Saturday, December 31, 2022

313 earworms

This was the fourth year that I wrote down every morning what song was stuck in my head when I woke up. The phenomenon still persists, like an internal musical alarm clock, so once again I am sharing the statistics. Because I can.

2018: I woke up with an earworm 306 mornings, featuring 150 different songs (post here)

2019: 316 mornings, 137 songs (post here)

2020: 346 mornings, 149 songs (post here)

2021: 312 mornings, 124 songs (post here)

This year I woke up with music stuck in my head on 313 occasions, featuring a total of 129 different songs. 66 of them only made one appearance, while the rest repeated at least once. I have to reiterate that while the soundtrack has a link to what I listen to, it's not determined by which songs I like the most, or what I heard the day before. There are songs I had on repeat for months and yet I never woke up with them; others I don't even know, but they stuck anyway.

Here's this year's top 5:

First place with 16 mornings (holding last year's record):
(Encanto was already a strong contender last year, but couldn't climb the charts in one month. The beginning of this year, however, was non-stop Encanto bonanza.)

Second place with 14 mornings (no surprise there):

Third place with 10 mornings:
(I mentioned last year that I found this Cinderella unwatchable, but the jukebox soundtrack is incredibly persistent. Apart from this one, I had another 9 mornings with other songs from it.)

Shared fourth place, with 8 mornings each:

This song was a favorite in the summer camps, I like it because it's cheerful and fun to sing:

This one was a favorite of mine to walk to work in the mornings, because it's so happy and fun:

Fifth place, 7 mornings:

This last one wasn't alone; many AJR songs kept repeating over the year. In fact, this year was dominated by a select few persistent albums:

Encanto: 54 mornings (What else can I do 16; Bruno 14; All of you 6; Waiting for a miracle 6; Surface pressure 5; Dos oroguitas 4; Colombia 2; Familia Madrigal 1)

AJR49 mornings (Netflix trip 7, Sober up 5, 100 bad days 5, Bang 5, All my favorite songs 5, Way less sad 4, 3 o'clock things 3, Burn the house down 3, Let the games begin 3, World's smallest violin 3, I'm weak 2, Bud like you 1, Bummerland 1, Dear Winter 1, I'm ready 1)

Alvaro Soler29 mornings (Sofia 8, El mismo sol 5, Eterno agosto 4, Volar 3, El camino 2, Esperandote 2, Mi corazón 2, La libertad 1, Tengo un sentimiento 1, La vida seguirá 1)

In the heights27 mornings (Cold champagne 5, In the heights 4, When you're home 4, It won't be long now 3, Blackout 2, Carnaval del barrio 2, No me diga 2, Paciencia y fe 2, Respira 2, Benny's dispatch 1)

So, more than half of my mornings were taken up by these 4 albums alone.

And, according to tradition, here is this year's WTF contender:

I shall continue in 2023. Do you usually wake up with earworms? What are they? :)

Thursday, December 8, 2022

StorySpotting: Women with their feet backwards (9-1-1)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

9-1-1 is one of those shows that consistently deliver exactly what you expect from them: first responder drama, feel-good moments, kittens and children rescued, and Angela Bassett being an unadulterated badass. Now, with some folklore.

Where was the story spotted?

9-1-1, Season 6, Episode 4 (Animal Instincts)

What happens?

In one scene this episode we see a young girl telling a very animated bedtime story to her mother. It's about an evil ciguapa with backwards feet, threatening a boy in the woods. A brave woodsman and his spotted dog with five toes run to the woods, and chase the ciguapa away.
The girl asks her mother if ciguapas are real. "I don't know. That's what abuela says. I've never seen one." "Not even when you lived in Santo Domingo?" The mother doesn't answer.
Soon after, the girl's abusive father breaks into the home, and she calls 911.

What's the story?

As the girl's words allude to, the ciguapa is a creature of Dominican folklore. It is usually described as beautiful, either tall or petite, hairy or feathered or nude, but most accounts agree it has backwards feet, with the toes pointing towards the back. Because of this, and their elusiveness, the ciguapa are very difficult to track or catch. Beliefs say they can only be captured during the full moon, with the help of a black and white spotted five-toed (cinqueño) dog. Legends also claim that if captured, they die of sadness.

The ciguapa have their origins in pre-European indigenous cultures, and their continued resistance during colonization. They became a very important symbol in Dominical literature, both in children's and adult genres. For example, there is a beautifully illustrated children's book, titled Secret Footprints, about a ciguapa girl who ventures into the world of humans. (In this version of the story - see the image to the left - they live underwater, afraid humans would capture them for their beauty.)

One ciguapa story is recorded by Francisco Javier Angulo Guridi, from the 1860s. In this one, the author encounters a young man who lost his beloved bride to the jealousy of a ciguapa. In his description the ciguapa are an ancient group of beings who live in the heart of the mountains. They are beautiful, with creole skin, dark eyes, and long lustrous hair; they can run like the wind, and leap from tree to tree like a bird. They only communicate with cries and howls, and they are very timid, hiding from humans. However, they get jealous when they see people in love. If a female ciguapa gets jealous, her cry kills the man in love, and if a male ciguapa does the same, the woman dies. In some other legends, the ciguapa seduces humans, drains them through excessive lovemaking, and then kills them.

Sometimes the ciguapa are also accused of other fairy- or trickster-like behaviors, such as stealing food or tangling the mane and tail of horses.

Some legends connect the ciguapa to the Ciguayos, indigenous people who lived on the island. One talks about a princess who retired to the caves in the mountains to avoid being killed by the European colonizers. Her people started walking backwards, as to confuse their pursuers with their tracks.

Apart from the Dominican Republic, the ciguapa also exists in the folklore of Cuba, in a slightly different (black-skinned) version.

You can read more about the ciguapa in this book, or this one.


I am not sure why the writers of 9-1-1 decided to include the ciguapa story in this episode. Maybe it was just to signal the Dominican origin of the characters; maybe it was a folklore parallel to the story of women fleeing danger and persecution. Either way, it was a neat little detail, and it made me go down a research rabbit hole I learned a lot from.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Ancient stories with modern morals (Folktales of Chinese Minorities 23. - Lahu)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

Lahu stories
Angela Pun, Paul W. Lewis
White Lotus Press, 2002.

As the title suggests, this book contains 49 Lahu folktales. The Lahu are a people numbering about one million, living mainly in Southern China as well as some Southeast Asian countries. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language.
This book is the English translation of a Lahu collection. The original was published in 1939, written by a Baptist pastor named Ai Pun, who was also a storyteller who wanted to preserve the Lahu language and culture. The translation was the idea of his daughter (also a pastor). The selection was obviously influenced by this religious background, and the worship of God has an important place in the narratives, but according to the introduction the main goal was preserving the stories and their culture. The first half of the volume contains myths and origin legends, while the second contains folktales.


