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Painting of a boy sitting on a haystack and playing a violin
Hegedűs Cigány Fiú (Gypsy Boy Fiddler) by György Vastagh

"The Creation of the Violin" is a Transylvanian Roma fairy tale. It was first written down by Heinrich von Wlislocki [de] in 1890 and included in his German book, About the Travelling Gypsy People: Scenes of the Life of the Transylvanian Gypsies.[1]



A poor couple wishes in vain to have a child, and the wife complains about her misery to an old woman she meets in a forest. The hag sends her home with the instruction, "Go home and cut open a pumpkin, pour milk into it and drink it. You will then give birth to a boy who will be happy and rich!" Although the wife follows her advice and gives birth to a beautiful baby boy, she falls ill and dies shortly afterward.

When the boy is twenty years old, he travels the world to seek his fortune. He comes to a big city, where a rich king rules. The king has a wonderful daughter, whom he will give in marriage to a man who can do something which no one in the world has done before.[1]

Many men try their luck and fail, paying for their failures with their lives. When the naive boy asks the king what he should do, he is thrown into a dark dungeon. Matuya, the fairy queen, appears to him in a bright light and gives him a box and a rod; she tells him that he should pluck some hairs from her head and string them over the box and the rod. Then he should bow the hairs of the box with the hairs of the rod, playing the violin to make people happy or sad as Matuya laughs and cries into the instrument. The boy demonstrates his artistic skill to the king, who is overjoyed and gives him his beautiful daughter as his wife. The tale ends with, "This is how the violin came to the world".[1]

Origin, comparison and distributionEdit

The tale has folkloric origins and magical content; common in fairy tales, the old hag and the good fairy both possess magical powers. The good fairy, Matuya, is based on magic tales of the Hindu tradition (common in Roma tales). Matuya appears in Transylvanian, Hungarian, Polish, Russian and Serbian Roma mythology as queen of the Ursitory. These fairies, typically beautiful women who live in mountainside palaces, enjoy singing and dancing and symbolise music.[2]

One of the best-known Roma fairy tales, "The Creation of the Violin" is part of several collections (including non-Roma collections).[3][4][5] It is occasionally read before an audience, broadcast as a radio play or fairy-tale play for children and used in schools.[6][7][8][9]

A telling close to this version of folktale by Polish writer Jerzy Ficowski entitled Zaczarowana skrzynka (English: "The Magic Box") occurs in his collection Gałązka z drzewa słońca (1961). The English translation appeared in the anthology Sister of The Birds and Other Gypsy Tales (1976).[10] In this Polish version, the helpful spirit is a beech tree spirit named Matuja, who also prescribes milk drunk out of the hollow of a pumpkin to cure infertility, and the boy then born is named "Bachtalo".

Another Roma tale with the same name (also published by Wlislocki) is lesser-known, probably because it is confusing and lacks a happy ending. A young women contacts the devil because she admires a rich hunter who ignores her. She sacrifices her family for the devil's violin to attract the hunter; her father becomes its body, her four brothers become the strings and her mother becomes the bow. In the end, the young woman is carried off by the devil when she refuses to worship him; the violin remains in the forest until it is found and taken by a travelling gypsy.[11][12] In both tales, the violinist makes his audience laugh and cry.

Creation tales are typical of mythology, and this is one of the few fairy tales which describe the creation of a musical instrument. Others are the Hungarian fairy tale, "The Violin", and the story of the Mongolian morin khuur. Both differ significantly from the Transylvanian tale. In Greek mythology, the creation of the pan flute by Pan and Syrinx is a well-known example.[13]


Rosemarie Tüpker [de] interpreted the fairy tale in a hermeneutical analysis of modern audiences. In addition to requesting reflections on the full story, Tüpker sought comments on specific topics: poverty and childlessness, a rich king with a beautiful daughter and the achievement of the unprecedented.[14]

