Tuesday, April 22, 2014

S is for Süsü the Dragon

Süsü is one of the most beloved characters in Hungarian TV and literature. He was created by children's author István Csukás.

Süsü is a dragon who was exiled from the land of the dragons by his father, the king, for an oddly specific reason: Süsü only has one head. While dragons in Hungarian folklore and fairy tales have many heads (directly related to their power levels), and most often have seven, Süsü was born with the slight disability of only having one head. Also, he is too kind for his own kind; he enjoys looking at butterflies, eating wild pears, and learning etiquette. In fact, when his father sends him against an enemy, he nurses the enemy back to health instead of killing him. For all of these, he gets kicked out of home (Süsü literally means silly or simple in certain contexts), and starts out on a journey looking for a new life.

Süsü soon teams up with a wandering prince looking for adventure. He learns about the rules of chivalry and manages to scare half the kingdom while doing it. Then the two travelers come up with a plan: Süsü will pretend to fight the prince, win, and then he will get half the kingdom and the princess' hand in marriage, finding a new home.
The plan doesn't exactly work out: Süsü turns out to be too soft-hearted to hurt or scare anyone, and their secret is outed on the battlefield. In the end, however, things turn out well: Prince and princess fall in love and become king and queen (the old king is happy to retire), they have a little boy who becomes best friends with Süsü, and Süsü becomes the official dragon of the kingdom.

Süsü and the royal family go on to many adventures. At some point, Süsü and the prince save the kingdom from a siege from an evil king in quite a heroic way. Eventually, Süsü gets news that his grandfather arranged for a marriage for him with a lady dragon. After constructing a very elaborate all-kingdom plan to get Süsü out of the wedding, the lady dragon shows up and turns out to be quite lovely and kind. Finally, Süsü gets his own home and his own family, right next door to the human kingdom.

Süsü was the first non-picture book I ever read as a kid, so it holds a special place in my heart. It is a lovely children's story that teaches values like kindness, friendship, bravery, and finding pleasure in the small things in life.

Here, enjoy the opening song of the puppet show series based on the book:


  1. This is adorable! What a nice idea and story about a dragon.

    In Mexico we have Cri Cri, a singing cricket that is like the equivalent of Mother Goose in the States. If you grew up in Mexico you know CriCri and each person has their favorite songs. Mine is about and ugly doll. I debated on writing about Cri Cri for my C post but went in a different direction. Maybe next year.


    LittleCely's Blog

  2. A few minor nits:

    Süsü was exiled by his father, not by his grandfather; and having only one head was just the icing on the cake. Actually his father sent him to take out one of his (the father's) enemies, but Süsü found said enemy in a bad state of health and helped him recuperate, made him poultices etc. instead of smiting him ruthlessly. This was what prompted his exile.

    The other things only come later (especially etiquette).

    Regarding the duel, they in fact agree that the prince will fall, so that Süsü can take half the kingdom and the hand of the princess in marriage (because these go to the winner). The prince hopes to help Süsü find a home this way. At the end of the duel, though, when the prince falls and Süsü apparently wins, everyone is stunned but the princess's nanny, who starts throwing stuff at Süsü and calling him names. Süsü starts crying and sobs that he doesn't want to marry this foul-mouthed princess (believing the nanny to be the princess); he also begs the prince to stop people hurting him. This is how their plot is discovered.

    The prince improvises a speech to exonerate himself and explain Süsü's desperate situation, as well as his good nature.

    The princess has an immediate crush on the prince; and the old king, who is tired of running the country (and especially of his palace, which is too cold) abdicates in favour of the prince.

    The prince, as king, declares Süsü his royal dragon, and he gets to stay.

    The siege you're referring to doesn't involve the original prince (now king); it's Süsü and the little prince, the new king's son, still a child, who save the kingdom by taking the entire attacking army prisoner while playing war, unaware that a sneak attack is in progress.

  3. In the comment above you can observe an illustration of how passionate Hungarians can get about Süsü :)

  4. Love this! It's such an endearing story (either version) :)