The first few stories dealt with creation. One of my favorite moments was that the Creator, before getting to work, thought and planned for a long time (wore out seven pairs of shoes standing, seven chairs sitting, and seven beds lying down), so that everything would be created perfect. Stories even explained how he made the earth revolve. Creation was followed by the origin stories of animals; among them, one that explained why the peacock's anus protrudes when it dances. Another story claimed that the shrew once told a very beautiful funeral speech, and so many animals patted his nose in approval that it grew long.
An interesting legend explained why the Lahu live in the mountains: the Creator wanted to reward them with the fertile lowlands, but every time they had to make a symbolic choice they always picked the mountains (while the Dai, who will be discussed later, got the plains).


After creation, a rivalry broke out between the Creator and a giant - and this legend, about them competing and trying to destroy each other, contained a whole bunch of familiar motifs: cosmic hide-and-seek, cheating in a running race, cheating in a flight race, nine suns in the sky, eternal darkness, even a flood. In the end, the Creator could only defeat the giant by cheating. He ground up its remains and shot them into the air with a cannon: they became flies and termites (this motif was also familiar, minus the cannon).
The creation of people was an interesting mix of motifs from East Asia (humans born from a gourd, shapeless first child, ancestors raised by animals) and the Bible (forbidden tree, serpent, first couple, ladder reaching for the sky, evil city destroyed). The story of lost writing was also familiar from other minorities: the Creator gave the Lahu their alphabet written on pastries, which they ate - so they don't have literacy, but they carry the Creator's words in their heart. (The Han Chinese also lost their tablets, but they returned and asked for new ones).
The story of the fisherman who crossed into the underwater realm to untangle a dragon's daughter from a net reminded me of tales about crossing into the animal world from Brazil, Scotland, and Togo. Other familiar tale types also made an appearance, such as the foolish boy who followed his mother's instructions to the letter and did everything wrong; the animal husband (or in this case just a human head), animal bride (the orphan, with some hide-and-seek), golden-haired children (the three suffering children), and Aladdin.
The local trickster was the rat, who outsmarted a bear with various tricks that reminded me of Mouse Deer.

Who's up next?
The Pumi people

Thursday, November 10, 2022

Storytellers' Secret Santa 2022

Who wouldn't want to receive a shiny, new, exciting story for the winter holiday of their choice - from a fellow storyteller?

After last year's success, Storytellers' Secret Santa is back this year! :)

Here's the rules:

1. We are sending stories as gifts to each other. You draw another storyteller's name in secret (I'll take care of this), and you send them a story. Someone else sends a story to you. That's it. Joy all around. (No, this is not a chain email!)

2. YOU GIVE A STORY, you get a story. This is important. Secret Santa kinda sucks if your gift never arrives. So, only commit if you are sure you can send your gift out in time! Don't ruin someone else's miracle.

3. Please observe copyright (see below*). This means it is easiest if we mostly work with folktales, or stories in the public domain. Be mindful of cultural appropriation.

4. We are doing this in English. For now. Only do another language if you are sure the person you send your story to shares your native language.

5. With that said, this will be extra fun if the stories are not easily accessible in English! Translating something that most people don't have access to is a very nice gift!

6. In fact, MAKE AN EFFORT. Don't just copy-paste a text from the Internet. Find something rare. Old. Shiny. Not readily available. Do some digging. Make it fun. Share the fun! Give the gift of research.

7. Many of you asked last year if you have to send the story in writing, or whether you can record it in audio/video. This year, I put the question on the form. If the person you are gifting to wants the story in writing, it will be marked for you in the email. Otherwise, all media are ok, dealer's choice!

8. It is assumed that the story you gift to someone is theirs to tell. No strings attached. (Do check with your Santa if you want to publish it in the future, though!)

9. TIMELINE: Sign up on the form below by DECEMBER 1st (midnight, wherever your midnight is). The day after, you will receive an email with the name of the person you are gifting to. Then, you have until DECEMBER 24th THE LATEST to send your story, in an email! Make it nice. Put a bow on it.

10. On the form, you will get the chance to give 3 keywords about what kinds of stories you generally like. This will be a guideline for your Secret Santa, but not a guarantee! Be open to new stories.

11. Keep the stories family friendly, unless explicitly stated in the keywords otherwise.

Are we good? Good.

Here's the form: 

Please, don't troll this. Just, don't be a troll. Seriously.

* On copyright: In many countries, folktales are not under copyright. However, someone's retelling of a folktale can be. Also, specific translations can be protected by copyright too. It is worth checking the rules in your home country. Look for sources that are in the public domain (also depends on the country, but online archives are a great place to start!). If you work with a folktale, try to find multiple versions, and craft your own telling of it.

You can also craft your own story. But be aware that this is a Secret Santa for storytellers, so no novelettes or literary short stories, please. We are sharing tellable tales. Fairy tales. Fables. Legends. You get the idea.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Mergens are cool, dedus are cooler (Folktales of Chinese Minorities 22. - Hezhe/Nanai)

As a sequel to the Following folktales around the world reading challenge, I decided to start reading minority and indigenous folktales. First up are the minority peoples who live in China. You can find previous posts here, and you can follow the challenge on Facebook here.

The Yimakan Epics of the Hezhe Ethnic Minority of China

Liaoning People's Publishing House, 2013.
Wang Weibo

This book contains epics told/sung by the Hezhe people, in English translation. These epics that contain a lot of cultural knowledge are called Yimakan, a term embedded in shamanistic tradition - among the heroes of the stories, many are powerful shamans themselves. The protagonists are all mergens (heroes, brave men). The Hezhe are one of the smallest ethnic minorities in China: there are barely twenty thousand of them left, and many don't speak their native language anymore. (They are also called Nanai, but that's an exonym.)
The book's introduction talks about the epic tradition, the cultural context of the epics, and the process of translation. The volume contains four epics. Translation began in 2010; the texts were translated from Chinese, but in close collaboration with the Hezhe community. Each epic comes with the name of the storyteller as well as the translator. The Hezhe Yimakan tradition has been on the UNESCO cultural world heritage list since 2011, as a tradition in urgent need of safeguarding.
(My favorite part about the translation process was that the Chinese team read English "epics" - mostly Robin Hood - to familiarize themselves with their language, and give an epic feel to the stories in translation. As a result, the texts sometimes have eyebrow-raising lines such as "gee whiz", "kingdom come", or "for your revenge she's an OK assistant").

Since the book only contains four epics, I'll write about all of them:

Xiangsou Mergen

Xiangsou Mergen goes from lazy boy to powerful warrior. He hunts down the beasts that his brother's bride asks for as a wedding gift, and then sets out to avenge the death of his parents who were murdered a long time before. On the journey he is joined by other mergens as well as dedus, powerful female shamans (such as his sister-in-law, bride, and the wives of his sworn brothers). At one point he fights a hostile mergen and his wife, and defeated he is hung on a tree by his jaw. A team of dedus rescues him. By the time Xiangsou finds the killers of his parents he is accompanied by an entire superhero lineup of powerful women, who fight an aerial battle while the mergen duels his enemies. Xiangsou loses the duel, but a deity makes an appearance and saves him. In the end, he returns home with a total of six dedu wives, and two villages' worth of people.

