Friendly Giants, Stories of Love, Dragons - Our Favourite Balaton Legends

culture VEB2023 / Photos: Csaba Toroczkai

Why does everyone talk about goat's hooves when it comes to Tihany, what is the history of the Tihany echo and what does that particular mermaid have to do with Badacsony? In this article, we present stories that have defined the histories of settlements for centuries or even millennia.

The legend of Tihany ’goat’s hooves’

About the special type of shells found on the Tihany peninsula, legend has it that once upon a time there was a king of the Lake and a son of his who fell in love with a princess who herded golden fleece goats, but the princess did not return the prince's affections and he died of grief. In his fury, the king of the Lake cursed the girl, wreaking terrible havoc on the Tihany peninsula: the Tihany hills were set aflame, and the waves of Lake Balaton were so high that the goats were instantly drowned and the girl was trapped in a rock. This is how the story spread that the goat's hooves were the remains of the drowned herd.

The legend of the Tihany echo

It may not be known to everyone, but the echo of Tihany and the legend of the goat's hooves are intertwined: once again, the princess herding the goats is at the centre of the tale. According to the story, the princess was mute, but one day the King of the Lake rose from Lake Balaton and asked her for some goat's milk for his sick son, promising her in return that she would be able to speak again. The boy was cured and the girl spoke. But the boy fell in love with the girl, who rejected him - and from here on we know from the legend of the goat's hooves what became of the two young people. However, the story of the princess continues in this legend: after she is swallowed by a rock, a curse makes her answer to all who pass by. This is how the echo of Tihany, first mentioned in writing by the poet János Garay in the 19th century, was born.

The legend of Haláp Hill

The story goes that many thousands of years ago giants ruled the Balaton Uplands. Friendly, kind giants who had little contact with humans, but whose only bad trait was that when they got angry, their footsteps caused fountains to burst, trees to fall and huge earthquakes to occur. The last giant to live here was called Balaton and his daughter Haláp, who lived in a stone castle near Badacsony. 


One day, Haláp met a little girl whom she grew so fond of that she took her home with her and they played and talked day and night. But after a while, the little girl began to miss her old life, so she ran away from Haláp, and the giant became sick with grief. She threw herself off the highest cliff nearby. Her memory is preserved by the coffin-shaped hill called Haláp.

Szent György Hill and the dragon

According to one of the best-known legends, the cave on Szent György (St George's) Hill was once inhabited by a dragon (the site, though covered in basalt, can still be found today, under the name of Dragon's Hollow), who used to terrorise the villagers and kidnap girls. Among others, he took the sweetheart of St. George, too, who killed the fearsome beast, and the mountain was later named after him for this heroic feat. There is another story, however, that the dreaded dragon once became very ill, and the villagers took pity on him and nursed him back to health. The dragon's heart softened and from then on he lived in peace with the villagers until his death, and when he grew old he turned his dwelling into an ice cave with his last breath.

The legend of the mermaid of Badacsony

According to old legends and some records, Badacsony Hill used to be a volcano. Here lived the lord of the hill, who once saw a beautiful girl and promptly fell in love with her. He kept calling her every day until she appeared to him and it turned out that she was not human, but a mermaid. The lovestruck man therefore threw himself into the lake to be with his beloved, and thus, according to the legend, the volcano went extinct and the Mermaid became an iconic figure of Lake Balaton.


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