The Tree that Reached the Sky

Hungarian folk tradition preserves a remarkable counterpart to the Old Norse world tree in the guise of the “Tree that Reached the Sky”. In the tales in question, a woman sits atop the tree, glorious and radiant, beneath a brilliant golden palace that shines in the same way. If – and only if – the hero of the story succeeds in climbing the tree, he may take the woman as his wife and in doing so, acquire her fortune.

In his work Ancient Magyar History, István Kiszely writes:

“The ‘sky-high tree,’ a concept known to all Turkic peoples, is imagined in the following way: there exists in the world a wonderful tree with nine jutting branches that, as they churn, send out gusts of wind. So marvellous is this tree that both the Moon, and the Sun can pass freely through its branches. The fabulous tree grows in a place only one skilled in the art can find: the average person may hear word of it, but can never see it. This ‘magical tree,’ ‘sky-high tree,’ or ‘tree with no top’ of the Magyar belief system is nothing less than the ‘world tree’ of táltos (shamanistic) peoples, which connects the lower (under)world to the middle (terrestrial) world to the upper (other)world (i.e. the world beyond).”

The Old Norse world tree has several elements in common with the “tree that reached the sky,” not least of which is that both the Turkic sky-high tree, and the Norsemen’s tree of multiple worlds have their “roots” in a similarly magically inclined mind-set.

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