The tale explores the polarity between two worlds, characterised by poverty and wealth. The rich king possesses his daughter like a belonging and wants to give her away as a prize, without considering her feelings. The story is about avarice, success and failure and making decisions, exemplified by the competition. Only the old hag and Matuya, the fairy, can help achieve what is otherwise impossible.[14]

The other world is symbolised by the violin, used here as a prototype for all music. This is a world of emotion and the evocation of emotion in others. The demonstration of something unprecedented combines visual and aural perceptions.[14]

"The Creation of the Violin" can also be interpreted as a combination of the male and the female in a world without desire. Psychoanalytically, it involves generativity and triangulation. From the male and the female, a third object is produced: music, which evokes joy or sorrow. The power of a musician (who evokes feelings) is quite different from the power of a king, who rules by force.[14]

It has been noted that neither the son of the poor woman nor the daughter of the king were from intact families. The infant boy's father is not mentioned as a father, and the mother of the king's daughter is not mentioned at all.[15]

The violin expresses the duality of laughter and tears, joy and sorrow and love and death. The violin was seen as a very emotional instrument. However, in reality, contrary to the fairy tale, it takes years of practice, to express emotion with the instrument and evoke emotion in listeners.[15]


  1. ^ a b c Heinrich von Wlislocki: Die Erschaffung der Geige" in Vom wandernden Zigeunervolke. Bilder aus dem Leben der Siebenbürger Zigeuner. Geschichtliches, Ethnologisches, Sprache und Poesie. Richter, Hamburg 1890, p. 221 f ISBN 5-874-17525-3
  2. ^ Hermann Berger: Mythologie der Zigeuner. Originally published in: Hans Wilhelm Haussig (publisher): Götter und Mythen des indischen Subkontinents. Stuttgart, 1984, p. 773-824. Online Version p. 44, downloaded on 1 March 2016.
  3. ^ Walter Aichele, Martin Bock (publisher): Zigeunermärchen. Diederichs-Reihe »Märchen der Weltliteratur« Diederichs (First edition 1962) 1991 ISBN 3-424-00331-X.
  4. ^ Leander Petzoldt (publisher): Musikmärchen. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt am Main 1994, p. 124 f ISBN 3-596-12463-8.
  5. ^ Paul Zaunert (publisher): Die Zauberflöte. Märchen der europäischen Völker. Eugen Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1995.
  6. ^ Das wundersame Kästchen. In 40 Märchen um die Welt. Hörspiel WDR (publisher). Random House Audio 2013 ISBN 978-3-8983-0562-4
  7. ^ Zeitschrift Märchenforum Nr. 57 – Vom Lachen und Weinen im Märchen. Mutabor-Verlag, Lützelflüh (CH) 2013
  8. ^ Public show of the Theater in der Meerwiese, Münster, downloaded on 1 March 2016.
  9. ^ Marianne Seidel: Textarbeit zum Romamärchen Die Erschaffung der Geige, downloaded on 1 March 2016.
  10. ^ Borski, Lucia M. (translator) (1977), "The Magic Box", Cricket, 5: 1, 1625
  11. ^ Heinrich von Wlislocki: "Die Erschaffung der Geige" in Vom wandernden Zigeunervolke. Bilder aus dem Leben der Siebenbürger Zigeuner. Geschichtliches, Ethnologisches, Sprache und Poesie. Richter, Hamburg 1890, p. 218 f ISBN 5-874-17525-3.
  12. ^ Francis Hindes Groome (ed. trans.): The Creation of the Violin in Gypsy Folk Tales, Hurst and Blackett, London, 1899
  13. ^ Rosemarie Tüpker: Musik im Märchen. Reichert Verlag Wiesbaden 2011, p. 65, p. 69 ff, p. 73 f ISBN 978-3-8950-0839-9.
  14. ^ a b c d Liste der Einzelmotive und Märchentext, downloaded on 1 March 2016.
  15. ^ a b Rosemarie Tüpker: Musik im Märchen. Reichert Verlag Wiesbaden 2011, p. 51 and 53–57