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Fehérlófia (Son of the White Mare/Horse) is Marcell Jankovics's 1981 Animated Adaptation of steppe nomad legends and Hungarian folktales (culled mainly from the collections of László Arany), featuring the eponymous Fehérlófia (Son of the White Horse), or more accurately Fanyűvő (Treetearer or Treeshaker), the superpowered son of a white mare.

Shortly after he's born, his mother tells him a story: long ago, there was happiness and peace as the Forefather Rain King and Progenitrix Ice Queen ruled the world; however, their three sons grew restless and wished for wives. This soon proved to be to their ruin, as the princesses they were given became curious about that door they were never supposed to open, and unwillingly set the evil dragons free. The dragons immediately seized power over the world, killing the three brothers, relocating their tree castles to the Underworld and taking the princesses as their wives. The Forefather escaped with greatly diminished power, while the Queen was captured when trying to escape in the form of a white mare. While in captivity, she gave birth two times, with both of her sons disappearing. When she became pregnant a third time, she was told that if this son disappears as well, the world will lose its last chance of being saved…

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After the death of his mother, Fanyűvő sets out to find his similarly superpowered brothers, Kőmorzsoló (Stonecrumbler) and Vasgyúró (Ironkneader or Ironrubber). It is up to them to overthrow the dragons' rule and bring balance back to the world.

The film is mainly notable for its highly experimental and artistic visuals, extreme color palette, unique character designs and flowing animation, as well as its surreal and trippy atmosphere. Objects, characters and backgrounds shift and contort into one another, and all is held together by a heavy dose of Eurasian folk iconography and an overload of symbolism.

Following an extremely Troubled Production, the film flopped at the box office, with viewers finding its overbearing, unconventional art and sound design, as well as its bold reinterpretation of a classic children's story (albeit more faithful than some give it credit for) too tough to swallow. Its fantastical presentation, use of meaningful symbols and heavy mythological allegory garnered critical praise, but reviews criticized its simple story and flat characters, both carryovers from the source material. Though highly obscure abroad, the movie nonetheless received some amount of acclaim, being named the 49th best animated movie ever made at the 1984 Los Angeles Animation Olympics. More recently, thanks to the internet, it's also being discovered by animation enthusiasts the world over. Of Jankovics's four feature-length animated movies (the others being Johnny Corncob, Song of the Miraculous Hind and The Tragedy of Man), this is the most widely known outside of his home country, and, while initially disliking it because it couldn't live up to his original vision, it is now his personal favorite.

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This film provides examples of:

  • Adapted Out: Certain versions of the tale include scenes where the brothers visit a town, defeat a bull and hunt down a boar. These don't happen in the film.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the original tale (meaning Arany's), Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók is a villain. Here, he's The Hero's father in disguise.
    • In Arany's tale, Fehérlófia's servants, including Fanyűvő, do betray him by leaving him stranded in the Underworld. In the film, Fanyűvő and Fehérlófia are one and the same, automatically stripping him of his villainous role. But even in other versions of the fable where Fanyűvő is the protagonist, his partners clearly betray him. Their animated incarnations on the other hand aren't villains, they try their best to lift Fehérlófia/Fanyűvő out of the Underworld and only let him fall back because the rope isn't strong enough.
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  • Adaptation Expansion: The backstory regarding the origin of the dragons, the rulers and forerunners of the three brothers are unique additions.
  • Adaptational Modesty: Inverted with the Fall Princess, who proudly displays her boobs and her bush. In the original tales, she's a regular girl wearing normal princess garments.
  • An Arm and a Leg: In a final show of self-sacrifice, Fanyűvő cuts off and feeds his own leg to the griffin to grant him enough strength to escape the Underworld. He gets it back, though.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: The brothers represent sunrise (Vasgyúró), midday (Fanyűvő) and sunset (Kőmorzsoló), while the princesses are personifications of spring, summer and autumn. Then there are the Rain King and Snow Queen.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Most of the dialogue was taken verbatim from several hundred year-old fables, so a lot of the terms uttered by the characters would nowadays be used mostly by rural countrymen.
  • Back from the Dead: Once peace is restored, the Snow Queen, who has previously expired as the White Mare, is resurrected as her original goddess self.
  • Bad Boss: The twelve-headed dragon, who threatens the chain-snake with death should he fail to keep the White Mare and her children restrained. Given that each link of the chain is its own entity, that's a pretty extensive threat.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Underworld, home of the dragons, which has "swallowed" the real world.
  • Big Eater: The three and seven-headed dragons, and technically the Hétszűnyű.
