Thursday, April 7, 2016

F is for Fehérlófia

In a slightly psychedelic trip through Hungarian folklore, the Son of the White Horse grows into his power, slays some dragons, and rescues some princesses.
Fehérlófia (Son of the White Mare, 1981) is one of the most famous Hungarian animated movies of all times. It was one of the films named among the 50 winners of the Olympiad of Animation I mentioned in the introduction. It is based on a similarly popular folktale, our version of ATU 301, the Three Kidnapped Princesses.

Note: Although it's based on a folktale, THIS IS NOT A KIDS' MOVIE. Here be boobs and symbolic innuendos, yo. Beware.

The whole film is kind of hard to explain. The original folktale involves a boy who is the son of a white mare, and possesses superhuman strength. He teams up with two other heroes that he out-wrestles, and goes off on a journey. Chasing a small, long-bearded man that steals their supper they find a hole that leads into the Underworld, where the Son of the White Mare rescues three princesses from three multi-headed dragons - but when his friends pull the princesses up from the hole, they decide to betray him and leave him down there for dead. He finally makes his way back up the hole with the help of a mythical bird, whom he has to feed with his own flesh to make the journey.
Confused yet?

By the way, I'm not the one that named this movie psychedelic, it was the Huffington Post.

Jankovics Marcel, the director of the film, took the folktale to its symbolic, cosmic level. All the figures correspond to elements and celestial bodies, seduction and sexuality are very much present, and the Hero's Journey is a full-blown myth. Since we have no written sources of Hungary's pre-Christian mythology at all, he used the remnants of our old cosmology from the folktale to re-build one, with stunning (albeit questionably scientific) success. He took a storyteller's liberty and understanding to the tale, and the results are quite convincingly beautiful.

It is a movie definitely worth watching all the way through. It is definitely a trip (even stone cold sober), but it is a trip worth taking.

You can find it on YouTube here. There is not a whole lot of talking in it. You can find the tale in this book.


  1. Okay, this looks as odd as it can get o-o Son of a white mare and feeds the bird his own flesh....folk tales, what can we do without it?

  2. That sounds ... weird :) The animation looks beautiful. I shall definitely have to check out the link.
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  3. The art in your pictures is stunning. It would definitely be a vivid artistic trip, especially if the whole movie is just as visually amazing.

  4. Actually the story makes perfect sense, and is a archetypal hero's journey. I could totally see someone turning that into a Hollywood Blockbuster (they would mangle it atrociously, of course, but I could see them trying it).

    That being said, the animated version does look whacked out, and I imagine it was part of that very weird period of animation in the late 70s, early 80s where filmmakers really pushed the boundaries of what you could do in cartoons (for an American example look no further than Ralph Bakshi). I have to check this film out!

  5. Tweeted this out. Always great to find new folk tales (for a part time storyteller)


  6. This looks like it would be very enjoyable.

  7. I studied animation for a while in college, so this is really cool. I watched a little bit, but I'll have to sit with it longer. Thanks for posting about it!

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