Mandu Mergen

The parents of Mandu and his sister Manchin are kidnapped by an enemy, and the two children are left alone. The girl is raised by a deity, but Mandu survives alone and turns feral. After 15 years his sister, now a dedu, returns and tames him, and they set out to take revenge for the death of their parents.
Mandu fights a lot of heroes along the way; he kills some and befriends others, and marries all their dedu sisters. They meet an old woman who warns them that two powerful warriors live nearby with four powerful dedu wives - they are the ones who kidnapped the hero's parents. Mandu and Manchin are not scared. The old woman gives them clothes to protect them in the fight. Mando kills one of the mergens and is about to kill the other when a dedu jumps in and convinces him to show mercy. Mandu and the mergen reconcile, and the siblings meet their long lost mother again in a touching scene (their father had died in captivity). Mandu ends up with three dedu wives and Manchin marries one of his sworn brothers. The epic concludes with a long and detailed shamanistic ritual and celebration.

Mangemu Mergen

Our hero is raised by a single father. When he turns five their village is attacked by bandits. Before the attack the father takes the boy to a distant valley and entrusts him to his good friend Kuomukulu Mafa. By the time he returns, the village is burned, and he himself is killed by the dedu wife of the bandit chief. Mangemu is raised by Kuomukulu Mafa, an old warrior and powerful shaman. When he grows up, his foster father gives him his power, a shaman coat, a magic horse, and three magic arrows. Mangemu sets out to take revenge for his father and his village.
On the way he encounters various mergens and dedus. He even has an archery contest with one: Haohang Dedu, whose hand he wins through taking on various challenges (and completing them with the girl's help). He is also joined by a young archer, Yiwae Mergen, and acquires a magic knife after killing a monster. Arriving to the bandits' village Mangemu kills the chief, but the chief's wife manages to trap the heroes in a building. Haohang Dedu comes to the rescue, blasting the walls open. Another battle follows, and even Kuomukulu Mafa makes an appearance, until finally the heroes are victorious and the dedus defeat the enemy dedus in an aerial battle. Returning home they rebuild their village, and sacrifice the bandits to appease the dead.

Muduli Mergen

Out of the four epics, this one was definitely my favorite.
Muhasen Mergen and Chandu Dedu, a young shaman couple live in a small village in the mountains. One day Muhasen is called by his deity to travel south and find a more plentiful land. The entire village sets out, led by the two shamans, and they eventually find a new home in an abandoned village by a river. They are later joined by many other families, until, twenty years later, they become a large tribe, led by Muhasen Mergen. He has two children: Muduli and Mukeqin, a boy and a girl. 
However, one day three warriors come to the village, hoping to conquer it. Muhasen Mergen is killed in the fight, Chandu and the rest of the villagers are captured and taken into slavery with all their belongings. Chandu Dedu hides her son inside her protective shaman mirror, and Mukeqin hides in the kitchen. The girl, left alone, takes care of herself until she turns seventeen. One day a bandit comes to kidnap her, but in that moment 15-year-old Muduli Mergen jumps out of the mirror, kills the bandit, and saves his sister. He invites the slaves rowing the bandit's boat to join his village. A few days later he sets out with his sister and ten warriors to find his mother and avenge his father.
As per usual, Muduli meets several mergens whom he either kills or accepts as sword brothers - and also meets several dedus that he marries. He is helped in every fight by the shaman mirror that hangs on his chest. At one point, he is shot in the neck in an ambush, and dies. As his soul travels towards the afterlife, he runs into a powerful shaman woman, Zhenggen Dedu (who is conducting another soul to the underworld, as is her job). Zhenggen Dedu takes Muduli's soul back into his body and revives him. After that, obviously, they get married.
After many adventures the heroes reach the village of the three bandits, and defeat them (and their wives) in an epic battle. Celebrating the victory, Muduli and Mukeqin are reunited with their mother. Muduli goes hunting, and meets a brave, dark skinned mergen, whom he invites home - he ends up becoming Mukeqin's husband. After one year of adventures, Muduli returns home with all his people, rebuilds the village, buries his father's remains, organizes a big celebration, and lives happily ever after.

All in all, the four epics were alike in many ways: orphaned hero sets out to take revenge for dead/kidnapped parents, he makes friends and enemies, and encounters a series of dedus who either become his wives or his helpers. To me, the dedus were the most fascinating part of this mythical world. Each of them had her own personality, powers, and adventures. Each epic embellished the basic plot in colorful ways, and had many memorable scenes. I am glad I got to read them.

Who's up next?
The Lahu people

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

StorySpotting: Body and soul mix-and-match (Locke & Key)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Locke & Key, in my opinion, is a seriously underrated show (I haven't read the comics but I hear they are good too). With the new season out, they gave me multiple things to Story Spot.

Where was the story spotted?

Season 3, episodes 4-6.

What happens?

The basic premise of Locke & Key is about an old house that hides various old keys, each with its own magical property. The Ghost Key has been a staple since Season 1. It essentially opens a door that separates one's soul from their body when they walk through. It has been used in various creative ways over the course of the show.
In this season Dodge, the demon who has been the main heroes' arch nemesis, manages to use the door to knock the young boy Bode's soul out of his body. She then leaves her own mortal shell, and takes over the boy's body instead. Bode, left as a floating ghost, eventually manages to regain his own body by projecting his soul into a sparrow, and then transforming back into human shape. (Complicated, I know, but kinda genius).

What's the story?

The whole body-snatching-taking-refuge-in-a-bird thing is actually one of the creepiest pieces of folklore I have ever encountered. And as I looked into it again, it seemed a lot more common than I had believed. It even has a couple of Thompson motif numbers: E725.1 - Soul leaves the body and enters an animal's, and K1175 - Minister dupe raja into entering body of a dead parrot, then enters raja's body. And yes, that latter one is hella specific.

The first time I encountered this trope was in a collection of Tibetan folktales titled Tales of the Golden Corpse. The tale of The Travelling Spirit was about two friends, a prince and a minister's son, who went to school together. The prince was lazy, but the other lad learned the secret art of projecting his soul out of his body (known as phowa). Jealous that the minister's son might upstage him, the prince tricked his friend into showing off his skills - and destroyed the unattended body. Seeking a new place, the boy's lost soul entered an old woman's dead parrot, reanimating it. Later on, the parrot managed to catch up to the prince, and tricked him into falling out of a window... And then the minister's son's soul entered the prince's empty body, and walked away home.
Excellent creepy revenge ending.

