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The Miraculous Hind and the Hungarians

By: Anna K. Bergendy


Post Date: 2024-07-12


There is a nation living in the Carpathian Basin, in the middle of Europe, that speaks a language originating far-far away from Europe: the Hungarians. The origins of Hungarians, also known as Magyars, are rooted in the incredibly diverse nomadic cultures of Siberia and Central Asia. Their true ancestry is still a bit of a mystery that never ceases to challenge researchers. 


Facts and mythology can be surprisingly difficult to tell apart. Different theories divide Hungarians themselves into different groups. Some believe Hungarians are Finno-Ugric; others are passionate about the increasingly popular political movement called Turanism, and there is some convincing evidence to suggest that the Hungarians are descendants of the Huns, but the exact nature of their relationship remains a topic of heated discussion among scholars. 


Starting in the 19th century, as the belief that Hungarians were linguistically and culturally isolated in their region gained traction among the Hungarian public, the quest to seek out relatives in the East gained swift popularity. Hungarians wish to preserve a strong connection to their ancient heritage. Hungary enthusiastically celebrates its national holidays and traditional festivals, keeping the country's history alive and vibrant. While Hungarians today are a European Christian nation, their complex identity is incredibly difficult to fit into one box. Hungarian identity may be a mixed bag:that’s what makes it so special. 


The Legend of the Miraculous Hind 


The Miraculous Hind, or Csodaszarvas is a fundamental national symbol and a central figure in the legends surrounding the origin of the Hungarian people. The legend exists in different versions, but the most important part of the story does not change: the Miraculous Hind leads the ancestors of Hungarians to their new homeland, ultimately leading to the emergence of the Kingdom of Hungary. 


“They chase the hind continually 

along the Salt Sea's barren shore, 

where neither wolf nor bear may be 

lest it be lost forevermore.” 


verse from “The legend of the Miraculous Hind” by János Arany 


The legend of the Miraculous Hind is the origin myth of the Hungarian people. According to the myth, Hunor and Magor were sons of Nimród and Enéh. Nimród was a legendary giant king, whose figure is often associated with hunting and leadership. Enéh’s name translates to hind. One day, during a hunting expedition on the steppe, they encountered a magnificent hind. The creature darted away, leading them on a spirited pursuit until it vanished into the Meotis marshes, south of the Sea of Azov. Enchanted by the beauty of this land with fertile soil, instead of continuing the chase, the great hunters bade farewell to their family and established their own settlements right where the Miraculous Hind had led them during the pursuit. In their new territory, Hunor and Magor abducted wives for themselves from the Alans, an Iranian people from the north of the Caucasus Mountains. Hunor’s children became the Huns, and Magor’s children became the Hungarians. When the land could no longer sustain all of them, the migration of their nations continued. 



source:  László Gyula Digitális Archívum


Origins of the myth 


The legend was first written down around 1282–1285, in the medieval chronicle, Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum ("Deeds of the Huns and Hungarians") by Simon of Kéza, who was a priest in the royal court of king Ladislaus IV of Hungary. In the medieval period, access to written records and historical sources was rather limited. Chroniclers had to rely on oral traditions, folklore, and earlier chronicles, which often included legendary elements. Historical documentation was seldom registered, which led to the inclusion of both historical facts and legendary stories in the same narrative in order to create respectable ancestral lineages for national heroes. A great origin myth was crucial in order to establish cultural identity and to gain the respect of other nations. Medieval chroniclers sought to strengthen the ancestral legacy of their people, as Europe was characterized by significant political, social, and cultural changes at the time. Simon of Kéza drew parallels between the Hungarians and the Huns, who are best known for Attila and the invasions of Europe during the late antiquity period. Connecting Huns to Hungarians in the chronicle was a well-considered decision. Attila the Hun is remembered as a powerful and feared military leader whose actions had a substantial impact on European history during the late Roman period. When the Hungarians arrived in Central Europe and conquered the Carpathian Basin, their lifestyle reminded people of the fear-inducing hordes led by Attila.


In the late 9th century, under the leadership of Árpád, the Hungarians entered the Carpathian Basin, which encompasses present-day Hungary and its surrounding regions. Hungarians integrated with the diverse ethnic groups already present in the region, forming the basis of the Hungarian nation. The connection between Hungarians and the Huns was primarily made by medieval chroniclers and historians, but modern research, such as a genetic study conducted by researchers at the University of Szeged, suggest it could very well be more than just a myth. Incorporating legendary tales and heroic narratives into historical accounts not only made the stories more entertaining, but also contributed to the glorification of the nation's past and its legendary heroes. These legends were probably spread and kept alive for long centuries by professional singers.  




















Csodaszarvas by artist @o_pinter_illustration on Instagram


The earliest legends similar to the Miraculous Hind from the chronicles of Hungarians most likely originate from Siberia. It is sometimes depicted as what seems to be a red stag, rather than a hind. At first glance, looking at visual illustrations can be confusing, as the hind is always depicted with large and glorious antlers. The explanation is pretty simple: female reindeer have antlers, too. Reindeer-keeping is a traditional custom; ancient Hungarians would practice a nomadic reindeer-herding lifestyle, eventually migrating towards the West. Many depictions of the Miraculous Hind look like a red deer rather than the original reindeer, because it is the most common deer species where Hungarians would migrate. Regardless of the breed of deer, depicting the antlers is simply non-negotiable. Antlers symbolize a connection to nature and the spiritual realm, as well as the balance between the physical and spiritual aspects of life.



Saka recumbent stag plaque, Eleke Sazy, Kazakhstan; 8th to 6th century BC 

Source: Wikipedia


The Deer as a Symbol 


Deer, being a common animal in the Eurasian steppe, was depicted in various forms in the art of nomadic cultures. Deers are a recurring motif in the art of various Siberian and Central Asian cultures, especially those with a nomadic and pastoral heritage. Deer motifs may be found in items like clothing, textiles, and accessories, where they are intricately embroidered or woven. The shedding and regrowth of deer antlers each year symbolize renewal and rebirth. For that reason, deer can also represent an everlasting spirit that, despite the constant and cyclical changes of life,remains a central guiding figure in the community. The Miraculous Hind, a majestic creature leading the way, encapsulates the nomadic spirit of the Hungarian people. 


Csodaszarvas by artist on Instagram


One of the greatest examples of the legend living on in modern times is the 2002 Hungarian animated film, Song of the Miraculous Hind or Ének a csodaszarvasról, directed by Marcell Jankovics. It was one of the most watched animated films in Hungarian animation history after the fall of the Soviet Union. 


The Miraculous Hind by Marcell Jankovics

source: IMDB



The Hungarians, residing in the heart of Europe, embark on a never-ending journey to decipher their complex origins. While the quest for Hungarian identity has been influenced by political agendas and ever-evolving interpretations, the legend of the Miraculous Hind remains a constant. The Miraculous Hind stands as a testament to the enduring power of myth, shaping the identity of a nation and preserving the spirit of a people across generations. 

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