So about 6 months back I got an email from my former roommate and good friend Magdi. She had been trying to share her childhood legends and tales with her boyfriend, but they had found absolutely no translations into English (she’s Hungarian). So for his birthday, she had this brilliant idea to translate all these famous Hungarian tales herself, and then bind them into a book.
Not only was I lucky enough to see the book in its finished form (it was absolutely amazing. A beautiful small book with Hungarian art and stories throughout), but I also got to help her edit some of the English translations!
I asked her if I could share the stories (don’t worry, the gift was given 2 months ago!), and being gracious as ever, she said yes.
So in the next couple weeks and months, expect a story to pop up every now and then on the blog.
The stories and medieval and magical, soaring and prosaic – and quite a bit like King Arthur’s court, actually, although with one great twist. The protagonist in many of the stories? Why, Attila the Hun!!
But not the Attila we grew up learning about. Not the barbarian, the ruthless army leader, the bad guy in Mulan. No, this Attila is wise and strong and unfailingly just in his kindness.
Amazing how different cultures view the same history!!
The Sword of God.
The morning light shone on young Attila’s proud face. In front of his table, leaders, diviners and wise men gathered. They were talking.
Attila called for silence and said:
- Dear soothsayers, good shamans. You, who can read from heavenly signs, and whom the War’s Lord has entrusted his secret.
- Here we are! – came the answer.
- Listen to me, and solve my secret. Last night I had a magical dream, and I want to know if it has a good or bad interpretation.
- In my dream I saw myself as a youngster who had assembled a small troop around himself. It was divided into two groups: I conducted the team of crane feathers. With the other troop, young Aetius galloped. The battle was on a beautiful flowery meadow and we beat the troop of eagle When our victory songs rose in the air, an upheaval shook the earth. Our wooden swords fell to the ground, our bows broke into two pieces, and steel swords fell into our hands instead. The real combat had just begun! The swords gleamed and the sky thundered again. Golden wheels rattled above us and a mighty warrior with a copper helmet raced towards the field on a Star Chariot. The great champion stopped the chariot in front of me and tied a gleaming sword around my waist; a sword that was unlike any ever before looked upon by human eyes. Then he disappeared into the sky.
- I made a grab at my waist. I wanted to know if it was real or if my dream was playing tricks on me. I felt the weight of the sword, the pressure of the strap.
- Suddenly, as if I had grown wings, I soared into the sky and flew as fast as the wind. Forests rumbled, powerful rivers whirled beneath me. When cities came before me, I unsheathed my sword and each and every stroke of my sword struck down an entire city.
- What does this dream tell me?
For several seconds the silence gathered. Finally, an ancient soothsayer stepped forward:
- My dear Lord, I am the oldest of all the ancient Huns, and I have never said anything which would not have been as pure as the cleanest stream.
The soothsayer bowed his head:
- The Gods of War hammered a magical sword for his sons and hid it from the intrigue of lesser men. Whoever gets this sword will be the scourge of God! Attila, your dream has predicted it. The God of War chose you; he tied the sword around your waist. Where you will find it, I cannot say, but it is going to be yours, and I am certain of it, as certain as the truth of me standing before you now!
Suddenly, Bulcsu, the king’s bravest warrior, appeared in the crowded tent. In his hand he held a blazing sword decorated with gemstones. Beside him stood a shepherd boy.
The ruby hilt shone like the rays of the sun. Attila jumped up and shouted:
- This is it! This was exactly what I saw!
Bulcsu looked around and said:
- This morning I went hunting. On the way back home, a shepherd boy hurried towards me.
He patted the boys head and continued:
- He did not utter a single word, but just looked at me, terrified.
Now the shepherd boy began to talk:
- This morning my oxen and calves were grazing peacefully. I had lain down and I had just gotten out my haversack when I noticed that one of my dear heifers was wounded in the leg. I followed the blood stainds, and in the root of a briar-rose, I discovered a piece of iron that was sticking out from the ground. I was afraid it would injure my other animals, therefore I made an attempt to pull it out. Suddenly, a purple jet of flame leaped out from the sword. It frightened me, and I ran away. Then I saw you, my Lord – the shepherd boy looked at Bulcsu.
Now it was Bulcsu’s turn to speak:
- When I arrived at the briar-rose, only the sword’s hilt was still in the ground. I pulled it out and brought it to you, my king, because this sword can only belong to you!
Attila stood up, stepped in front of Bulcsu and took the sword. In his hand the hilt and blade became even more glorious, and shining thus, it lit up Attila’s face. The king’s eyes glowed with fire when he raised the sword high up in the air.
The leaders, wise men, soothsayers and shamans stared at him mesmerized. In that great moment they all bowed to God’s scourge.
Only Buda continued to look at his brother, conflicting emotions on his face. He gazed at the sword jealously. He did not know what to do.