As I was reading my way around the world, I encountered this trope again in a collection from Thailand, in a tale titled The Weaverbird Princess. In this story, a silent princess is promised to the suitor who can make her talk. A prince comes along with his mentor, both of them versed in the art of projecting their soul. The mentor projects his soul into various objects in the princess' room, and the prince has conversations with the objects, telling them clever stories. The princess can't help but interject, and thus the prince wins her hand. 
Later on, the prince goes to the forest with his mentor, and, seeing a dead deer, decides to project his soul into the animal and go exploring. He trusts his body to his mentor. However, the evil mentor in turn takes over the prince's abandoned body, burns his own, and goes home to take the prince's place. The prince, not finding a body to return to, transfers himself into a dead parrot. He flies home and tells his wife what happened. The princess manages to trick the mentor into leaving the body and transferring into a goat to show off. The prince thus gets back into his body, and kills the goat in revenge.

Once I started pulling on the king-in-the-dead-parrot thread, a whole lot of other tales came tumbling out. 

There is one in the Turkish story collection titled The history of the forty vezirs, where the evil vezir, instead of burning his own body, puts a slave's soul into it for safekeeping (and the king, while in parrot form, also judges some court cases). Interestingly, in this version the queen recognizes that her husband is not behaving like himself, and refuses to sleep with him.
There is also a version from Pakistan in this book, where the king takes on the parrot's body to pick mangos for his queen. The queen, who is aware of the evil servant's soul in her husband's body from the get-go, devises a clever plan to trick the soul into a lamb's body.
The tale also appears in The Three Princes of Serendip, the English translation of the Italian translation of a medieval Persian tale collection. You can read the story about The Emperor who turned into a parrot here. Once again, the wife's suspicion plays an important part in restoring her husband to his body. Added bonus: the Emperor uses his body-switching ability to travel his kingdom in the disguise of birds, and right wrongs.
Another version of the story can be found in Hatim's Tales, a book of Kashmiri stories collected from storyteller Hatim Tilwon in 1896. The fun part of this one is that the vezir loses the king's stolen body when he goes hunting, and decides to inhabit a bear for greater efficiency. The king then shoots the bear, saying "we can't have a bear for a vezir"... The tale also appears in other Kashmiri collections. It even has a variation in the famous Ocean of the Streams of Stories. Here, a person takes over a recently deceased king's body, but a minister suspects the change. Still, the minister decides an impostor is better than the child heir, and makes sure the soul doesn't have another body to return to. Now this would make a great movie...

In India, the story is known as The Metamorphoses of King Vikramaditya (you can read it in two versions in this volume of North Indian Notes and Queries). In this one, the parrot ends up at his father-in-law's house, judging court cases. Once he actually judges the case of a woman whose husband has been replaced by a shapeshifting dev. Eventually his wife (who is suspicious of her "husband") hears of the parrot and discovers the truth. In the second variant, the evil servant is tricked into the body of a goat and then beheaded, and the head of the goat still laughs and weeps as it's hung in the bazaar.
(I even found a popular comic book adaptation of this story from India.)

A distant relative to this motif is a story from Melanesia, where an evil spirit pushes a girl off a cliff, and takes over her body and identity.


So here we have a folktale type that spans a continent at least, and also several centuries in time, all the way from 11th century Kashmir to 21st century Netflix. Traveling souls and body-snatchers are a rich topic for people to think about. It probably has something to do with our mortality...

(Fun fact: I originally started working on this post when I was watching The 100)

Friday, August 19, 2022

StorySpotting: The monster in the wilderness (Prey)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

So I just watched Prey, which is an amazing movie, and immediately fell down a rabbit hole. This is not just a cool action flick, but also fascinating in terms of how it incorporated Comanche culture, tradition, and even language (as the first major Hollywood production with full Comanche dubs at its release). I recommend this article for more details.

Where was the story spotted?

Prey (Hulu, 2022.)

What happens?

Naru, the movie's main hero, flees from her first encounter with the Predator (that kills a bear in front of her). She meets young men in the woods and tries to describe what she has seen: 

"It was huge. I couldn't see it until it was covered in blood, but it looked like... like a mupitsl."

One of the young men scoffs. "You saw a monster from a children's story?"

What's the story?

Okay, disclaimer first: there are a million people out there who could do this better than me, because I only found out about this creature like a day ago. But I went down the rabbit hole, and got excited, so this is me nerding out. I am citing all my sources in the links for accuracy.

So, mupitsl. Also known (or rather, spelled) as Pia Mupitsl, Pia Mupitsi, piamupits, piamupitz, mu pitz, mupits, piamupitsi, and a bunch of other variations.

The name, apparently, means 'great owl' or 'giant owl', and refers to the monster's owlish features. It is also translated in some places as 'big old giant' or 'cannibal owl.' Apparently large owls were admired by the Comanche by their ability to hunt quietly and stealthily in the night.

The earliest mention I found is a Spanish-Comanche dictionary from 1865, written by Manuel García Rejon and published in Mexico. In it, the piamupitz is described as "an imaginary being, human-shaped and gigantic, that carries an extraordinarily large staff as a walking stick, devours humans, and lives in caves in the mountains of the distant North. It is believed that if the staff breaks, it dies."
1994 article about Comanche tradition of topography also mentions the piamupits' mountain habitat, and the actual caves it was supposed to live in.

So far, the Predator does a pretty great job with this impersonation.

A Comanche medicine woman named Sanapia, whose knowledge of medicine was recorded, used bone fragments (mammoth fossils) in her work. She called them piamupits bones. She described the piamupits as a large, hairy giant, tall, with big feet, and with a face like a man. She claimed their bones ended up in the ground when they died of old age.
Turns out the bones of the piamupits were valuable medicine. An article from 1942 mentions pieces of fossil bones that were believed to be the bones of the Piamupits (a "supernatural being"), and used to treat sprains and broken bones. Sanapia also used them for the same thing.

Fossil bones and legendary creatures took me to Adrienne Mayor, who researches traditions around the world involving fossils. She does not only describe Mu pitz traditions in detail in the book linked above, but she also went straight to the source, talking to contemporary Comanche storytellers and tradition bearers. One of whom - drumroll! - was the same Juanita Pahdopony who consulted on Prey. Well, that explains a whole lot. We love it when storytellers consult on movies! The storytellers confirmed that both forms of the creature - the hairy giant and the large owl - existed parallel in tradition.

Most of the actual stories I found came from a book on Comanche Ethnography. There is one story about a group of children who get left behind when their camp moves, and they end up at a piamupits' cave. They manage to make an escape with the help of various animals (a frog, a crane, an eagle, a buffalo, and a calf). In the end, the owl-mupits is thrown up into the moon where it lives today.
In another story, a hunter encounters a piamupits (in the form of a giant man) while hunting buffalo. it offers the creature meat, but the piamupits wants to eat the hunter instead. He flees, but the piamupits tracks him down to his camp. Eventually, the hunter manages to kill the invulnerable creature by sticking a sharp pole up its anus.
In yet another story, the piamupits enters a hunter's tipi while he is away, and kills his pregnant wife in a very graphic way. The twins she had in her belly, however, survive, and their father later finds them.
There is also a story in the collection where the piamupits functions as the dragon in European stories: a girl is supposed to be devoured by the eight-headed creature, but a young man saves her. Another young man tries to take credit for the kill, but the girl tells her father the truth.

The Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center also has a short introduction to the Pia Mupits who uses a cottonwood tree as a cane, and was mentioned to scare children into quieting down. Many of the sources seem to agree that the piamupits was a child-scaring creature in folklore.


Early in the movie, after witnessing the Predator's ship in the sky, Naru calls it a Thunderbird. Thunderbird lore is vast and well documented, but I came across one thing in one of the articles I read about the piamupits: it mentions a Thunderbird that fell into a ravine from the sky, killed some men with lightning, and burned out a large patch of grass "in the shape of a bird" where it landed. So.


The more I read about piamupitsl folklore, the more impressed I got with how one throwaway line from the movie integrates so much of tradition so seamlessly into the movie-mythology of the Predator. On purpose, and with consulting Comanche educators. Let's face it, the two might be centuries apart, but the 'masterful, deadly hunter stalking its prey in the wilderness' is an age-old story that keeps surfacing again and again...

Monday, August 8, 2022

StorySpotting: "This b*** I've never heard about before" (Canada's Drag Race)

StorySpotting is a weekly or kinda-weekly series about folktales, tropes, references, and story motifs that pop up in popular media, from TV shows to video games. Topics are random, depending on what I have watched/played/read recently. Also, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Be warned!

Yeah, I watch Drag Race sometimes, when my overworked brain needs the mental equivalent of a chewing gum. I am fascinated by the makeup and the sewing challenges. 
One thing I learned is that these shows are usually hilariously off the mark whenever it comes to geek culture... or mythology. And then recently I saw one thing I needed to blog about.

Where was the story spotted?

Canada's Drag Race, season 3, episode 2 (The Who-Knows)

What happens?

The runway theme for this episode was Goddesses of the Ancient World. All of the contestants would be worth a post... but I'll focus on one: Kimmy Couture, who walked the runway in a Vegas showgirl-esque orange dress and headpiece. During the critique round, this conversation happened between the judges and Kimmy:

"Tell us about your goddess."

"So, I went on Google, and I searched it, and then I found this b*tch that I've never heard before... I just really wanted to show some sun because I feel like, I'm like a ball of fire."

"Well, you nailed it. It all worked out."

Kimmy went on to win this episode.

What's the story?

Okay, yeah, it irked me that someone on TV would refer to a mythical character in this manner, and lack of attention to... basic facts, like her name. Because Kimmy herself could not tell us who the goddess was, I became curious to see if she'd just made up a generic sun deity for fun. After some searching, I found a post on her Instagam, and was surprised that she named the goddess there: her name was Alectrona or Elektryone.

So, here is what Kimmy didn't tell you:

Elektryone belongs to the Greek pantheon. She was a demigoddess venerated on the island of Rhodes, as the daughter of the sun god Helios and the island's own patron goddess Rhode (whom the locals worshiped as an aspect of Athena). Rhode herself was a sea nymph, the daughter of Poseidon. So Elektryone belonged to not one, but two illustrious divine families: that of the ocean, and that of the sun. Very fitting for an island deity. She had seven brothers, all kings of Rhodes.

According to some sources, Elektryone was the (demi)goddess of the sunrise. Her name is related to the Greek word for amber, which was always associated with the sun for its color, and its ability to create sparks. Elektryone was also a personification of youth, since according to myth she died a virgin, before she became elevated to the rank of a local deity. Youth and the sunrise go hand in hand.

By the way, the whole myth about Helios' family on Rhodes is pretty interesting. According to one story when the Greek gods divided up the world among themselves, Helios was not present, because, well, he was doing sun things in the sky at the time. So, they conveniently forgot about him, and gave him no realm. However, just at that time the island of Rhodes rose up from the sea, and Helios made his claim of that new piece of land. Other sources say Helios himself raised the island from the sea, after falling in love with Rhode.

You can read more about Rhode here, and Helios' family in Rhodes here.


I have a soft spot for Helios' family in mythology (going all the way back to Kerényi Károly's mythology books, and, most recently, Circe). That look Kimmy served did not read Greek, or mythical, to me at all - but then again, I'm not a fashion expert. I am happy for the chance to introduce some lesser known deities in this post, though. So... yay?

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

The Flame-Red Fairy King: a short and weird Hungarian folktale translation

I was commissioned to translate another Hungarian folktale text, so I'm putting it up as a resource too.

The Flame-Red Fairy King 

Once upon a time there was a fairy king, who, for being completely red all over, was called Flame-Red Fairy King, and whomever he touched, he immediately burned. Once upon a time he had a daughter named Tündér Ilona (Fairy Ilona). Once, the devil in the disguise of a merchant asked for Ilona's hand in marriage, and having won her, he took her on his ship to a forest castle by the water, where he had four other ladies locked up in a room. To the same place he invited all the other fairies along with the Fairy King, claiming that he wanted them to visit his wife, but when they arrived, he attempted to murder the Fairy King. However, when he touched the king, he was immediately burned, and the fairies killed him. They kept the castle to themselves, but that magic building collapsed on them, killing all the fairies.

From Ipolyi Arnold's collection.
Text collected by Károly Weber in Szeged, Hungary, in 1835.

Someone needs to turn it into... dunno. A novel, or a movie, or something. Fill in the blanks. :)

Storytelling Cities: Return to the Story Marathon

After two weeks of rehearsals we said goodbye to Sigüenza, and on a Thursday we drove over to Guadalajara. We arrived around five in the afternoon, and didn't waste much time lazing around: we left our stuff at the hotel, and immediately headed to the theater for one last rehearsal. The Teatro Moderno is the venue for the featured stage performances during the Marathon; for these, people have to purchase separate tickets, and due to the popularity of the shows, and the 30 year history of the festival, they are almost always sold out.

While in Sigüenza we had a nice 27-28 degree weather the whole time, Guadalajara greeted us with scorching summer heat. The theater was a bit cooler. After rehearsal we headed to the city hall to meet the (very kind and friendly) Mayor, for the signing of the official founding document of the European Network of Storytelling Sites and Towns. It was an exciting, delightful moment.

After the formalities were done, we gathered on the terrace of a restaurant, having a drink before dinner. From there, we could see the open-air exhibit of all the posters of the past 30 Marathons (see the pictures above). This is where I finally felt like I have arrived: after ten years, I was in Guadalajara once again. It made me giddy.