  • Bittersweet Ending: On one hand, the dragons have been killed, balance restored, love found. On the other, the closing words mean this is a never-ending cycle. Another sad vision is shown during the credits: the world may become a polluted, metropolitan hellscape, or in the director's own words, America. Such endings are a staple of the folk literature the film was inspired by.
  • Bizarrchitecture: The three castles rotating on giant bird legs that turn into apples at the touch of their princesses' metal hair. Castles spinning on bird legs are found in a number of Hungarian folk tales, and presumably originated from some version of the Slavic Baba Yaga story, which famously features a hut walking on chicken legs.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: The princesses.
  • Breath Weapon: Kőmorzsoló can blow fire to help his brothers forge a blade.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Kőmorzsoló.
  • Captive Push: The jagged chains holding the White Mare are alive, and lash at her to keep her going.
  • Censor Steam: Blown onto the newly born Fanyűvő by the White Mare. It becomes his regular clothing.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Yellow for Fanyűvő, blueish-green for Vasgyúró, red for Kőmorzsoló. Also holds for the the princesses.
  • Cold Open
  • Comedic Spanking: How the brothers punish each other.
  • Composite Character:
    • In most versions of the original folk tale (including László Arany's), Fehérlófia and Fanyűvő are separate characters.
    • The film combines the mysterious old man in the forest, the king whose daughters have been kidnapped, and even the villainous Kapanyányimonyók into one, and on top of it all makes him the Forefather deity himself, dubbed the Rain King. The White Mare, meanwhile, is a form taken on by the Snow Queen goddess. In Arany's telling of the tale, deities aren't explicitly referred to; both the old man and the king are human beings, and Fehérlófia's only relative is his mother mare.
    • In many ways, the film's characters are closer to the depictions seen in the variation of the tale known as Fanyűvő, Vasgyúró, Hegyhengergető. Even their dialogue was taken from that story, though one major difference is that in that version, Fanyűvő's mother is a human woman instead of a horse.
  • Constellations
  • Creative Closing Credits: An odd variety. Way before any credits appear, we are shown a lengthy scene of Fanyűvő walking through the silhouette of an industrialized urban area, accompanied by unsettling music. The director once claimed this was the film's most important part: the dragons may be gone, but the technological advancements they had symbolized still threaten to ruin the world with pollution. As the credits finally start scrolling, Fehérlófia disappears in a smoggy mist.
  • Damsel in Distress: The princesses, but mostly the second. The first keeps his captor at bay by charming him, and the third actually helps the hero defeat the dragon.
  • Dark Is Evil: All the dragons are colored a dark shade.
  • Deflector Shields: The aura around Fanyűvő's head seems to function like this. If the protagonist randomly surviving a headshot seems like an Ass Pull to you, just remember that according to the director, his head is meant to be the midday Sun.
  • Deranged Animation
  • Design Student's Orgasm: What the movie is most notorious for, and something of a Creator Thumbprint for the director, an expert in folk iconography and symbolism. The wild colors and lack of outlines mean the characters don't stand out too much from the backgrounds, which the director disliked about most other animated works.
  • Dirty Coward: The three-headed dragon immediately runs away and reaches for his club when his wrestling match doesn't go his way.
  • Disabled Deity: Both gods are overwhelmed and nearly killed by the dragons. The Rain King loses his halo-like crown, transforming his own essence into mist, while the Ice Queen is forced into the shape of a horse, then shackled and tortured. Unbeknownst to him, Fanyűvő later robs the King of almost all his remaining might when he shaves off the Hétszűnű Kapanyányimonyók's beard.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Some have viewed the red colored chain-snake shackling the White Mare as a jab at the Communistic regime ruling over the country at the time of the film's production.
  • Dragons Prefer Princesses: All three dragons keep a princess captive.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: The seven-headed dragon suffers from this during his fight with Fanyűvő.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The dragons.
  • Express Delivery: The White Mare pumps out her three offspring rather fast. Justified, since she's a goddess impregnated by a god.
  • Extreme Omnivore: The three and seven-headed dragon's meals consist of rocks, crystals and ores. Fitting, as one's a Rock Monster, the other's a Humongous Mecha.
  • Eyepatch of Power: Not elaborated on in the film, but in what is possibly a visual reference to Odin of Norse Mythology, the Rain King (and consequently the Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók) only has one eye, while the place of the other is covered up by his cloud-hair.
  • Forbidden Fruit: The locks holding the dragons are irresistible to the Fall Princess, who essentially causes all of the story's troubles. To their credit, her sisters at least try to hold her back.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: Kőmorzsoló's and Vasgyúró's genitalia are briefly visible when they wrestle Fanyűvő.
