Follow TV Tropes

Following

Animation / Son of the White Horse

Go To

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 and Gyula Illyés), featuring the eponymous 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 their princesses became curious about the lock they were never supposed to open, and unwillingly set the evil dragons free. The dragons seized power, killing the three brothers, relocating their apple castles to the Underworld and kidnapping the princesses. The Forefather escaped with his power stolen, while the Queen was captured when trying to save his sons in the form of a white mare. In captivity, she gave birth two times, with both of her sons disappearing. Finally freed thanks to the King's waning powers, she took refuge in the World Tree as she became pregnant a third time.
After the death of the White Mare, 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.

Advertisement:

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 deliberately dreamlike 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, with a special focus on Constellations and the cycle of days, seasons and years.

Following an extremely Troubled Production, the film flopped at the box office, with viewers finding its overbearing, unconventional art and sound design, and 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.
Since then, thanks to the internet and sporadic festival showings, it's slowly been discovered by animation enthusiasts the world over. Finally, the film's HD restoration (co-produced by the American Arbelos Films) will be officially released across the Americas throughout 2019 and 2020. 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.

Advertisement:


This film provides examples of:

    open/close all folders 
     A-H 
  • Actor Allusion: Gyula Szabó, highly skilled storyteller and narrator of the concurrently produced and likewise folktale-based Magyar Népmesék, voices the Rain King and the Kapanyányimonyók. His tone and infliction were meant to strengthen the film's bedtime story-like atmosphere.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The backstory regarding the origin of the dragons, the rulers and forerunners of the three brothers are unique additions. In the tales, none of them have any prior history; Fehérlófia (or his equivalent) is simply born from a horse with no in-universe context and in most versions he's not even related to the other characters.
  • Adaptation Explanation Extrication: Kőmorzsoló spending his time shuffling mountains around doesn't make much sense without the original fairy tale context, in which a similar character called Hegyhengergető (Mountainroller) would literally roll mountains around to either help out or simply annoy regular people. And why did he never visit his sibling Fanyűvő during his childhood? They weren't originally related for one, and he never set foot in the woods because he only liked being around mountains.
  • Adaptation Induced Plothole:
    • In a world seemingly uninhabited by anyone outside the main characters, how do Fanyűvő's long lost brothers already know who he is, what he's called and what his mission is? In the tales, they've heard about his amazing deeds through hearsay.
    • If the Kapanyányimonyók is the Rain King and the brothers his children, meaning they share the same goal of defeating the dragons and reclaiming the lost kingdom, why does he abuse, hurt and hinder them? In the original tales, the Monyók is a true villain unrelated to all other characters, yet the film kept his scenes the same despite rewriting his character. Likewise, why doesn't the Rain King get Fanyűvő and the Griffin family out of the Underworld himself, instead of merely giving them nutrition? Maybe because Fanyűvő still had to learn the lesson of self-sacrifice, but more likely because in the original story, there was no all-powerful Rain King.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In Arany's version, Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók is a villain. Here, he's The Hero's father in disguise.
    • Likewise 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.
  • 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.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: Kőmorzsoló or Hegyhengergető is something of a vengeful prankster in some old fables, rolling mountains around to the grievance of others. Here, he just pushes mountains around for fun.
  • Adapted Out: Numerous events and characters were changed or omitted compared to the story Fanyűvő, Hegyhengergető, Vasgyúró, on which the film's events were primarily based.
    • The generic townsfolk, Fanyűvő's unnamed acquaintance, a land steward and a landlord were all left out, as were the chores the heroes perform for them.
    • Said landlord sends a boar, a bull and a bison to kill the main characters, only for all three to end up as porridge ingredients. As they don't appear in the film, our heroes cook porridge out of snow instead, somehow.
    • Fanyűvő's ax, replaced in the film by a sword.
    • The subplot about Fanyűvő removing the dead dragons' tongues to use them as proof that he was the one to slay them was left out, since in the film no one would doubt him.