Friday morning we had another rehearsal. Pepito wanted us to rehearse in the afternoon as well, but we gave him the puppy dog eyes until he gave us the rest of the day. At five, we went to the palace courtyard to witness the opening ceremonies. The Marathon was opened by the Mayor himself, who delivered a short speech, and then told a Ukrainian fairy tale. Entirely by heart, like a real storyteller (with the Ukrainian name of the hero written on his palm, just in case, which I think was adorable). It was the perfect opening. He was followed by various school groups on stage, equally lovely.

After a while, with the Marathon up and running, we walked out of the palace to browse books at the marketplace (yes, I bought quite a few). From there, we headed out to have a drink of lemonade, and then moved on to the courtyard of a local school for the evening "Unheard Storytellers" show, where new performers are introduced every year. It was Susana's idea, and it was a good one. Not only because we heard amazing storytellers (among them my personal favorite was Sandra Rossi), but also because most of the Marathon's tellers were in the audience, checking out the newcomers. The mood was friendly and familiar.

(Spanish organizations have left FEST a few years ago, and I have missed them sorely ever since. I loved meeting Spanish tellers at conferences, and I finally got the chance to hang out with them again. Guadalajara, during the Marathon, is home to us all: storytellers are walking the streets, sitting in the cafes, lingering in the doorways, always steeped in excited conversation. I love it.)

Saturday morning we had one very last rehearsal at the theater. After that, I had time to run to the bookstore and buy more books, and then we decided to sit in on the theater shows before our own. They were all full house, and they were totally worth it. My favorite was Eugenia Manzanera's performance, who was witty, funny, and entirely enchanting.

While the last (musical) show was happening on stage, we all moved backstage to get ready. We were excited and a bit nervous - but our performance went really well. The audience was lovely. No one can wish for a better audience than a full house in Guadalajara: they applaud, they cheer, they laugh, they sing along with us, they answer every question. While we were on stage, I kept thinking we should have put more interaction into our show. This would have been the perfect audience to play with.

Our show started at nine in the evening, and we left the theater around eleven, in a very good mood: laughing, singing, accepting many warm congratulations. And this was not the end of the day yet: after a lovely dinner at the library, we headed over to the palace once again, for nighttime storytelling on the Marathon's main stage. For me, this was the hardest part of the festival: I usually go to bed around 10pm. This time, I was on stage, telling in Spanish, at 2am. Now I know I can tell in Spanish even when I am half asleep... But it was worth it. The Guadalajara audience, even after midnight, was cheerful, friendly, and surprisingly alert. I loved playing with them.

After passing out late at night, we only had one last day to go. In the morning we gathered in a conference room in the palace for a round table discussion. The audience was made up of some very sleepy storytellers, but we have a lovely conversation about our experiences, the project, and storytelling in general. This was what closed the festival for us. Those of us who were not heading straight to the airport went back to bed in the afternoon. In the evening, we gathered one last time for dinner, drinks, and conversation.

It was incredible to be in Guadalajara once again, after ten years. It's one of my favorite storytelling festivals in the world. I immersed myself in stories, in the company of fellow storytellers, and the beauty of the Spanish language. I was absolutely privileged to participate in the performance project, and work with a great group of tellers under Pepito's direction. I was proud of the show we got to bring to the stage in Guadalajara. I hope I won't wait another ten years before returning...

Monday, July 25, 2022

Storytelling Cities: 8 storytellers, 6 countries, 3 weeks, 1 show

This spring I participated in an incredible European storytelling project.

I traveled to Sigüenza, Spain, on May 26th to take part in a project organized by Spain, Italy, France, and Slovakia. These four countries have created a collaboration named the European Network of Storytelling Sites and Towns (ENST). Since Spain was represented by the same organization that also organizes the Maratón de Cuentos in Guadalajara, part of the network's inauguration was a project within a project: getting storytellers together from all the countries and creating a multicultural, multilingual stage performance for the Maratón.

Each country delegated tellers. I was invited along by Bohdan Ulasin from Slovakia, whom I met in Guadalajra at the Misterios de Europa conference ten years ago. The lineup of our colorful team was as follows: Pepito Matéo (France), Clara Zénoun (France), Julien Tauber (France), António Fontinha (Portugal), Bohdan Ulasin (Slovakia), Roberto Anglisani (Italy), Susana Tornero (Spain), and yours truly (Hungary). Seven of us participated in the performance, and Pepito took on the role of director.

We had two weeks to put the entire show together. As soon as I stumbled into the hotel on May 26th, we immediately headed to the theater to start rehearsing. We worked hard all day almost every day, until June 8th, when we had our premiere in Sigüenza. The next day, we packed up, and headed to Guadalajara for the Maratón, to prepare for the big show.

The performance we created was whimsically titled "Il était una vez jeden utopická viaggio a történeteken keresztül em seis línguas" - and this title reflects the actual creative process. All of us selected short tales ahead of time, translated them to all the other participating languages, and selected the ones we wanted to include in the show. Pepito created an outline that we got to fill with stories, songs, rhymes, and playful interactions as we went along.

Our common language was Spanish. It took me a few days to switch my brain over to it (in my everyday life I only have the chance to read and watch TV in Spanish), but once it happened, I loved the opportunity to speak it, and listen to the others. Our little team had a whole lot of languages in common: multiple people understood French, Italian, and even English, although we barely ever spoke the latter. After a few days, we were all speaking some strange pan-Mediterranean mixed language, and my brain gave up trying to understand what language a word was spoken in, as long as I understood the meaning. Susana, as the only native speaker on the team, was super helpful and patient with our efforts to speak better and tell better in Spanish.

It was a joyful, playful experience to be a part of such a multilingual, friendly group of people. We shared meals every day, and our conversations often turned to "how do you say this in your language...?". We went around the table, comparing phrases, proverbs, riddles, and animal sounds, celebrating our differences and similarities. I learned a whole lot of fun new things - such as Antonio's comment on how these were "cherry conversations." Just like you can't eat just one cherry (he explained, as we were all feasting on ripe cherries from the market), you also can't just have one response in these conversation. One example inspires the next.

(Our theater stage in Sigüenza - first a medieval church,
and then a grain storage building)

We had rehearsal from 10 in the morning till 2pm every day, had lunch, and then started again at 4pm. We usually finished work around 8 in the evening (and headed to the town square for drinks and conversation). We played drama games and warm-up exercises in the mornings, and then launched into working on the performance. In two weeks, we created a 90 minute long storytelling show. The first half of it featured individual tales. We opened with a song, and proverbs in many languages, before we started on the storytelling. I told the old Hungarian legend Golden Bridge, Silver Bridge; Julien told the legend of The City of Ys. Roberto brought us a story by Gianni Rodari about roads not taken, Susana a Catalan version of the Musicians of Bremen, and Bohdan the story of legendary Slovak highwayman Janosik. Clara told the Armenian tale of Queen Anait, and Antonio brought us a lovely Portuguese version of The boy who could speak the language of animals. After the individual tales, we told some stories together, mixing multiple languages. We did Stone Soup (with each ingredient in a different language), Sennin (a literary tale by Akutagawa Ryunosuke), and the legend of the Journey of Malei from the Zhuang people. We closed the show with folk songs in all our various languages.

