Progress report of the adaption of Hungarian folk tales

by András Papp (Petrik Lajos Vocational School, 10th Grade)

As the title suggests, this is primarily an account of the work done so far during the project among the participating students of Petrik, and it also includes some scrapped and/or yet-to-be-implemented ideas for the script.

The first meeting took place on September 12, and it focused on picking the stories to be adapted. Ultimately, the two stories chosen to be merged and adapted were A tréfásfarkas and A farkas és a hét kecskegida. Further on I will refer to the former as The Droll Wolf and as The Wolf and the Seven Goatlings, respectively.

In my honest opinion, however, one of these, namely The Droll Wolf was a difficult piece to adapt into a dialogue-centered play. The reason for this is that not only is the vast majority of the story told through the narrator, but the characters have very little going on for them in terms of distinctive traits, apart from, of course, their respective species'. So, to me, the obvious approach would have been to give them a few unique characteristics to set them apart. On the subject of character modifications, I felt like the character of the wolf was also in need of some minor changes, given that his character is quite different in the second story when compared to the first. Specifically, the issue is that in the first story, the wolf is played out as quite a bit of a wide-eyed dimwit. Meanwhile, in the second story, he ends up outsmarting the goatlings, albeit not initially, and even then, it was more the fault of the goatlings' naïveté over the wolf's assumed intellect. Even despite this, though, the character felt dissonant not only to me, but to several others in the group too.

Regarding the 'herbivores' as I settled to call the 3 of them in the story, I had the idea of them forming a much more cohesive team, and give each of them their roles not only as characters but also in relation of their dynamics with the other characters. This could have worked especially well if the stereotypical characteristics of these animals within folklore were incorporated into the revamped characters, however, finding positive stereotypes for pigs and sheep to be built off of proved to be challenging to say the least, as stories revolving around them, especially on an international scale, tend to portray their stereotypically more negative attributes, be it the lack of independent common sense of sheep, and the nastiness of pigs. It is also worth noting that in Hungarian folk tales stereotypes for animalistic characters are hardly prevalent, and usually serve the simple purpose of setting up natural oppositions based on the food chain, such as the one between the wolf and the pig in many stories here.

At any rate, I ultimately decided to ditch the idea of trying to force in character development in order to preserve the authenticity of the original. This mostly came about when an upperclassman presented a script with a virtually exact literal transcription of the story adapted into mostly dialogue, which seemed perfectly adaptable. Needless to say, I was confounded. At that moment I realized that I had made the oldest mistake in the book: I overcomplicated the task. If the dear reader happens to be someone like me, who has the tendency to do the same, I recommend this be the lesson to be taken away from this story of mine: Think in simple terms, and walk the way up from there. But I digress.

That transcript of the original was going to be a great basis to be built upon as the discussion shifted towards the second story. While I praised it for preserving the original, even in terms of its usage of 'archaic' vocabulary (though that admiration stems from my own personal inability to think small at first, for the most part), however the script for the second story was quite a sharp opposite of this concept.

The script was written by one of my classmates, who decided to make a fairly large twist on the source material: She decided to modernize it by introducing modern technology and 'translating' it to common speech.

This is a relatively common method of adapting older stories as a means of comedy, and not one I'm personally unfamiliar with. And that is exactly the reason why I'm a little reluctant to use it myself. I have already written quite a few scripts with other teams outside of this project, and the idea of modernization as a means of comedic subversion came up multiple times in multiple scripts, however in only one of these did it make the final cut, and the reason for this is that it is only successful if kept in check. If modern language is used for the sake of appealing to young people, it tends to backfire drastically. It's like when the narrator of a television ad keeps calling a product by its awkwardly long name over and over again. The fact that their speech is unnatural and scripted is easily noticeable, and oftentimes induces the infamous feeling of cringe. And that is by no means the feeling I would want this play to induce in the audience.

Fortunately, however, everyone seemed to understand this concept quite well, including the author of the second script. She deserves quite some credit for pulling it off as well as she did. And after reading through it, the group provided some great ideas afterwards as well. I believe, for the most part, we have successfully avoided likely obnoxious concepts. Nevertheless, only when the last finishing touches are added can we surely tell if we were successful in this regard, but I have high hopes.

The aforementioned transition problem, as I came to realize, only looks odd on paper, as the transition is handled in only a few sentences, but in practice it isn't all that shabby. Simplicity in this was probably the best way to go in terms of play length anyway.

To wrap this up, while there is still work to be done, overall, I think we have done a good job so far. The story is coming along nicely, and soon enough it should be ready for translation. I hope the future audiences to whom it will be presented will have a blast watching us perform it.

Until then, this was András D Papp, and good luck with the project for you all. Plus Ultra!