    • All three castles spin around on bird legs that Fanyűvő has to cut off, but in the film this only happens to the third.
    • Fanyűvő has numerous meals in the Underworld and drinks power-granting wine three times. Here, he only drinks wine once and his single meal is only referenced in the dialogue.
  • Affectionate Nickname: Fanyűvő shortens the Kapanyányimonyók's name to just Monyók. Meaning he calls him "Testicle".
  • All There in the Manual: The director based the film on his award-winning essay on the morphology of folk tales. His thoughts were then compiled into a book in 1996. A lot of symbolic motifs, quotes and imagery only begin to make sense if you have either read it or if you're familiar with the sources he used.
  • Allegorical Character: The three main dragons, representing the evil side effects of technological progress. Certain interpretations of the source tales also view Fanyűvő and his brothers under the same light, especially in the versions where they're villains. The movie obviously adopts a different approach to their portrayal, but they're still walking mythological symbols rather than individual, fleshed-out characters.
  • Amazing Technicolor World: Perhaps one of the most psychedelically eye-searing examples ever seen in a mass-release film. The entire movie is an unrelenting barrage of crazy colors and hues, which actually plays into its symbolism. This is especially true for the 2005 Hungarian DVD and the earlier Russian VHS releases, both of which suffered from horrible color grading, making the former overly bright and pink and the latter overly dark and green. This isn't the case anymore in the 2019 restoration, which significantly lowered the saturation and toned down the colors to more earthly hues. This is probably what the film looked like originally.
  • 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.
  • Animals Lack Attributes: Averted, though heavily and tastefully stylized when the White Mare gives birth. Played straight with the Griffin.
  • 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.
  • Archetypal Character: Basically everyone. The creators deliberately avoided characterizing them as unique individuals, showcasing them as the "essence" of traditional folk tale figures instead.
  • Arboreal Abode: Both the World Tree housing the White Mare and Fanyűvő and the seemingly abandoned tree-hut hiding the hole leading to Hell.
  • The Artifact:
    • The aforementioned dialogue. Having been lifted straight from old folk tales, it doesn't always match the on-screen events because so much got changed in adaptation.
    • Technically also the title, which is singular despite the plot revolving around three Sons of the White Mare. In the folk fable of the same name, there is indeed only one Son.
  • Ascended Extra: The White Mare, the man in the forest, the king and, to a degree, the Kapanyányimonyók. In the original stories, the Mare is a simple horse with no backstory or character whose sole role is to nurture her son and die. In the movie, she is a former goddess, the Snow Queen. Much time is spent on her struggles and she is the one who gives her son a goal, plus she comes back at the end as her goddess self. The old man and the king are both minor characters who give the hero guidance and purpose, but the movie combines them into an ancient god called the Rain King, and makes him the three heroes' father. The Kapanyányimonyók has a strong presence in the tales, but he's ultimately a second-rate villain and a plot device, a stepping stone for Fehérlófia's goals. The movie hugely increases his role by making him yet another form of the Rain King.
  • 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.
  • Barbie Doll Anatomy: Strangely averted, despite the film being aimed partially at and often shown to children. The Copper-Haired Princess even gets multiple uncensored full frontal shots. Even more strangely, the dragons zigzag this trope: the 3-headed dragon lacks a penis but has prominent balls, the 7-headed one has a giant penis but no testicles, and the 12-headed dragon plays the trope straight.
  • Bear Hug: The serious, wrestling-kind. Fanyűvő uses this tactic to defeat the seven-headed dragon.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Underworld, home of the dragons, which has "swallowed" the real world.
  • Big Eater: The three and seven-headed dragons, the Griffin 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.
  • Catch and Return: Fanyűvű flings first and second dragon's tools right back at them.
  • Censor Steam: Blown onto the newly born Fanyűvő by the White Mare. It becomes his regular clothing.
