Hungarian Fairies 2

by Theodora Goss

Róheim links Fairy Ilona, as a swan–goddess, with other European goddesses who can take the form of birds. And this brings us to a final interesting possibility. Fred Hámori, who argues that the Hungarian language is related to ancient Sumerian, believes that Fairy Ilona is the fairy tale form of the Sumerian goddess Inanna.Is there any support for this possibility in the fairy tale itself? Róheim tells us that in Finno–Ugric mythology, (4) the Land of Birds is also the Land of the Dead. Perhaps Prince Argyilus, following Fairy Ilona in her raven form, is also following her to a symbolic land of death. Inanna, in one of her most famous myths, also visits the Land of the Dead.Like a shaman, who can travel both upward and downward on the tree with the golden apples, she descends into the underworld, which is ruled by her sister Ereshkigal. The three days and nights she spends there are reminiscent of the three days and nights it takes for Prince Argyilus to break the spell on Fairy Ilona. Perhaps the witch who holds Fairy Ilona captive is a counterpart of Ereshkigal,and the sleep that Fairy Ilona and Prince Argyilus both fall into is the fairy tale equivalent of death. Inanna’s consort Dumuzi, who eventually takes her place in the underworld for half of the year, is identified as a shepherd. Hoppál also refers to the shaman as a shepherd, and we have seen that Prince Argyilus’ journey resembles the shaman’s journey. Finally, Inanna is sometimes depicted as winged, like the fairies of European art.This is slight evidence on which to base an identification, and Hámori’s ideas on the link between Hungarian and Sumerian mythology are not accepted by serious scholars. However, it is interesting to think of the Hungarian fairies as descendants of ancient gods, like the Irish Tuatha de Danann. If we throw aside scholarly caution, we can imagine Inanna, the fickle goddess of the Sumerians, over centuries diminishing into the beautiful,virtuous literary fairies as well as the dangerous fairies, witches, and fair ladies of Hungarian folklore.