6. That sounds like cute tale to teach what goes around comes around. Tulips are spectacular - love them. Totally off-topic but this story made me wonder if the fairy tale of Thumbelina has Hungarian origins?

    1. No, Thumbelina is a literary tale by Hans Christian Andersen. We do have folktales where people get pregnant from smelling / eating a flower, but those are fairly common throughout Europe :)

  7. That story took a turn I wasn't expecting. I suppose it's saying that if you look after nature, nature will look after you.

    Too Close For Comfort by McFly

  8. What a cute story of how the tulips rose to defend the young lad's home. :) Tulips are some of my favorite springs flowers. I wished the stayed bloomed longer, though.

    ~Curious as a Cathy
    A2Z iPad Art Sketch 'T' Turtle Couple

  9. Tulip people - I love it! And alas, I'm afraid you're once again responsible for leading me down an enchanted road of discovery. I clearly need to learn more stories about flowers morphing into people.

  10. Such a nice story with a happy ending. and no farts or anything.

  11. That's a lovely story! I'd always thought of tulips as special flowers to the Dutch people, and didn't realize other cultures also feature them in stories.

  12. Quite an army of a tulip army rising!

  13. What a delightful tale. It has a very ‘protect Mother Earth and She will protect you’ theme. Perfect for this years recent Earth Day!

  14. Another great tale, I can just imagine a field of tulips suddenly unfolding into soldiers to protect the family that had protected and cultivated it!
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Writing Dragons