  • The Chosen One: Fanyűvő. The twelve-headed dragon knew they'll eventually have to fight each other well before he was even born.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Yellow-gold for Fanyűvő, blueish-green for Vasgyúró, red-orange-pink for Kőmorzsoló. Also holds for the the princesses. Although Fanyűvő does cycle through his brothers' hues when in the radiant gleam of the two elder princesses' castles.
  • Cold Open: The films kicks off with a pregnant white mare on the run.
  • Comedic Spanking: How the brothers punish each other.
  • Composite Character: A given, as there's over 50 versions of this basic story out there, most of them putting a different spin on the characters.
    • 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.
    • Not a character per se, but Fanyűvő's magic sword is a combination of the Goblin's power-giving beard and Fanyűvő's ax. Its creation sequence is a near word-for-word retelling of how the ax was forged in the original tale, except the ax was made of plain iron and had no relation to the cut-off beard. Fanyűvő only took the beard as ransom in the original stories.
  • Constellations
  • Cosmic Motifs: Beyond the frequent appearance of constellations, Saturn is something of a signature symbol related to the dragons, appearing on their heads or eyes, in the shape of explosions they cause, and on the 12-headed dragon's Holy Halo. These are actually nods to the ancient god Saturn, whom many Eurasian peoples adopted into their own mythology as a former Sun God and the current God of Death.
  • 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.
  • Crushing Handshake: Fanyűvő to the seven-headed dragon. Especially notable since the latter's hand is made of metal, yet crinkles up like paper.
  • 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.
  • Depending on the Artist: Reportedly, many of the animators were either unqualified for their job or just couldn't get a grasp on the art style. Jankovics and other directors had to help out with the animation, giving the characters a lot of expression, defined anatomy and dynamic movements. Many other scenes feel stiff and choppy in comparison, with minimal facial animation.
  • Deranged Animation and 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 from the backgrounds, which the director disliked about most other animated works. Due to the animation, the film has widely earned the reputation of a Stoner Flick on the net, though the creators approached the work with utter serious, artistic intent.
  • Deus ex Machina/Divine Intervention: The Rain King, basically God, conjures the twelve oxen and twelve barrels of wine the Griffin asked Fanyűvő to deliver to him, in order to let them escape the Underworld. However, it is justified, as not only is Fanyűvő the King's son, it was through his efforts that the King regained his powers.
  • 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.
  • The Dragonslayer: All three brothers set out to be one, only Fanyűvő succeeds.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: The seven-headed dragon suffers from this during his fight with Fanyűvő.
  • Dramatic Chase Opening
  • Elemental Powers: The brothers seem to possess some. Kőmorzsoló can enrich the soil with just a touch and breathe fire, Vasgyúró can bend iron to his will, and Fanyűvő's hair is made of living fire. The director's comments confirm they're meant to be full-on Sun Gods.
  • Enigmatic Empowering Entity: Seemingly the half-willing, half-reluctant Kapanyányimonyók, but it's actually the Rain King.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Very subtle, but the first lines of the original three brothers already reveal the eventual character dynamic and roles of the actual heroes: proto-Kőmorzsoló begins asking a question but can't spill it out, Vasgyúró's equivalent harshly speaks his mind without getting to the point, while Fanyűvő's predecessor finally elaborates on what the three of them want and produces true results.
  • Evil Is Hammy: The three dragons, especially the overly dramatic 7-headed one. Helped by the fact that the film plays their cheesy folk tale dialogue and mood swings comically straight.
  • 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.
  • Expressive Hair: Goes hand-in-hand with the three brothers' Flaming Hair.
  • 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.
  • Flaming Hair: Being Sun Gods, the three brothers constantly have their head set on fire.
  • 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.
  • Forgot About His Powers: Despite their immense strength and special powers (such as fire-breath), both Kőmorzsoló and Vasgyúró are easily overwhelmed by almost any challenge or adversary, and their youngest sibling has to pick up the slack. Granted, they're not too bright, nor brave.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus:
    • Kőmorzsoló's and Vasgyúró's genitalia are briefly visible when they wrestle Fanyűvő.
