The European folktale of the Hunter and the Swan Maiden

The Swan Maiden in folklore is a creature that can transform from a swan to a human and back to a swan when needed. There are also male versions of the creature in some folktales. Many other folktales from around the world have the central motif of a swan, or other types of bird or animal, that transforms from a bird or beast into a human and back again.

The male figure is often a hunter and by stealing and with holding her clothing while she bathes wins her for a wife. For some people the stealing and withholding of the clothing represents the stealing of her power and her imprisonment. At the same time the very sight of the Swan Maiden in human form appears to put a spell on the hunter who falls in love with her. He must have her for his wife and when she does find her clothing and her power is returned he must seek her out and bring her back.

Public Domain

Public Domain

In this tale the hunter goes to great lengths and faces great danger to track down and win back his Swan Maiden. This appears to impress the Swan Maiden who readily consents to returning leaving her world to return to his to be his wife again. In other similar folktales the hunter who loses his Swan Maiden and does not fight to find and keep her not only loses her, but his happiness and usually dies a lonely death pining for his loved one.The hunter

In the forest there lived a hunter who made his living by hunting the birds and the animals of the forest. He would often set off in the evening setting traps or stalking deer and not return to his home until dawn the next day.

One evening he went to a lake hidden deep in the forest where he knew there were lots of wild ducks that he could catch. As the sun was going down he heard the air reverberate to the sound of powerful wings. Thinking a flock of ducks was coming he quickly hid in the undergrowth and waited.  Read more

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Russian folklore: The fool of the world and the flying ship

The traditional Russian folktale of the Fool of the World and the flying ship although a children’s story has a number of lessons built within it for those who care, or dare to look. For example there are themes of naivety and innocence, but also friendship, love, faith and belief. The important thing for the reader is to make up their own mind using their own knowledge and experience as to what if any lessons there may be, at least for them.

The Fool of the World

In the days of the great Tsars of Russia there lived in a village an old peasant couple who were the parents of three sons. The two oldest sons were deemed to be young men of high intelligence and considered handsome to look upon by maidens. The youngest was deemed to be a fool. His parents were ashamed of him and often mocked him and were cruel to him calling him the Fool of the World. Sometimes he felt sad at this. Even so, he had a cheerful and optimistic disposition and mostly remained happy in his own ways.  Read more

Russian folklore: The hidden city of Kitezh

According to Russian legend hidden beneath the waters of Lake Svetloyar is a mythical city built by Georgy II, the Grand Prince of Vladimir in the early part of the 13th century.

The Drown Town” by Konstantin Gorbatov, 1933 – Public Domain

Batu Khan and the Golden Horde

According to legend when Batu Khan sacked the Russian city of Vladimir he first heard of Kitezh and became determined to capture it and he led the Golden Horde into Russia. The Mongols attacked and captured Maly Kitezh forcing Georgy to retreat with his army to the forests towards Bolshoy Kitezh . Although they had found and captured Maly Kitezh the Mongols did not know where to look for Bolshoy Kitezh as it was hidden on the lakeside which was protected by thick forest. Only those who knew the secret paths could find it.

The Mongols attempted to bribe and torture the prisoners to get the secret but none would talk despite the pain inflicted. At last one of the prisoners betrayed the secret of how to find Bolshoy Kitezh and was greatly rewarded for his treachery. He led Batu Khan and the Golden Horde through the forest towards Lake Svetloyar where they found Bolshoy Kitezh.  Read more

Prince Csaba: A gift from heaven

It is said that the Hungarian name of Csaba, which means gift from the sky or gift from heaven, originated from a legendary warrior named Prince Csaba who according to legend was the savior of his people on a number of occasions.  There are many legends about Prince Csaba and many versions of the following legend which tells how he became to be seen as a gift from heaven for his people.

Csaba and his warriors – by Bertalan SzékelyCC BY-SA 3.0

Who would rule the Hun kingdom?

When the Attila, the great leader of the Huns died an untimely death the tribes that made up the Hun nation found themselves at war with the Germanic tribes of the empire as fierce battles were fought to decide the future leadership of the empire.  Attila had many wives from many different tribes and races and he had fathered many sons.   Although everyone expected one of his sons to rule the question was which one?

After much conflict and the shedding of much blood two main contenders emerged:  Aladár, whose mother had been a princess from a powerful German tribe and Csaba whose mother was the daughter of the emperor of Greece.  Although when Attilla died he had been the solitary ruler of the Hun empire, he had previously ruled jointly with his brother until his death, though some say he had assassinated him.   However, now the empire was split in need of a strong leader.

The Battle of Krimhilda

The Germanic tribes of the empire sided with Aladár and the Huns sided with Attila’s youngest son, Csaba.  The two sides met in battle with Csaba winning the first battle.  Aladár managed to muster a great army and the two sides met again at what became known as the Battle of Krimhilda”.  The fighting was bloody and desperate and was said to last for two weeks with many dead and wounded on both sides.  Eventually Csaba’s army was broken and scattered.  Csaba escaped with fifteen warriors and made his way to Greece where his mother had come from.  He then went on to Scythia where his father was born but vowed to return to his people one day in victory.

Three thousand Hun warriors survived and settled in a place called Csigle’s Meadow in what is now Transylvania.  These later became known as the Székely people and remained loyal to Csaba.  They kept to all the old Hun ways and they had a tradition which told that in their times of need Prince Csaba would return with an army to save them and according to their legends this has happened on several occasions.

Prince Csaba returns!

After many years after the original Székely warriors had passed away their sons and daughters were once again threatened by invaders.  Like true warriors the Székely warriors met their enemies in battle.  Even though they were vastly outnumbered they fought through the day and into the night.  At last believing victory to be inevitable their enemies mocked them asking who would save them now that Prince Csaba was no more.  No sooner had the words come out of their mouths when glittering road of shining stars appeared across the night sky. Down from the heavens rode Prince Csaba at the head of a great army instantly attacking and routing them and once again becoming the savior of his people.

Gift from heaven

According to legend he returned at least three more times riding down the Skyway of Warriors to defeat the enemies of the Huns and save his people.  Another legend says that he returned again to lead Prince Árpád and the Hungarian tribes who were descendants and allies of the Huns over the  Carpathian Mountains into the land they would claim as their own and built into what is known as the country of Hungary today.  No wonder then that Prince Csaba’s name means gift from heaven.

© 01/07/2015  zteve t evans

References and Attributions

Copyright July 1st,2015 zteve t evans