Csörsz’s Trench

Based on a folk legend

A long-long time ago, before the time of the Hungarian Conquest, Longobard people were living in Pannonia. Their ruler was King Rád, a true giant, feared by all.

King Frederick, however, attacked his people with a great army, and so King Rád had to call his people to arms too. He sent word to his ally Csörsz, king of the Avars, to help him in his great time of need.

King Csörsz came with a large army, and together they defeated King Frederick’s troops that not a single warrior remained to tell the story.

When the battle was over King Rád had a huge feast prepared in his palace. Wine flowed in rivers and the mood was so good that even the lame began to dance.

King Csörsz, however, did not dance: he could not take his eyes off Délibáb (‘Mirage’), King Rád’s beautiful daughter, for he had never before seen anyone so beautiful in all his life. After looking at her for hours he finally said: ‘King Rád, I have rescued your people, your nation, from sure destruction. Give me your daughter’s hand in return!’

‘She is yours, but only if you take her home over water, King Rád replied.
The Avar king understood his demand, but would he had not! He demanded his people to dig a riverbed, so he could carry his new wife home on it.

The Avar’s worked dug day and night, making the trench deeper and deeper. One day, as they were hard at work, a thunderstorm broke out. Bolts of lightning split the ground around them. Suddenly, a fiery bolt of lightning hit King Csörsz, and he died on the spot.

The riverbed was never finished, but the village of Ároktő by the willowed shores of the Tisza River, has preserved its memory in its name (in Hungarian the word ‘árok’ means trench). So has the village of Árokszállás, which was built at the end of the deep furrow. The trench itself still bears the name of the Avar king: it is called Csörsz’s Trench. (Adaptation by Dénes Lengyel)

Excepting for the dark-skinned people of Africa, there has hardly been an ethnic group researchers have not used their exuberant imagination to relate Hungarians with. One of the heated debates of the second half of the twentieth century, for example, was given rise to by the theory of Sumerian-Hungarian kinship, supported in large part by researchers who had emigrated to South America and Australia. Their works were on the list of banned literature during the period of dictatorship.

Most recently the publications of Hideo Matsumoto, a Japanese geneticist researching genetic markers all over the world, surprised scholars by indicating that certain genetic traits found in higher concentration in Japanese, Korean, Aynu, Tibetan, Tunguz, Yakut, and Eskimo people on one hand, and in Uygor, Native American, Iranian, and to a lesser degree in Sardinian and Hungarian people on the other, cannot be found in any other ethnic group. This led many to believe in certain ancient connections and genetic kinship.

Attempts have been made to relate Hungarians to the mysterious Etruscans, the Celts, ancient Latin peoples, the Scythians and Sanscrits, as well as more plausibly to the Turkish, the Iranians and Caucasian peoples. There were again others who ‘searched for kinship in the Jewish nation’ (Endre Ady: Before the Diffusion, 1914).

Of all theories, we consider Gyula László‘s the most probable. He based his theory on archeological evidence, such as the creeper plant and griffin bird motif found on dishes and jewelry, and burial customs, and identified late Avars as identical to early Hungarians. In his opinion they were the first settlers in the Carpathian Basin we can consider Hungarian and who, together with Árpád’s people arriving a little later, became a state founding unified nation during the course of the 10th century. The lifestyle of the early Hungarians (or late Avars) gradually adapted to the new land’s geographic characteristics and its more peaceful social environment. Instead of initiating expeditions and maintaining an equestrian nomadic lifestyle they chose to till the earth and raise livestock, which meant staying in one place. In place of yurts, quick to assemble and take down, they began building abodes half dug into the earth and with an indoor fireplace. In place of horses they raised oxen, capable of more strenuous work. They traded in their bow and sword for ploughs, spades and hoes to grow wheat, rye, barley, millet, lentils and other plants. Later on instead of the Shaman, they followed the teachings and word of Christian priests.

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