Monday, May 25, 2015

MopDog Monday: Sorry, we are currently out of vampires, please select one of the following options

I get this one a lot. For some reason (probably Béla Lugosi), people have come to associate Hungarians with vampires - when, in truth, such a thing doesn't exist in Hungarian folklore. Some scattered mentions of vamps and vamp-like creatures have filtered in from neighboring peoples, but in general we never claimed them as our own. I have already blogged about the Blood Countess and her mistaken legend; that's really as close as we got.
(That, and King Mátyás I throwing Vlad Tepes in jail).

However, a Hungary without vampires is not necessarily a boring Hungary. Quite the opposite: We have a whole array of mythical and magical creatures for your reading pleasure. So if you are a YA or urban fantasy or paranormal romance author perusing the folklore of mystical Eastern Europe for inspiration, please consider some of the following options:

Witch
Unlike vampires, we have a very, very rich witch folklore with endless options and endless uses. As dark as this makes Hungary sound, if you look for the macabre, this is where to look. It has been well researched and well documented, mostly because many beliefs survived until very recently; my grandfather's brother was treated for the Evil Eye by a "wise woman." The last witch in my town was burned in 1688 (a dubious claim to fame), and the last one in Hungary died in 1756.

Táltos
Táltos beliefs stem from the old shamanistic traditions of the Hungarians. You have to be born as one, usually with an extra bone (finger, tooth, etc.), and then initiated by others. Táltos people had power over the weather, had secret sacred knowledge, could see the future, heal, shapeshift, etc. Often they were mentioned as healers who fought against witches in many forms.

Garabonciás 
The garabonciás, unlike the táltos, is not born - they are educated, usually abroad. They belong to the pan-European tradition of secret wizard schools that gave birth to Harry Potter in their latest iteration. The Hungarian garabonciás holds his power in a magic book that allows him to find treasure, see the future, fly, teleport, heal, take off curses, change the weather, create storms, and summon dragons to ride. Yup, that's right.

Fairy (Tündér)
Our fairies are very often imagines as the Elves from Lord of the Rings: Wingless, human-sized, enchantingly beautiful, and highly magical (but not above pairing up with humans). They are ruled by a queen called Ilona, and very often associated with water (especially in northwestern Hungary were I come from). They also often live in castles, and they have human conflicts. There are legends about them leaving the world of men when Christianity appeared.

Lidérc
Also very popular and very versatile, lidérc is an ambiguous supernatural creature. Sometimes it is summoned or created by a human as a servant that can fulfill wishes and make you rich - but will also destroy you if you can't keep it busy (or will suck your blood/breath/life force out of you). Sometimes it is a night monster that feeds on sleepers and has to be caught or banished in various ways.

Werewolf
Yeah, we have them, and often they fight against witches (pretty much everyone fights against witches). Many times they are people that fall into a trance and their soul takes on an animal form (not necessarily a wolf) and goes off to fight. Another version is known as "csordásfarkas" (wolf shepherd), and this one is closer to the popular werewolf idea: People cursed (by - guess what! - a witch) to turn into wolves and the curse has to be broken.

Tündér wizard
Just to make things more complicated, there are other types of magical people that usually take on the fight against witchcraft. "Fairy wizards" are people who draw their magical abilities from the fae world or fae helpers. It is a fascinating topic that exists in a lot of neighboring peoples; it is possible it existed in Hungarian folklore as well.

Winged wolf
What, you thought the Wachowski brothers came up with that?...

As you can see, Hungarian folklore is rich in alternatives to the old and overplayed vampire trope. And this is not even a full list!

Also, when all else fails, there is always the Owl With The Copper Dick.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Eurovision 2015: "Hungary, are you okay?"

Last night was the Grand Finale of the 2015 Eurovision Song Contest. I have written about it on this blog before, since it is not only a very European staple (our very own international guilty pleasure), but Hungary also seems to take it very seriously.
Sometimes, like this year, even too seriously.