  • Gag Penis: The name of Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók, AKA the Kapanyelű Facika, is usually translated as "Seven-Hearted Lobahobgoblin" in English versions of the tale. In actuality, his name is a combination of archaic Hungarian words that in essence mean "Huge Balls and Huge Dick". Thankfully, the movie focuses on the length on his beard (itself a masculine symbol) rather than any other bits, though the beard does become Fanyűvő's Phallic Weapon for a while in the film's second half.
  • Glowing Eyes: The three brothers use their gaze as spotlights to inspect a mysterious hut from outside.
  • God Couple: The Rain King and Snow Queen.
  • Gravity Screw: In the Underworld, everything is upside-down, sticking to the "ceiling", but objects in the vicinity of the hole leading to the Upper World still fall the normal way.
  • Green Aesop: Shoved in during the end credits, of all places, though not expressed beyond the visuals.
  • Heroic BSoD: Fanyűvő has two: A brief one when he kills the first dragon, and another one after he tries to kill his brothers because he thinks they betrayed him.
  • Heroic Seductress: The eldest princess uses her charms to distract her dragon.
  • History Repeats: Was supposed to be the main message of the film, until the censors curtailed it, though the theme is still very much expressed throughout the film. The ending narration is the most obvious, but history's circularity is also references in many shot compositions (the round shape of the worlds) and color choices (the movie constantly cycles through the rainbow's hues, with red often coming right after purple).
  • Hollow World: The Underworld.
  • Humongous Mecha: The second dragon.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Fanyűvő. While some viewers have suggested he's a full-on Marty Stu, portraying him as perfect and upstanding in the face of all the hurdles he meets is the point of the original fables, as well as the movie. Similarly, the youngest princess seems to mirror his pureness, and neither have the faults of the other characters.
  • Invincible Hero: Goes hand-in-hand with the above, though it does have both in-story and meta justification. Fanyűvő is the son of deities who has spent 21 years living on god-powered milk. From a real world perspective, he symbolizes the perfect male standard ancient steppe people used to tell stories about.
  • King Incognito: In perhaps the film's most baffling twist, it turns out the Kaponyányimonyók, a cruel goblin, is actually the Rain King's alter-ego, a shape he took on after his godly powers have been robbed.
  • Lady in Red: The eldest princess.
  • Light Is Good: Almost all non-evil are drawn in bright colors.
  • Living Structure Monster: The twelve-headed dragon. The three rotating castles also seem to possess some sentience.
  • Living Weapon: The seven-headed dragon is a 20th century war machine.
  • The Lost Woods
  • Love at First Sight
  • Low Culture, High Tech: In a magical realm apparently stuck in medieval times, the seven-headed and twelve-headed dragon stand out, one being a mechanical war machine, the other a living late 20th century city.
  • Ludd Was Right: The evil dragons represent technological progress.
  • Meaningful Name: The characters have descriptive names. Fanyűvő (Treeshaker or Treetearer) is tasked with uprooting the World Tree. Kőmorzsoló (Stonecrumbler) chisels rocks with just a touch. Vasgyúró (Ironrubber or Ironkneader) is a blacksmith whose only tools are his own hands.
  • Mind Screw: The dreamlike "logic" of the film's world follows the folk tales of yore. Foreign viewers might also be left scratching their heads at the literal depictions of old-timey Eurasian expressions and at all the traditional fairy tale quotes sprinkled throughout. The closing narration in particular sounds like random nonsense unrelated to anything, but the director maintains that these figures of speech are tied to ancient astrology and universal European folk literature.
  • Minimalist Cast
  • Misleading Package Size: The Copper, Silver and Gold castles can be scaled down and fit into apples for storage and transportation, though they apparently still weigh incredibly much.
  • Monster-Shaped Mountain: The film's obsession with sexual symbolism extends to the world itself, where various mountains seem to resemble female hands and legs, with a river appropriately flowing from between these.
  • Mooks: The smaller dragons that combine into a chain and a snake.
  • Moving Buildings: The three rotating castles.
  • Multiple Head Case: The three, seven and twelve-headed dragons. Bizarrely, the protagonists also grow extra facial features in some shots, mainly Fanyűvő when he's talking to both his brothers. The griffin also has two heads as it emerges out of the Underworld, as a reference to the Orthodox Church's two-headed eagle, a symbol of resurrection.
  • Naked Apron: Vasgyúró goes around like this.
