Once upon a time… Szusza

szusza

Hungarian folk tales rarely treat women well. Unless a female character was born a princess, or has a clever little cock in her backyard, there’s a fat chance she’ll be ridiculed in the tales. The female characters have to be either beautiful or hard-working, preferably both, with a touch of intelligence. In Szusza though, the heroine lacks it all. So guess what happens in the end…

The rich man of the village is married to a stupid, good-for-nothing woman, Szusza. One day the man orders the Missus to watch whatever the woman next door does, and copy it. As soon as her husband leaves for work, Szusza peeks over the fence to see what the neighbor’s doing. She’s soaking the laundry in lye, so fast-learning Szusza fetches her husband’s boots and fur hat, proudly drops them in the boiling lye and then washes them in the river. Funnily enough, everything disintegrates, only the horseshoes remains intact as a souvenir of the boots. When the man comes home and sees the damage, he grabs the silly woman and lambastes her for her disastrous performance.

The next day, she sees the neighbor preparing swill of flour and water for the pigs. Our Szusza tries to up it by pouring sacks of flour into the well, to have enough swill to last for weeks. And the wretched woman thinks her husband will appreciate her efforts. But no, once the man sees the glue in the well the watery flour has turned into, he gives Szusza another beating. And the thing goes on and on…

The man keeps all his money in a leather bag under the bed. But, fearing that the silly woman would give it away, he tells her there’s a bókuska (an evil troll) under the bed that will eat the woman next time she does something stupid. So when the husband is out, and the opportunity comes knocking in a form of a pot salesman, she decides to get rid of the bókuska in exchange for pots and pans. When her man arrives home and sees the damage, he’s close to a heart attack. So the next morning he sends Szusza to the fields to help with the harvest and not to cause any more trouble. After a couple of hours’ worth of work, she falls asleep on the field. Hubby comes looking for her, and upon finding Szusza fast asleep he realizes she’s not only stupid, but is also a waste of space. He pours honey on her and covers her body with feathers, so when the woman wakes up, she has a minor identity crisis. She’s not sure anymore if she’s still Szusza or some otherworldly feathery creature, so she walks home to ask her husband if his wife is at home. If he says no, then she’s Szusza, but should he say yes, she has to face the biggest existentialist question there is, namely who she really is. The clever man says his wife is at home of course, and that strips Szusza of the last traces of any common sense. She goes mental, and goes AWOL.

You may also like

Join the Fun