Márta Bors – Illustrator
Known for her beautiful, otherworldly sound, the Nightingale is a common folklore image appearing in Hungarian folk songs and tales. She is often mentioned as the symbol of love and devotion and is surrounded by mystery and magic, just like this short story inspired by her:
Once upon a time, beyond the Operenczian Sea, passing the Crystal Mountain, somewhere, where the curly tailed piglet is digging the dirt, lived a poor widow. This widow had nothing but her only son. One day, the widow said to the lad “My dear child, you are old enough now to go see the world and get along on your own, instead of wasting your time in this miserable village”. The lad took his mother’s advice, filled his bag with the little he had, said a tearful goodbye to his mother and started off on his journey.
The boy travelled seven days and seven nights until he reached a dark, dense forest. As it was turning colder and colder, looking for some sort of shelter, the lad spotted a spark glimmering amongst the trees. Following the warm, glowing light, our fella reached an old, abandoned looking castle. To his great surprise, the spark that had caught his eye came from a flickering candle in the highest tower.
As he stopped to admire the mysterious building, a sweet, enchanting melody sneaked into his ears. Startled by the beautiful singing voice, forgetting about the cold, hunger and tiredness, like his feet were stuck to the ground, he listened to the alluring music, washing every sorrow and pain away. After the last notes faded away in the silent forest, feeling as though he was slowly coming to the surface from under-water, the boy took a deep breath and continued his way towards the castle.
Determined to find the source of the spectacular voice, after climbing the broken stairs, he entered a large hall fully grown with moss, ivy and strange, unknown plants. A sound like that of crackling bones and branches filled the room as he followed his path. Taking a turn in the direction of what looked like a never-ending staircase, he noticed something huge and heavy crawling on the castle walls. Still intrigued by the curious melody from above, he ignored the alarming sight and quietly made his way up the stairs. Opening an old creaking wooden door, he entered a small, nicely furnished bedroom scented by the smell of roses and candle wax.
Hoping to finally discover who the charming singing voice belonged to, he examined the place from top to bottom, finding nothing but a long, white dress with embroidered flowers that had probably seen better days. Suddenly he heard a rattling sound from across the room, and as he moved a bit closer, a little bird, a Nightingale, stuck its head out of a book shelf filled with dusty, well used books. As the widow’s son took another step closer to the shelf, the Nightingale tweeted a short, thrilling and oddly familiar melody…
The Nightingale Palace was inspired by a typical Hungarian folk tale scenario introducing a poor lad, a princess and a magical creature like a dragon (usually seven-headed). Traditionally the tale closes with a big wedding and happy ending where the evil anti-hero gets what they deserve. In this particular case our bird chose to stay in the protecting cloak of mystery and leave the rest to the Reader’s imagination.
The idea for the castle door motifs and floral patterns on the illustration came from two famous Hungarian embroideries called Matyó and Kalocsai . Characterised by tulips and tendril-like curved leaves they symbolise the strong, overflowing emotions in the song of the Nightingale.
Last but not least, some might find the sight of a hanging duck leg an odd detail on a Palace, but of course this element has a deeper meaning too as it is a common component in Hungarian (and Slavic/Russian) folk tales. The “spinning castle on a duck leg” probably originated in a shamanistic religious belief rooted pre-Christian times.
Where I Live
Find Me Here
All the people you see on these pages have been absolutely amazing in a time which has been tough for everyone, especially people in the arts. However, these brilliant contributors have given their time for free to create for you a unique experience and hopefully allow you to enjoy and escape for a while from this pain of a pandemic.
All the contributors are now passing the baton over to you in the hope that you will add your support to this local community project and help our chosen local charity in these extremely difficult times. We’ve chosen the Chorlton & Didsbury Foodbank because we don’t think anyone in our community should have to face going hungry. They provide three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to them in crisis. You can now help this amazing operation by following the link to the donate page.
Thanks so much for your support, we hope you enjoy the hunt and let your friends know about it.
Please help Chorlton & Didsbury Foodbank by following the link below