Tales of Superhuman Powers

55 Traditional Stories from Around the World


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About the Book

Csenge Virág Zalka, a Hungarian storyteller, has collected 55 folktales from around the world about supernatural abilities like superhuman strength, invulnerability, flying, heightened senses, speed, invisibility, healing, agility, precognition, telepathy, fire manipulation, teleportation, water powers, and shifting. These tales represent powers that people have dreamed of, conjured up and strived for through the ages. Many of the powers are present in popular culture, making the superheroes who wield them the direct descendants of characters such as the princess who could see through walls or the invulnerable Isfandiyar. Zalka excluded stories about magic or about gods with divine powers, and focused on less well-known stories. She included information on similar heroes, the ability in the story, sources of the powers, the origin of the story, teachings in it, the recommended age group, sources, variants, and comments.

About the Author(s)

Csenge Virág Zalka is a professional storyteller and researcher from Budapest, Hungary. Her interests focus on role-playing games as a form of storytelling, historical fiction, oral traditions and popular culture.

Bibliographic Details

Csenge Virág Zalka

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 240
Bibliographic Info: appendix, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2013
pISBN: 978-0-7864-7704-3
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1289-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Introduction: Greetings, Dreamer 1

Part I: Physical Powers—Also Known as the Classics
Superhuman Strength 9
János and Rózsa 9
Alderblock 16
Invulnerability 20
Isfandiyar 21
The Fellow with the Goat Skin 27
Flight 31
The Winged Prince 32
People Who Could Fly 34
Heightened Senses 36
Green Péter 37
The Tale of Sir James Ramsay of Bamff 40
Finn MacCool and the Giants 43
Three Critical Men 49
Speed 52
Princess Szélike 53
The Giant’s Ankle (or, Betcha You Didn’t Know This About Achilles) 57
Invisibility 59
The Gold­Spitting Prince 59
The Tengu’s Magic Cloak 64
King Laurin’s Rose Garden 66
Color Changing 72
The Queen of Many Colors 72
Healing Factor, Healing Others, or Not Healing at All 75
The Prince with the Two Hearts 76
Anne Jefferies and the Fairies 78
Growth, Elasticity and Body Shaping 80
Longshanks, Girth and Keen 81
A Is for Agility and Archers 86
Ekalavya, the Archer 86
Camilla 89
Eye Beams (Yes, Really) 91
The Unfinished Story of Princess Greenleaf 91
Sonic Blast 93
The Robber Called Nightingale 93
Poison Secretion 95
The Poison Maiden 96

Part II: It’s All in Your Head—Mind Games, Mental Prowess, and the Power of Knowledge
Precognition, Also Known as Fortune-Telling, Future Sight, Clairvoyance and Other Fancy Words 99
Aicha, the Demon-Hunter 99
Astral Projection and Other Out­of­Body Experiences 104
Quiet Girl Becomes a Goddess 105
The Dream House 107
Telepathy 108
János Carnation­Hair 109
Michael Scott 114
Telekinesis 116
The Man Who Had No Story 117
Infinite Knowledge 119
The Serpent Wife 120
Illusion 122
The Rooster Beam 123
Technomancy 124
The Ebony Horse 124
Animal Speech 130
The ­Gold-­Spinners 130

Part III: At the Mercy of the Elements—Powers of Water, Fire, Earth and Weather (and Ice)
Fire Manipulation 137
The Daughter of the Sun 138
Pietro Baillardo 144
Water Powers 149
Fergus Mac Léti 150
The Tide Jewels 152
Earth Manipulation 158
The Son of the Hunter 158
Weather Manipulation 163
Garabonciások 164
Ice and Snow 168
Snow Daughter and Fire Son 168

Part IV: Transitional Powers—From One State to Another
When Drawings Come to Life 173
The Legend of King Vikramaditya 173
Painted Dragons 176
Teleportation 178
The Three Soldiers 178
The Magic Book 184
Phasing 186
The Taoist Priest of Lao­shan 186
Shifters, Changers and Individuals of Multiple Shapes 189
Human Shifting 190
Pomona and Vertumnus 190
Animal Shifting 193
Sigmund and Sinfjötli 194
Boots and the Beasts 197
The Weretiger 201
Nanaue, the Shark­Man 205
Plant Shifting 209
The Elder Tree Witch 210
Inorganic Shifting 212
Kampó Táltos 212
Multi-­Shifting 214
Mestra 215
The Mad Pranks of Robin Goodfellow 217
Honorable Mentions 220

Appendix: Tales by Powers 221
Further Readings 225
Index 227

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “Great entertainment”—Fanboy Comics
  • “Focuses on less well-known stories…includes information on similar heroes”—ProtoView