    • Freeze-framing the chains snapping after the first two sons as they're born also reveal unique designs. First the chain links split and turn into arms and legs, in reference to the opening scene where they're acting as separate mooks. As they snap shut again, for a frame their raised arms and "head" form a negative silhouette of a snake with its forked tongue out.
  • G-Rated Sex: The Forefather descending on the White Mare as a cloudy mist and the two of them merging their sparkling eyes.
  • 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: The Rain King.
  • God Couple: The Rain King and Snow Queen.
  • Gold-Colored Superiority: Fanyűvő is mostly colored goldish. His chosen lover, the Gold-Haired Summer Princess and her golden castle are also the most precious and perfect of the three.
  • Good Eyes, Evil Eyes: Fanyűvő's eyes and features turn angular when he goes after his brethren at the end.
  • Good Is Not Soft: All three heroes, but mainly Fanyűvő, do their jobs with physical strength and occasional violence.
  • The Good King: The Forefather Rain King.
  • 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.
  • Hairy Girl: As also seen in some episodes of Magyar Népmesék (a series that was produced in part as preparation for this movie), gratuitous pubic hair is used to give nude characters some modesty.
  • Hell: The Underworld, which is explicitly called Hell in the introduction.
  • A Hero Is Born: The plot kicks off with Fanyűvő Fehérlófia's birth.
  • 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.
  • Holy Halo: All three brothers have it around their head (though it's inconsistently animated), and the one worn by the King is of particular note, as it carries his powers, which is why the dragons steal it the first chance they get.
  • How We Got Here: Following the opening chase scene and the title character's birth, the White Mare narrates through the events that lead them here.
  • Humongous Mecha: The second dragon.
     I-Y 
  • Ideal Hero: Fanyűvő's defining characteristic, played fully straight apart from the very end where he almost does something wrong.
  • I Have Many Names: The Goblin goes by both Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók and Kapanyelű Facika. In the source material, he's also known as Hétrőfös.
  • Impact Silhouette: Left by the seven-headed dragon as he blasts through his castle's wall.
  • Improvised Lockpick: Vasgyúró only needs to stick his finger in, his power over metal does the rest.
  • 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.
  • Intro-Only Point of View: The White Mare is the focal character for the first 14 minutes.
  • Invincible Hero: Goes hand-in-hand with Fanyűvő"s purity, though it does have both in-story and meta vindication. Fanyűvő is the son of deities who has spent 14 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 Kapanyányimonyók, 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.
  • Long Hair Is Feminine: All female characters have long hair, or in the White Mare's case a mane.
  • The Lost Woods: Fanyűvő runs off into one as a child, only to come across a mysterious taking myst.
  • Love at First Sight: The three brothers and their respective princesses.
  • 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.
  • Mad Bomber: The 7-headed dragon's daily routine involves shooting an atomic bomb at his own castle to tell his wife that he's coming.
  • Magic Hair: Taking a strand of the three princesses' metal hair (made of copper, silver and gold) and touching them against their castles shrinks down said buildings into easy-to-transport apples.
  • Magical Land: As do practically all Hungarian folk tales, the story takes place in the mythological land "beyond the Operencian Sea", which is usually understood as a bastardization of "ober Enns", the areas of Austria (and by extension the rest of the Western world) over the River Enns that marked the Westernmost border of the Hungarian land in medieval times. The movie takes this concept up to eleven, depicting the place not merely as a different country, but Another Dimension.
  • 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.
  • Messy Hair: The Copper-Haired Fall Princess.
  • Metallic Motifs: The Copper, Silver and Gold fairies and their respective castles.