  • Narrator: First, the White Mare recounts the fall of her ancient kingdom and the death of the original princes to his son Fanyűvő. The movie closes with her repeating her lines to the audience, implying something similar would happen again.
  • Nervous Wreck: The Spring Princess, who is the representation of woman hysteria. But considering who her husband is...
  • New Technology Is Evil: The three dragons symbolize technological advancement, with the most powerful one representing urbanized modernity in general. Hungary's censorship at the time didn't think too kindly of such a message, so the dragon was made into a computerized city, diverting the censors' attention from the criticism of metropolitan life to computerization.
  • No Name Given: Only the hero and his brothers get nominal importance, however the credits give designations for most other characters, save for the dragons.
  • Off with His Head!: Once freed, the three dragons make short work of the three princes by smashing their heads. Fanyűvő later returns the favor. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the twelve-headed dragon isn't too fazed at first when just one of its heads is blown off, reasoning he has many more.
  • Opposites Attract: The weaker brothers and the two elder princesses. The Fall Princess is proactive and restless, Kőmorzsoló is more lazy and down-to-earth. The Spring Princess is meek and has little agency of her own, while Vasgyúró is energetic and overconfident.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: No kidding. The first dragon is a three-headed caveman, the second is a Humongous Mecha made of World War II war machines, and the third is a fluid metropolis. It is worth noting that the "dragons" of Hungarian folk tradition didn't originally have much to do with the usual reptilian interpretations of western and eastern cultures — in many stories, they were described as somewhat human-like, with features that varied wildly between tales.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Hétszűnyű is normally an evil goblin or elf-like little man with a magic beard (and, as suggested by his name, a similarly special dick). In this film, he's a living, shape-shifting cloud entity with lightning powers. No wonder, as he's the mythological Forefather, named Rain King in the credits, in disguise.
  • Our Gryphons Are Different: Mr. Griffin looks like some cosmic entity, his head being a moon and his features being the shadows on the moon.
  • Phallic Weapon: Fanyűvő's sword, not subtle in the least. Also leads to a number of visual innuendos. The tank-turret penis of the seven-headed dragon is another example.
  • Power of the Storm: The Rain King controls, and technically is weather. Even in his de-powered state, he can produce massive lightning blasts.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Unavoidable, given the inconsistent nature of the original folk stories. At first, the movie was meant to combine even more old folk tales, but Hungary's communist censors rejected this proposal and forced Jankovics to focus on adapting only one or two myths. Some people deem the film an In Name Only adaptation at best, referring to its liberal interpretation of Arany's tale. In reality, the film is an amalgamation of Fehérlófia and other stories about the same characters. In particular, it's more faithful to the story Fanyűvő, Vasgyúró, Hegyhengergető than the tale it was named after. It is also a unique adaptation in that it takes place entirely in a bizarre magical realm, whereas the original tales were more based on the real world.
  • Power Trio
  • Power-Up Food: The White Horse's milk. Drinking it for 21 years straight makes one unbeatable. There's also the dragons' wine to Fanyűvő. Fanyűvő's leg is this to the griffin, though he's happy to barf it back in gratitude.
  • Prehensile Hair: The White Mare uses her magical mane as hands.
  • Really Was Born Yesterday: Not much time seems to pass between Fanyűvő being born, and being able to walk and talk (and trying to run away from home). Possibly justified in a way, since he was born from a horse.
  • Red Shirt Army: What look like soldiers made of cloudy material and brandishing lightning-spears flash by in a single shot as the dragons take over the kingdom, then are never seen again.
  • Reflective Eyes: Characters' pupils tend to take on the visage of whomever they're looking at.
  • Rock Monster: The three-headed dragon.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Both the ancient stories the film draws from and the movie itself rely so heavily on symbolism that many viewers are left disappointed by its purposely puddle-deep narrative and flat characters.
  • Rule of Three: Three brothers, three princesses, three dragons...
  • Sadly Mythtaken: Hits this film hard. The director set out to mix and match different folk tales and make a movie about fairy tale structure as a whole. This idea was too controversial, so he instead took different variants of the Fehérlófia myth and molded them into one. Despite having spent years studying the myth, the film still features a number of contradictions in its own symbolism, a compromise to bring some remnant of the director's original idea to the forefront. Most critics praised the film and its callbacks to the myth, others slammed it as a thoughtless hackjob, while audiences were so confused that the movie ended up bombing.
  • Screaming Birth: The White Mare when she delivers her third son. She screams so hard, the World Tree erupts out of her!
  • Screaming Warrior: Vasgyúró seems to be this.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The dragons, before the princesses let them out.
