The story of The Tree reaching the Sky or Januska in love


Maja Bumberák is a fellow storyteller. We met in Zagreb in May 2019 for the first time. The second time we met in England, where we attended a course Word Dancing – Creative Writing and Storytelling.

Maja lives in Budapest and lives stories, tells stories, educates about stories, collect them for almost ten years (I believe I did not misunderstand her biography). Last week she performed on line traditional Hungarian tale The Tree reaching the Sky as a part of the House of Tradition project. She invited her friends to listen/ enjoy the story or the beauty and musicality of the Hungarian language.

Since I don’t know Hungarian I decided to give it a try with an intention to note any association, feeling I might come across during telling. Result of my listening is the story  Januska in love.

Maja, thank you for the inspiration.

Januska in love

Januska was a 12 years old boy madly in love with Kishasona, who was two years older. She lived in the neighbourhood and was the most beautiful girl he knew besides his mother. He was the king of playing games on the phone, so he proposed Kishasona to teach her how to play. Kishasona was not interested in playing games. She dreamed of going to a culinary school. She talked about a cooking competition which was held at the end of the school year. The first place would get her additional points for enrolling to a culinary school and a yearly scholarship.  She talked about different recipes for pancakes which was these year competition theme.

Januska did not know how to make pancakes. When Kishasona found out, she laughed at him and that hurt. He decided to beat her and enrolled in the competition. He asked the mother to help him, but she was busy with her excel sheets and reports. His older sister looked at him with pity.

„Pancakes? Januska the world is on fire. What is wrong with you? Besides, you can order pancakes. I have no time or interest to teach you how to make them.“

He had nobody else to ask. His grandmothers lived far and did not use mobile phones. He was sitting on the cheery tree, thinking of what to do when he saw an old lady carrying two bags. She came closer and said:

„ Dear boy, can you help me carry my bags? I will pay for it.“  He jumped from the tree.

„ Do you know how to make pancakes?“


„Can you teach me how to make them?“


She lived at the edge of town in a tiny but spotlessly clean house. The back of the house was circumcircle with trees while at the front there was a garden where she grew flowers and vegetables.

She told him his apprenticeship would last four weeks. During that period he will come to her house early in the morning before sunrise and later during the day when he finishes his homework. He also will bring a note from his parents that they allow him to attend cooking lessons.

During the first week of lessons he had to chop woods, cut grass in a garden, mend a fence and help with gardening. Not being used to physical work his arms hurt and he got blisters. On the second week, he was allowed to spend time with her in the kitchen. While he was making bread or cookies, he had to clean floor, wash dishes, help with organising cupboards and place where she kept groceries. He was getting worried so over a tea and cookie he asked:

„Why do I have to do all the work which has nothing to do with learning how to make pancakes?“

„It is preparation time. Before you can master a skill, you need preparation time.“

„Chopping woods and cleaning is what you call preparation time?“

„Yes. How could you start baking or cooking if you do not know to start a fire? How will you or your guests enjoy your masterpiece meal if the house is dirty?“

She seeped tea and eat a cookie which was so delicious she prepared a box for him to take home.

On the third week, she talked about flour, milk, eggs, oil, pan and temperature and asked him to keep notes and to repeat them while he was doing other tasks. On Wednesday of the third week, she showed him how to make a daugh for a pancake and how to bake them. On Friday it was his turn to try. He made daugh threes times, but each time it was not right. Finally, when she approved the daugh, it was his turn to bake pancakes. Five of them finished on a  plate rest was on the floor. He spent a whole hour cleaning the mass he made in the kitchen.  He got angry and kicked a rock on his way home. The leg hurt, and he lipped all the way and had to stay at home for several days.  He returned form more lessons on Wednesday of week four. On Friday, the old lady was happy with his work. She congratulated him and said:

„You know all you need to know. It depends on your decision and passion if you win the competition.“

On the day of the competition, he was nervous. He saw his friends in the crowd pointing at him and laughing,  but when he saw Kishasona approaching his table, he forgot her hurting him. He was in love again. He took second place. Kishasona won and gave him a kiss for helping her through the competition. He got the best price he could get.

Inspired by the telling of the storyteller Maja Bumberák.

@marymrvos, June 15, 2020.

Photos from Pexels






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