Every year there is a contest on Hungarian TV about who gets to represent us on the international stage (you can see the lineup if you follow the link). This year the contest was won by Boggie, a girl whose music video "Nouveau Parfum" went viral last year:


The song she brought to the Eurovision stage in Vienna was called Wars for Nothing, and she made it through the semi-finals and into the final 27 contestants, allowing Hungary to stay up and cheer last night through the entire Grand Finale:


Talk about taking a song contest very, very seriously.
To get a kick out of the experience, I was following the Twitter feed marked with #HUN to see what the world thought about the Hungarian production. Two things jumped out at me at once:

1. We became Europe's pee break (there were no commercial breaks through the entire 4-hour show, and it seems like people finally gave up and used the dramatic lull of the ballad to leave the room)

2. People started seriously worrying about Hungary's mental health and emotional well-being. This was signaled by tweets such as:

"OMG Hungary, you okay?"

"Do you need a hug, Hun?"

"Is this the Suicide Radio?"

And someone posted a sketch of Boggie with the note saying: "The world is f**** messed up. Sincerely, Hungary"

Of course there were a lot of people that liked the song and the performance, although some of them seemed more than a tad confused:

"What is Kate Middleton doing on the Eurovision stage?..."

The best part of the Eurovision song contest, however, is countries giving each other points on a 1-12 scale (essentially, each country constructs its own Top 12, and they get added up in the end). The winning song (Sweden) got 365 points; Hungary finished 20th place, with 19 points total.
Our friends and allies this year:
Estonia (8 points)
Romania (4 points)
France (1 point)
San Marino (4 points)
Germany (1 point)
Czech Republic (1 point)
They will be spared accordingly when Hungarian world domination begins.

The most baffling part, however, was Hungary's postcard: This year the organizers in Austria sent each contestant a "postcard" with a mysterious gift that invited them to some fun recreational activities in the host country. When Boggie opened the box, this is what was in it:

I'll leave it up to your imagination to figure out what "recreational activity" this object symbolized.
For the solution, click here. I promise it's SFW.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

5 things Americans don't eat, and They Have No Excuse For It

Disclaimer: Yeah, I know. #NotAllAmericans

This topic came up in a conversation with other Hungarian expats, and I thought it was fun enough to write about. Essentially, here are 5 food stuffs that we are used to consuming frequently in Hungary, but were distressed to find are not liked in the USA. Since I have spent a couple of years in various parts of the States by now, I think I can at least say with confidence that as far as I know, in my experience these things are rarely if ever are consumed by the Americans I have met.
And I have no idea why not.

Corn on Pizza
When you ask for a Hawaiian in Hungary, you get a pizza with cheese, ham, pineapple... and corn. That was the standard norm as far as I was concerned... until I ordered Hawaiian in the US, and it arrived sans corn. Upon asking my American friends why the pizza people forgot to put the corn on the pizza, I got looks that simultaneously read "WTF" and "Bless your little foreigner heart." I found out the hard way that most pizza places don't even offer corn as an optional topping.
Confusion: Americans literally put corn in everything. I mean, there was an entire Supernatural episode about it. Is it really so weird to ask why it's not on the pizza?!

Peach juice
I somehow managed to spend five years in the USA without realizing that Americans don't drink peach juice. Like, ever. There is apple, pineapple, orange and cranberry, even pomegranate and carrot... but no peach. Not in most stores, anyway. I would say it is probably one of the top 3 fruit juices consumed in Hungary, and I am baffled by the random neglect.
Confusion: I am fairly certain peaches exist in the USA. Has no one ever tried to squish 'em?


Marzipan
Marzipan is the stuff dreams are made of. According to me. For those of you who don't know what it is, it is a sweet made of sugar and almonds. It is not only delicious, but also great with chocolate (especially dark chocolate), and sometimes comes in fun Play-doh like format, which is used to make decorations for birthday cakes (or sometimes even statues). The only marzipan chocolate I have ever seen in the US is sold at Walgreens.
Confusion: Americans clearly like candy. Why not marzipan?