  • 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: The world seems devoid of sapient life outside the main characters: three brothers, three princesses, two former rulers, a goblin (who turns out to be the king in disguise), a griffin and his chicks, and three dragons. The most numerous entities are the seventy-something "chain-link dragons" who form a snake, though they're hardly characters. Only a single flashback shot shows what look like spear-brandishing soldiers or guards living in the kingdom.
  • 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 and the 12-headed dragon, who is a moving city.
  • 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.
  • Non-Indicative Name:
    • All three main dragons are said to throw their clubs to signal their arrival, even though only the first has an actual club. The second launches a nuclear warhead, an the third... puts on a light show?
    • For that matter, the word "dragon" itself hardly describes the monsters. Even the original Hungarian "sárkány", which encompasses monsters wildly different from traditional Western or Eastern dragons, doesn't do them justice.
  • 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.
  • Ouroboros: The evil snake, who's made out of interlocked chain-link dragons surrounded by negative space, keeps the White Mare hostage by biting into the tip of his own tail, forming an impenetrable chain around the fallen goddess. The Rain King's spirit shatters the bond by zapping the snake in the eye, allowing the Mare to flee.
  • 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: Fanyűvő, Kőmorzsoló and Vasgyúró.
  • Power-Up Food: The White Horse's milk. Drinking it for 14 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. Fanyűvő also shows off this ability in his climactic fight with the 12-headed dragon.
  • Rainbow Motif: The whole movie constantly cycles through the rainbow's colors as an analogy of repeating days and seasons.
  • 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.
  • Remaster: First around 2005 for a vanilla region 2 DVD release, which is the version most viewers know, and which still had a lot of image errors. In 2019, the movie was restored from high-quality prints into 4K resolution. Color correction done together with the restoration revealed the previous release's color grading was all off, with overly high saturation and a searingly bright, pinkish hue over the whole film. The remaster restored the blacks, grays and browns that were all but missing before.
  • 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.
  • Same Story, Different Names: The filmmakers exploited the fact that, according to folklorists, this plot exists in at least fifty different forms, of which Fehérlófia is only the most commonly reprinted one. The creators picked and chose familiar elements from each to combine them into one new and novel retelling. Although as explained above, this rubbed certain folklorists the wrong way, who argued the stories had become too different to mesh them seamlessly. Regardless, all them follow the same beats:
    • Super-powered child with a Meaningful Name is born, oftentimes from a domesticated animal like a horse, cow or sheep
    • He uproots/unbarks a tree, usually after an old man recommends that he suckle for 14-21 years
    • Meets and beats two/three similarly powerful and aptly named men
    • They settle down and cook porridge, only for a goblin to beat all but the main hero who defeats the goblin
    • The goblin leads them to the Undeworld but only the main character dares to go down
    • There, he kills three multi-headed dragons and rescues three princesses, sending them back up only to be abandoned there
    • Saves the chicks of a griffin, who takes him back up in gratitude at the cost of the hero's limb(s)
    • Once getting his limb(s) back, he kills/punishes his servants and marries the youngest maiden, becoming a prince.
  • Sapient Steed: The Griffin, rather than the titular White Mare, as he actually lets others ride him.
  • Scenery Porn: Both the regular world and Underworld feature peculiar landscapes. There's also borderline-literal "scenery porn" with the mountains that resemble giant, spread female legs with a clearly defined "nether region".
  • 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.
  • Setting Update: The folk stories, while having fictitious elements and places (the World Tree or Hell), were still grounded in the real world. This film sets the story in a dreamlike, wholly unreal Magical Land.
  • 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.
  • Shonen Hair: The brash Vasgyúró has this.
  • Signature Style: Jankovics has his thumbprints all over the movie:
    • Non-standard art and character design.
    • Metamorphosis. Super frequent shots of things morphing into other things, colors shifting, elements of a composition in constant movement.
    • Folk art, meaningful symbols, numerology and astrology all over the place.
    • The championing of old, nearly ancient traditions and values.
    • Random moments of unexpected humor and visual gags for levity.
