Sunday, June 24, 2018

MythOff Steampunk: Full steam ahead!

It's summer, and that means it was high time for another MythOff in Hungary! On June 21st, the day of the summer solstice, we gathered once again to share some myths with the people of Budapest.

Once again, we had a new venue: A stemapunk pub named Krak'n Town. We reserved their large basement space, but unforeseen circumstances in the last minute pushed us into a smaller room. We made the most of the changes: Almost seventy people crammed into the bar, cheerfully making space for each other to listen to stories together!
Since the venue was a steampunk bar, we decided to give a nod to the theme in our event. I emceed the evening in a steampunk outfit I assembled years ago, and was happy to dust off again. After each round of storytelling, the audience got a question to vote on, and they could do so by dropping mechanical parts into two jars labeled with the myths. The questions were created by our special guest, Cathryn Fairlee. The teller of the winning myth each round received a small steampunk dragon; I created those myself, using polymer clay and the parts of three old Soviet alarm clocks. It had been quite an adventure, picking those apart, by the way. It took an entire afternoon, and some of the bastards were still ticking when I had them totally gutted.

And now, for the lineup:

Round one: Time travel! People, objects, changing of eras

The evening opened with Varga-Fogarasi Szilvia telling a myth from the Solomon Islands, about how the appearance of white people, and their missionary work, angered the ocean gods, and caused the 1932 earthquake and tsunami. She even brought the anthropology book that contained a picture of the original storyteller, and his drawings of other similar myths.

I also told in this round. I decided to bring the Revolt of the Utensils from the Moche culture - a story that has been reconstructed from vase paintings, murals, and contemporary local folklore. The story tells about how people treated their utensils and domestic animals badly, and therefore they revolted with the help of the Earth Mother at the time of an eclipse, and slaughtered people until the Sun ended the rebellion. It is a really fun story, and I loved working on piecing it together from various articles.
Voting question: What would be the more fitting punishment for humanity's sins? An eternal solar eclipse, or an eternal earthquake?
The audience's decision: They decided solar eclipse would be much worse.

Round two: Blacksmiths! 

This round featured two storytellers who usually perform together; both of them brought myths about blacksmiths and metal-workers. Hajós Erika told the Irish legend of how Cú Chulainn got his name, and his weapons, after slaughtering the giant guard-hound of the blacksmith Chulainn, and taking its place.

Gergus László brought us the Norse myth of Loki cutting Sif's golden hair, and then making the Dwarves replace it, along with other famous treasures of the gods (including Thor's hammer Mjöllnir).
Voting question: If you had to face down Cú Chulainn in his war frenzy, or Thor when he is pissed off, which one of them would you rather fight?
The audience's decision: Most people wanted to fight Thor

After the second round we had our special quest, my dear epic-telling mentor Cathryn Fairlee from the USA. She told us the story of how the Norse goddess Freya got her famous necklace, the Brisingamen. She told the myth in first person, with lots of humor and great body language; even though she told in English, the entire audience was with her all the way, laughing and cheering. We could not have wished for a better welcome for our guest!

Round three: The beginning and the end 

Not necessarily in that order. Stenszky Cecília opened the round with the epic of Gilgamesh - or rather, the part of it where Gilgamesh descends into the Underworld to find immortality. She told the story wrapped in animal skins and with her hair loose; she told us about gemstone forests, underworld boat rides, and Siduri, goddess of beer and tavern-keeper of the afterlife.

The evening concluded with Nagy Enikő, who brought us not one, but four Cambodian creation myths - among them, the one about churning the Milk Ocean to receive the drink of immortality. She even made sure to give nods to all six of the previous myths in her telling!
Voting question: Where would you rather go to make friends? The Underworld, or the Milk-Ocean-churning party?
The audience's decision: This one was almost a draw! We had to ask a volunteer to close his eyes, and tell us which voting jar was heavier. With a slight difference, the winner was Cambodia.

At the end of the evening, we drew names from the audience, and handed out the remaining two steampunk dragons. They deserved it: Once again, we had the best, most enthusiastic audience a storyteller could even wish for. We are looking forward to the next event!


  1. I love that setting, your dragons, and the way that you storytellers add elements like clothes to enliven their tales. Magic.

  2. You know, I’d swear I commented on this! Maybe I didn’t hit Publish. Never mind. It sounds like a lovely evening - and who knew you were gifted in handcraft as well as storytelling?

  3. Sounds like a most wonderful time, and a perfect way to celebrate the solstice and usher in another season of fabulous tales.