  • Secret Test of Character: That business with Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók asking for porridge could have been this… except he still wants to beat Fanyűvő when he tells him not to eat all of it. But then again, Fanyűvő did find the entrance to the Underworld as a result.
  • Sex Is Evil: Played with in many ways, but inverted by the story's higher-powers. The King impregnating the White Mare is a necessity which sets events into motion that will eventually save the world. Their guardian griffin has a phallic look when standing upright, and the Snow Queen apparently spends her time fondling herself. However to the other characters, overt sexual traits are emphasized as signs of imperfection, but are also handled as natural parts of the hero's development:
    • The Fall Princess is characterized by lust, sexuality and nudity, and she's the one who disobeys the King and releases the dragons. She's immoral, selfish, and doesn't aim too high, becoming the bride of the weakest and arguably most primitive of the brothers, Kőmorzsoló.
    • Her captor, the three-headed dragon has prominent testicles as a sign of fertility, and is easily Distracted by the Sexy. He's the weakest and most primitive dragon.
    • The Spring Princess symbolizes the other end of the spectrum, woman hysteria and abusive relationships. Though fully dressed, the inner edge of her legs is painfully jagged and "unwelcoming", and she's the meekest of the sisters. She eventually settles with the impulsive but barely capable showoff, Vasgyúró.
    • Her captor, the seven-headed dragon has a massive tank turret for a penis, and is the most hostile and violent of the dragons. He represents a raw, purely physical notion of sexuality without substance (shown by his lack of testicles).
    • In comparison to the above, Fanyűvő, the Summer Princess and the twelve-headed dragon are practically "perfect", having conquered any primal emotions or urges. They still possess them, but don't let these rule their personality or appearance. The unity between Fanyűvő and his princess is fueled by love rather than lust.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: The Copper-Haired Fall Princess.
  • Shapeshifting: Everybody seems to do it just due to the animation style, but the three dragons stand out. The two deities also take on multiple forms once their power is stripped away, to flee the dragons and hide: the Snow Queen becomes the titular White Mare (who grows and discards antlers throughout her appearance, and even sprouts snakes out of her mane at one point), and the Rain King turns into a horse-inseminating fog, and then a mischievous goblin. The three brothers also shift between the visage of a foal and a young boy after they're born, but once they stand upright, they firmly settle into a humanoid form.
  • Single Tear: The White Mare drops one as she begins her tale. Notably, the film also concludes on the image of a crying eye, to drive home the Bittersweet Ending.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: The giant snake that threatens the gryphon's chicks. It's a recurring but rare entity in the tales the movie takes inspiration from, for instance in Arany's more famous version of the story, bad weather takes the place of the snake.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Fehérlófia kills Vasgyúró in Arany's retelling of the story, and Kőmorzsoló and Fanyűvő simply die of fright upon being informed about this. In this film, Fehérlófia is Fanyűvő, and he spares his two brothers' lives.
  • Static Character: In theory, everyone. The director purposely wanted to avoid Character Development, arguing that folk story heroes are constant heroes with unchangeable roles in their tales. However, Fehérlófia does receive some development at the very and, when he spares his brothers instead of resorting to his usual violent tactics.
  • Stripperiffic: The Fall Princess is extraordinarily underdressed in her Underworld home, and even her regal outfit leaves her breasts bare.
  • Super Smoke: The Rain King turns into clouds and fog in his less powerful state.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: How Fanyűvő stops the rotation of the third castle and takes out one of the twelve-headed dragon's heads.
  • The Underworld
  • The Vamp: The Fall Princess shows signs of this behavior: she's the least moral of all the good characters, attempting to seduce Fanyűvő and keep him from rescuing her sisters, then turns bitter when she's rejected. Interestingly, this is an inversion of the original folk tales, in which the hero tries to take the princess as his own, and she's the one who reminds him that her sisters still need to be saved.
  • Unconventional Smoothie: The three brothers cook porridge seemingly out of nothing but snow, boiling and stirring it until it becomes, well, porridge. Given the bizarre magical nature of this world, one can only wonder what's in that snow.
  • Visual Innuendo: As if the blatantly phallic hilt of Fanyűvő's sword sticking out between his legs wasn't enough, the Fall Princess touching it seems to cause great distress to him.
  • Vomit Indiscretion Shot: The three-headed dragon's idea of wrestling is throwing up his recently digested lunch on his opponent, which then solidifies into rock.
  • War Is Hell: The second dragon has the body of a tank, and uses BFGs.
  • World of Symbolism
  • World Tree

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