Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Y: from Yearning (26 Ways to Die in Medieval Hungary)

Today's story comes from folklore, not history - while I am pretty sure that love and yearning has killed quite a few people over the centuries, I couldn't find a good example. However, I am in the process of translating this really dark Hungarian folktale into English, and it just happens to start with death by yearning. So, here it is.
(Folktale collected and published by János Erdélyi in 1855)

The Princess' Curse

Once upon a time there was a king who only had one daughter, and she was so stunningly beautiful that people came from faraway lands just to get a glimpse of her. In a nearby kingdom lived another king, even more wealthy, and he had two sons, each equally handsome. The younger one decided to go and ask for the beautiful princess' hand in marriage - he ha heard stories about her kindness, beauty (and wealth). The moment they saw each other, they fell in love. However, the princess' father did not want to give his daughter away so easily: He told the prince to go and travel, see the world, learn useful things, and come back in three years ready for marriage. The princess and the prince were sad that they had to part for three years, but there was nothing to do about it.
While the younger brother was away, the older brother also came to visit the princess. The moment he saw her, he wanted her for himself. He spent days and weeks trying to seduce her, telling her tales of how his younger brother was a liar, a cheat, a good-for nothing... But the princess knew better, and didn't believe a word of it.

Three years passed, and the younger prince returned home. His brother was already waiting for him, ready with a lie: He said the princess forgot him, didn't want him anymore, and in fact was engaged to someone else. The younger prince, heartbroken, locked himself into his room. The princess waited and waited, but her lover didn't return; she stopped eating and grew thin and pale. One day she told her father that if her lover didn't return in three days, she would surely die; once dead, she asked to be buried in the crypt inside the cathedral, and her resting place to be guarded by armed men.
Three days passed, and the prince didn't appear - the princess breathed her last. She was dressed in silk and brocade, and laid to rest in a coffin inside the cathedral crypt. The bells rang, the city was covered in black drapes, and everyone mourned the princess. Just as the funeral was ending, the older prince walked into town, and was shocked to find out that the princess was dead (he hoped that she would give up on her love for the young prince and be willing to marry him instead). He went straight to the king, and volunteered to be the first armed guard to stand vigil at the princess' grave.
Night fell, and the prince stood by the crypt alone, in the quiet of the church. But just as the bells tolled ten o'clock, the door of the crypt opened with terrible screeching and crackling, and our came the princess, her face pale and terrible.

"You lied to me and you lied to the one I loved! For that, you shall die."

And with that, she tore the prince to pieces, and left his bones in a pile on the floor. Then, she returned into her crypt, and the door shut behind her with a resounding crack.
The next day the younger prince finally appeared in court, asking the king what happened. He was devastated to find out that the princess was dead, and so was his brother. He volunteered to guard the crypt that night.
As the bells tolled ten, the crypt opened once again, and the younger prince was faced with the woman he had loved, her face pale and terrible.

"You gave up on me!" she screeched "You believed the lies about me! For that, you shall die."

She tore the younger prince to pieces, and left his bones in a pile on the ground.
Things went the same way every night after that. No matter how many people volunteered, no matter how much gold the king offered to anyone who could survive one night, no one left the cathedral alive in the morning.

Until one tired soldier called János wandered into town one day...

(The rest of the folktale follows folktale type 307, The Princess in the Shroud)
(Storytellers: If you want the full story let me know, I'll send you a full translation!)


  1. Maybe while traveling the princess learned independence, because it seems she was rather able to defend her own honor.

  2. Well I googled and got the ending; but, I learned about the folk tale classification system. I can't thank you enough for that knowledge. What I will do with it, I don't know.


  3. Én kérem szépen a végét :) puszi

  4. Thanks for the story, I enjoyed it.

  5. The second killing surprised me. I thought she would take him into the tomb and they would lie happily ever after. I like her thinking though. Would that be the famous Janos?

    1. János is essentially Hungarian for Jack :D Every other folktale hero is called János.

  6. i've have a version of this tale or a tale that sounds really, really similar. I cannot for the life of me remember what country it is from.

    Yay, found it! Danish Fairy Tales by Svendt Grundtvig!

    I googled my little heart out, but the cover is too unique for me to forget.

    1. Thanks for the source! I'll look it up. Apparently there is also a Cossack version somewhere. I love finding versions of folktales! :)


      This has a link to the princess in the coffin and a bunch of other awesomeness. Hope it works!

  7. oooh, gave me shivers. I thought it was going to end in a Shakespearean way with both young lovers dead. Did not predict the killing by the princess of the either prince, much less all the other people! She sounds like she turned to the "dark side."
    Maui Jungalow

  8. She really was heartbroken, I thought she might have forgiven the younger prince. Sounds like a suicide mission to guard that crypt!

  9. Yikes. Great tale though.

    ~Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine~
    Member of C. Lee's Muffin Commando Squad
    Story Dam
    Patricia Lynne, Indie Author

  10. Wow, that is one young lady who is serious in her after life revenge.
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  11. Now that's how you tell a fairy tale. Let's see Disney mess that one up!

    1. I think someone already made the movie. It's called the Corpse Bride... XD

  12. I actually really liked this one...creepy as it is. :) Elle @ Erratic Project Junkie

  13. I'm kinda happy with how it ended, haha. I'd be pissed, too, if I was faithful, and found out the dude believed his brother. (Sorry I'm late!)