Frybread
Lángos, as we call it, is everyone's favorite beach and fair ground food. It is deep-fried dough in a flat format, usually topped with cheese, garlic, salt, and sour cream. It is a guilty pleasure, and as such, it is both filling, greasy, and delicious.
Confusion: Native Americans know what frybread is.



Poppy seeds
When I tell my American friends that my grandparents grow poppies in their garden, I can see them mentally filing me under "possible Hungarian drug contact." Poppy seeds are a staple for several pastries, and we even eat them on pasta sometimes.
Confusion: Poppy seeds don't actually get you high, unless you eat a LOT of them. At least I have never seen any of my family members stoned after Sunday lunch...

Bonus: There is such a thing in Hungary as poppy-marzipan ice cream. Your move, America.

Monday, May 18, 2015

MopDog Monday: Blood, Carnage and... Children's Rhymes?!

Today the MopDog is participating in the Blood, Boobs and Carnage Blogfest! It is a blog hop hosted by Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh and Heather M. Gardner. Participating blogs are supposed to post today about books, movies, shows etc. within the topic of... well, Blood, Boobs, and Carnage (or any combination of the three).
In a fortuitous turn of events, I already promised last Monday that I would post about Hungarian children's rhymes and songs, and it just so happens that many of them fit at least one of the three. Thus, my topic is music.
If you want to visit the other participants, you can find the Linky list HERE.

Hungarian children's rhymes are often horribly violent. This is one of those things that you don't realize until much later, when you are an adult, and the damage has already been done. Most people, when they get a sample of the children's rhymes of my early years, usually react with "That explains so much!" (I don't know if I should be offended).
For example:
(Titles link to YouTube videos where you can listen to she songs and watch whimsical animations)

Laybug fly away
The Turks are coming
They will put you in a well full of salt
And then they will take you out
They will put you under a wheel
And take you out of there too
The Turks are coming
And they will shoot you dead.

Stork, Stork, why is your leg bloody?
A Turkish child cut it,
A Hungarian child is healing it,
With pipes, and drums, and fiddles.

Snail, Snail, come out,
Your house is on fire
You'll get milk and butter
Enough to have some left tomorrow.

Snail, Snail, push your horns out
If you don't, I'll smash your house.

Little Squirrel, Little Squirrel,
Climbed up a tree
It fell down and broke its leg.
Doctor, don't heal him,
Squirrels are mischievous, he'll just climb up again.

Little Cow, Little Cow, of Many Colors,
Doesn't have ears or tail,
We'll go to live where we can buy milk.

Little Cow, Little Cow, has a cold,
We made pants for her,
But the pants were too small, and the cow was sick.

Little Cow, Little Cow, has a cold,
We made pants for her,
She didn't want to put them on, so we had to chase her home.

And after all the carnage, here is one that fits the "boobs" category... Kinda. It is usually sung by kindergardeners as they form gates in pairs and the others file through.

Hide, hide, green switch, 
Little green leaf,
The golden gates are open,
You can go right in.
Go in, go in,
The barn comes crashing down,
The barn comes crashing down,
The cat gets trapped inside.

Yuuup. You can analyze that last one on your own.

For more boob-related postings, check out my other participating blog, the Multicolored Diary.

Monday, May 11, 2015

MopDog Monday: Hungarians give animals strange names

Ever wonder what animals are called in other languages? Sure, the basic lineup is usually among the first word pop quizzes you get in a language class, but what do they really mean?
You'll never know how strange some nations (*cough*Hungary*cough*) name some animals until you try to translate the words in a very, very literal sense.
Like I just did.

Hungarian name: Farkas
Literally means: The one with a tail
Comment: Yes, we were very specific back in the day.