    • Blatant but not excessive nudity.
    • Even in a meta-sense, the movie has all the ingredients of a Jankovics production. Changing ideas and uncertainty over the basic premise, whether it would get made or not. Adapting something old, a story or myth that had stood the test of time. A hard production that drains him. A realistic self-appraisal and the readiness to admit the film has problems. And a hefty dose of excuses to explain away said problems.
  • 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.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: The original three princes, at least until the rampaging dragons finally come for them.
  • 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.
  • Spot the Imposter: The 12-headed dragon turns into an array of mirrors, reflecting the Gold-haired princess and confusing Fanyűvő.
  • 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, when he spares his brothers instead of resorting to his usual violent tactics.
  • Stripperiffic: The Fall Princess is extraordinarily underdressed in her Underworld home, her original regal outfit leaves her breasts bare and even her updated one only covers her back.
  • Sub Name Change: Though never dubbed into other languages, English resources, including film subtitles, have translated the character names in different ways:
    • Fanyűvő to Treeshaker or Treetearer
    • Kőmorzsoló to Stonecrumbler or Stonecrusher
    • Vasgyúró to Ironrubber, Ironkneader or Irontemperer
    • Hétszűnyű Kapanyányimonyók to Seven-hearted Lobahobgoblin or Seven-winged Skull-sized Gnome. This one's the farthest off base; not only does he have numerous names in folklore, even native Hungarians have different interpretations of them. Most agree it comes from "hét szűnyű koponyányi monyók", literally meaning "seven ell/cubit(-long beard) and skull-sized eggs/testicles". The director also theorized the name's first half could mean "hét színű" or "having seven colors", referring to the rainbow. In any case, it's got nothing to do with hearts or wings.
    • Kapanyelű Facika to... nothing. English texts routinely ignore the Monyók's boastful second name that literally means "the Dick as Long as a Hoe Handle".
  • Super Smoke: The Rain King turns into clouds and fog in his less powerful state.
  • Tank-Tread Mecha: The seven-headed dragon, although he tends to change shape depending on the scene.
  • 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.
  • Transforming Mecha: The 2nd dragon sprouts and retracts heads, limbs, weapons, hands, claws, a tank turret and tank treads on the fly.
  • Truth in Television: Yes, it was accepted in many old European and Asian cultures, even up 'till the early 20th century, to breastfeed children until they were ready to enter society (though not into their adulthood) and members of the oldest generation would indeed voluntarily surrender their lives for the sake of their children, both behaviors demonstrated in the movie by the White Mare. The wrestling matches practiced by the masculine characters is also based on nomadic steppe traditions.
  • 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: Excessive amounts.
    • 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.
    • The Golbin sways his stiff beard around like a you-know-what.
    • For that matter, thanks to his two large puffs of hair and lengthy beard, the Goblin himself tends to look like a floating phallus in some shots.
    • The Griffin standing upright resembles an erect man-appendage.
    • The World Tree's hole has the shape of female genitalia. Even when closed, it looks like a cameltoe.
  • Volumetric Mouth: Fanyűvő, upon birth, swallows the screen.
  • 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.
  • Wild Take: The three-headed dragon performs two in a row, upon realizing someone threw his club right back at him.
  • White Mare
  • World of Symbolism: Though unabashedly simplistic on a narrative level, almost nothing in the film is to be taken at face value. The constellations, shifting colors, character designs and traits, shot compositions, random symbols and folk tale quotes all carry some sort of meaning.
  • World's Strongest Man: Fanyűvő.
  • World Tree: The film's entire world revolves around it, with the gods' heavenly kingdom at its top. A smaller replacement later explodes out of the pregnant White Mare after the dragons have turned the original one upside down, shoving Heaven down into Hell. Fanyűvő (Treeshaker or Treetearer) gets his name from being destined to uproot it.
  • Youngest Child Wins: One of the most common folk tale tropes and one of the movie's main running themes.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report