It took very intensive work to craft the show and create a flowing performance. It is not easy at all for storytellers to work together in this many languages, with this many different styles. We negotiated and compromised, and found creative solutions to fitting all the pieces together. Sometimes we grew tired, and sometimes we ran into communication barriers, but in the end, we all enjoyed the experience way too much to get hung up on the technicalities. It was something that allowed me (us) to experiment with different styles and techniques of telling. For example, I have never told a story before to empty chairs this many times... but after the initial discomfort of speaking into the void, I was beginning to see the upside of repeated rehearsals. The good news is: this project is a great experiment, and it is not over yet! We will take the show on the road to France, Slovakia, and Italy, changing things around every time to fit the new languages and new audiences.

We premiered the show in Sigüenza, in front of a very appreciative local audience - many of whom we got to know over the course of the two weeks spent in that lovely city. Among them were Fernando and Mirta, our gracious and lovely hosts from La Casona de Lucía - honestly the best little hotel I have ever stayed in, with definitely the best food. But they were not the only ones we got to spend time with while in Sigüenza: we also told some stories in other places!

One of those places was a center for refugees hosted by an organization named Accem. It was a lovely experience. We told some tales, and the people living there also told us some of the stories from their countries (such as Afghanistan and Burkina Faso). Then we had dinner together, someone put on music, and the whole evening turned into one big party, where we all danced and laughed together. Many of the children and adults from out audience later came to the premiere too - and whenever we met on the streets of Sigüenza, we always exchanged happy smiles.

We also got to visit the two high schools the town has, and tell stories at both. The kids were friendly and curious; suspicious at first the way all teenagers are, but they warmed up to be a great audience. I told to them in English so that they could hear a tale in another language too, and they followed along enthusiastically. After the tales we had conversations with them about storytelling as an art form and the importance of stories. I still love telling to teenagers. Such a great audience, wherever you go.

These two weeks in Sigüenza flew by, but they will stay with me forever. The town itself is beautiful, all pink stones and medieval buildings, and the people who life there were friendly and welcoming. And I cherish the experience of working with this international group of storytellers: the conversations over wine, the tales we exchanged, the laughs we shared. In a time when differences and conflicts get so much attention, it was good to be among people who seek connection through stories.

Thank you, all! See you on the road!

P.S.: The performance, and the rehearsal process, were documented by a professional film crew. Hopefully, there will be a video to share soon!

(I will write about the Maratón in a separate post, to keep from going on too long.)

Miska and Juliska (Hungarian folktale translation)

I was asked to do a full translation of a Hungarian folktale, and since I already have it, I am putting it on the blog as a public resource. Original text here.

CW: abuse

There was and there wasn’t, far-far away, a king who had three sons. They shared their bread, they loved each other, and they would have lived in peace – except they could not deal with the middle son, who was a rascal [never obeyed directions]. One day the old king grew bored of dealing with him, and told his other two sons: "Listen, my children! Get rid of this middle child of mine, Miska, because if he stays home, he will drive me insane!"  

The two older sons pondered about what to do with their brother. They can’t kill him, or get him killed! What should they do? At last, the eldest had an idea. They wrote a letter to Rút [Foul, Hideous], king of the devils, saying they have a brother who would like to be in his service. Then they worked on running their sibling out of the home. They berated him, abused him, they even blamed him for what he ate, until he couldn’t listen to all their cruel words anymore. He went into the stables, saddled the worst horse, and traveled to Rút, his majesty the kind of the devils. 

When he got there, he rested for three days, and got to know everything around the house – including Juliska, the devil’s daughter. They didn’t admit it to each other, but they fell in love. When the three days were up, the devil tells Miska: "Now, my lad! You shall start your service today. One year is three days. If you can fulfill your tasks as I say, I’ll be satisfied. Here is today’s task: there is a fishpond behind the house. If you do not drain it by tomorrow morning, dig it up, sow it with millet, and bring me a bowl of that milled with grease and sugar for breakfast, you’ll be finished! Do you understand?"

Miska nodded like he understood, but he didn’t understand at all! He went to the stables, sat behind the horse, and pondered. As he was sitting there thinking, Juliska was looking for him inside the house, and didn’t know where Miska had gone. After a lot of searching, she found him sitting on the plank that covered the stable drains [hídlás]. "Dear beloved of my heart! I will love you till we die! [Only spades and hoes shall divide us]. What ails you?"  
"Don’t even ask, Juliska dear!" said Miska. "You can’t help either way!" 
"I can’t? How do you know? Tell me, maybe I can fix things!"  
Miska then told her all of what his majesty Rút had ordered him to do. 
"Well, if that is all" said Juliska "then we can deal with that!"  

She went inside the house, took out the big book, and for every page she turned, a devil jumped in front of her. When she had enough of them waiting, she ordered them to do what Miska was told, and finish it all by morning. All the devils ran like hell, got to work right away, and by the next morning his majesty Rút had on his breakfast table a nice bowl of steaming porridge, with grease and sugar. He had a hearty meal of it, filling his stomach till it was almost bursting. When he finished, his wife came to him and said: "Listen! You know one thing, this lad knows two! [for every one thing you know]" 
"He does, the rascal!" said the devil, licking his lips. 

 By then Miska knew that all had been resolved; he did not need to worry, as long as he kept carrying on. Once the devil was done with breakfast, he came out of the house to see Miska. "Now, my lad! You are a man. So far, I am satisfied with you. Now I shall give you a new order, and if you fulfill it, you won’t be harmed. There is a great forest here. If by tomorrow morning you don’t tear it all up by the roots, plant a vineyard, and bring me a plate of grapes and a bottle of wine from it for breakfast, you’ll be finished! Count on that, and remember it!"  

This time, Miska did not ponder much; he knew Juliska would help him [pull him out of the mud.] And so it happened. Miska was sitting in the doorway, smoking a pipe, when Juliska came to him and asked what news he had. Miska told her everything in detail. Juliska went and picked up the big book, turning pages and summoning a devil with every turn. Then she stood in front of them and strictly ordered them what to do. They were happy they were not in trouble, and went and did what they were told. By the next morning there was a plane of grapes and a bottle of wine on his majesty Rút’s breakfast table. In the place of the forest there was a vineyard, with vines heavy with ripe grapes. Rút’s wife said to him: "Well! You know one, he knows two!"  

When the devil swallowed the last gulp from the bottle, he went outside to see Miska. "Well, my lad! You have fulfilled two of my orders; if you fulfill the third, you will be a real man. Across seven times seven kingdoms, even across the Óperenciás sea, I have a very good friend. If you don’t take this letter to him, and return by morning, you’ll be finished!"  