Hungarian name: Szarvas
Literally means: The one with horns
Comment: Yes, that one.
(Note: According to popular theory these two were totem animals back in the day, hence you were not allowed to say their real names out loud. Sadly, since people kept to the rules, we have no clue what the real names were.)

Hungarian name: Büdösborz
Literally means: Stinky badger
Comment: Hey, it's fairly accurate for an animal that doesn't live on our continent.


Hungarian name: Mosómedve
Literally means: Washing bear
Comment: They do wash their food! Proof: Here is a gif of a raccoon trying to wash cotton candy.
Some of my American friends are really amused when I tell them we have raccoon at the zoo back home.



Hungarian name: Jegesmedve
Literally means: Icy bear
Comment: We're not wrong



Hungarian name: Meztelen csiga
Literally means: Naked snail
Comment: Oh myyy.
Hungarian name: Tengerimalac
Literally means: Sea piglet (or, alternately, maize piglet)
Comment: If it snorts, it's a pig




Hungarian name: Katica(bogár)
Literally means: Katie(bug)
Comment: We have a song about the Turks torturing ladybugs (more about messed up Hungarian children's rhymes later)





Hungarian name: Torkosborz
Literally means: Glutton badger
Comment: They translated the Wolverine movie as "Farkas"




Hungarian name: Őszapóka
Literally means: Little autumn grandfather
Comment: *Cuteness overload* (it's a long-tailed tit, by the way)
(Note: It has been pointed out to me that it could also be "little grey-haired grandfather," which is indeed the same word, I guess my brain just never understood it that way.)



Hungarian name: Tobzoska
Literally means: Little pine cone
Comment: Squeee!!!



Hungarian name: Kacsacsőrű emlős
Literally means: Duck-billed mammal
Comment: Again, we are not wrong. Just not very imaginative. What, the animal itself is not strange enough for ya?!



And finally, the most amazing animal on the face of the planet:


Hungarian name: Kis páncélos egér
Literally means: Little armored mouse
Comment: This one is a tie, since in English it's called a Pink Fairy Armadillo.




Which one's your favorite? Which one can you pronounce?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

MopDog Public Opinion Poll: What does this building remind you of?

The 2015 World Expo in Milan is just opening, and along many other, easier-to-locate-on-the-map countries, Hungary also built a pavilion to display our charisma uniqueness, nerve, and talent...


Oops, wrong show.
Anyhow, the gif sums up most Hungarians' reactions to the expo building pretty well.

Without further ado, here are the plans for the pavilion in question:


And here is what it ended up looking like:

Because there is no decent world expo building without an (in)appropriate nickname, the poll questions is:

What does this building remind you of? What  do you think it should be named?

(Fret not: There is an explanation for the design. I'll share it later, but I want to hear your guesses first!)

Monday, May 4, 2015

MopDog Monday: A to Z Reflections

Welcome to the first weekly MopDog Monday post!

Whew! This was the MopDog's second year of participating in the A to Z Challenge, and the first year I had a theme (other than "Hungarians are weird"). It was tons of fun to write, and even more fun to read the comments as the world reacted to Hungarian history... The number of my followers tripled (yeah, I know!), and I got a lot of inspiration for future posts.
Because of that, I decided to announce a regular weekly feature:
MOPDOG MONDAYS!

MopDog Mondays will be regular posts on assorted topics of Hungarian weirdness. In no particular order, here are some posts I am working on right now:

10 Things Game of Thrones and Hungarian history have in common

How to say "I'm drunk" in Hungarian 10 different ways

Hungarians Give Animals Strange Names

"No, we don't have vampires, please select one of the following options..."

... as well as many others.

If you feel like you can handle Hungary, make sure you follow the MopDog, or follow me on Twitter!

Also, check out my other blog, the Multicolored Diary. I did a theme of Epics this year, and I also posted my "official" reflections there with shout outs to favorite blogs, and the Reflections Linky.

Congratulations to all on finishing A to Z, and surviving the Hungarian Middle Ages! :)