And with that, Rút handed him a letter. Miska was shocked; he thought not even Juliska could do this. He paced up and down, waiting for Juliska. She arrived soon enough. 
"Hey! What’s wrong?" 
"Hey! I am in serious trouble. Not even you can fix it!" 
"Tell me anyway! Maybe I can."  
Miska told her, but he was on the verge of tears. She said: "That’s nothing! You know what? Let your horse out to pasture outside the village, and I shall turn into a golden haired mare. You can ride me, we’ll go."  

So it happened. The girl turned into a golden haired mare, and rode with Miska, flying like the wind [through bushes and thickets]. When they came near the palace, the golden haired mare said: "When you go in, only say: May God grant you a good evening, I brought a letter! And then come out, not through the gates, but over them."  
Miska did what he was told. When he handed the letter over, he said no more, and when he came out, he vaulted over the top of the gates. They could hear applaouse behind them, and someone yelling after them: “You did well! Otherwise you would have been turned into tar!” 

 When they reached Juliska’s house, dawn was breaking. His majesty Rút and the old lady were still fast asleep. Juliska turned back into a girl, and Miska went in to announce that he’d returned. The devil shook his head, and his wife said once again: "You know one, he knows two!"  

And with that, Miska’s year of three days was up. But on the way home the lovers had decided to escape, any way they could. They wanted to leave the devil’s lair. Juliska went inside the house, spat on the table three times, and at the break of dawn they both fled. The wife woke up in the morning, called into her daughter’s room: "Wake up, daughter! The sun is up!"  
The first spittle called out: "Coming, mother! Coming right away!"  
After a while, the wife called out again: "Wake up already, daughter! Sweep the house!"  
The second spittle called out: "In a moment!"  
Finally the wife was out of patience, and yelled in very angrily: "Come on already, and start the fire!"
The third spittle only answered: "I’ll be right there!"  
The young lovers were far away by now. The wife called out a fourth time, but no voice answered her. She looked in, and saw no one in the room, except for the three spittles on the table. She grew furious. She grabbed an iron shovel from the corner. "Now, shivel-shovel, iron shovel, we’ll catch up to that pretty girl!"  She sat on the shovel and went after them. When she was high up, she turned into storm clouds dark as soot. She was flying after them like a bird! 

As they were fleeing, suddenly Juliska says to Miska: "Whoa! One of my cheeks is burning, Miska! My mother is after us! I’ll turn into a mill, and you turn into a miller. Take an ax in your hand and work on whittling something. But take care that when my mother comes in a dark storm with a whirlwind she doesn’t pick up a splinter of wood, otherwise I’ll die. Understand?"  
Juliska turned into a mill and Miska into a miller. He picked up an ax and started whittling. Suddenly the dark storm clouds reached them with a great whirlwind that almost swept the mill up. Miska stepped on the splinters to make sure the wind did not move them. The storm saw it couldn’t succeed, so it descended on the mill. Miska took up the ax and slashed at it. Blood fell from the clouds like rain [as if from a rain bag]. The storm saw it couldn’t do anything, and turned back. The mill transformed back into Juliska, and the miller into Miska. 

 The old lady got home, and her husband asked: "Did you see them?"
"I didn’t! I saw someone else." 
"Who did you see?"
"A mill and an old miller whittling something. The miller slashed my arm with his ax so bad, it’s still bleeding." 
"You ass! [donkey, idiot]. It was them!" said his majesty Rút furiously. 

The young lovers continued on their journey. They barely made it half a day’s distance, before Juliska’s cheek started burning again. The woman was flying after them again. Juliska says to Miska: "You turn into a dry weed, and I’ll be a little bird."  They immediately transformed. The old lady goes to them: "Listen, you tweeting little bird! Have you seen such and such young people passing by?" 
"I have, but back then this dry weed was still green." 
"Ooh! That must have been a long time ago! Not recently…"  The old lady turned the shovel around, and shoveled home. There, her husband got started again: "Have you seen them now?" 
"I have seen nothing except a dry weed and a tweeting little bird. I don’t know where they have gone."
"You ass! It was them!" said the devil, and he was so furious he almost knocked his wife over. "Go after them right away, and bring them both back to me!" 

The old woman set out again. She sat on the iron shovel. "Shivel-shovel, iron shovel, we shall catch up to the pretty girl!" and she set off. Juliska sensed her again. She immediately turned into a golden duck, and Miska into a lake. The woman came, stripped off, put her clothes on the shore, pulled off her ring and placed it on her underskirt. When she was up to her neck in the water to catch the duck, the duck flew up, picked up the ring from her clothes (because all the devil’s power was in it), and the lake went dry. The devil’s wife was left standing. No Juliska, no Miska, no ring! Well, her husband will take it out on her! When she got home, his majesty Rút asked her. "So, you are not bringing them after all? Didn’t you hear what I ordered you to do?" 
"I did! But they even took my ring!"  That was all the devil needed to hear. He lunged at his wife. He became like a lion. If you ever wanted to see a beating, you should have been there! The kind of beating the woman got, I wouldn’t take for a hundred forints [that was a lot back then]. She roared desperately like a cow after its calf. But now that they had lost trace of the young lovers, there was nothing to do but accept that they were gone. 

 Miska and Juliska traveled on, more calmly now that no one was pursuing them. They reached the edge of the village were Miska’s father and mother lived. There Juliska told Miska: "Now, I can’t go in with you. Promise that you won’t kiss anyone, and won’t let anyone kiss you. If you do you will forget me, and marry someone else!"  
Miska promised, and said “What are you thinking, my dear Juliska! How could I forget you?” But when he walked through the door, someone ran up to him and kissed his hand. He immediately forgot Juliska.

Everyone rejoiced at home at Miska’s return. He was a changed man, a better person, obedient and tame like a lamb. His father found him a nice girl from the village and announced the engagement; all that was missing was the wedding. Gifts were brought to the house, there was so much kalács [sweet bread] that there wasn’t more space for them even on the benches; many chickens, roosters running around the courtyard, tripping everyone up. Juliska heard the news that Miska was getting married, and grew very sad. She took a pair of doves, male and female [a goose and a hen], put them under a sieve, and brought them to Miska’s. Miska happened to be home. When she handed the gift over, she set the male dove free from under the sieve and only said: "The same thing happened to us, Miska, as to these doves. One of them was left alone."  

Miska immediately remembered his promise. He returned the engagement handkerchief to the other girl, and kissed Juliska. They got married, and they are still living happily today if they haven’t died yet.

Mese, mese, mátka, 
Fekete madárka. 
Uj mente, kopott róka, 
Vesd a vigyorgódra! 

[This is a folktale closing rhyming formula, app. Story story, black little bird, new coat, old fox fur, put it on your face] 

Collected in Besenyőtelek, Heves county. Storyteller: Ragó Lajos, 32 year old peasant, former soldier. Recorded in November, 1903.