The Sword of God

Based on the Chronicle of Jordanes and a folk legend from Debrecen
The Scythian kings had a powerful sword, which they received from God so that they could conquer all nations. This ancient sword was lost, but its fame lived on among the Scythian rulers for a long time. The elders always said, ‘Look for it, search for it, for he who finds God’s sword will rule the world!’

And so they looked and searched, but no one found God’s sword.

Attila had heard of God’s sword, too. His mother once told him the story of a dream she had, in which she had a beautiful son who appeared to her, and standing before her, tied a shining sword on his side. The sword seemed to be in flames, to radiate, for it was God who had thrown the sword down to her son.
From this vision Attila knew that it was God’s sword itself that his mother had seen him tie to his side, and that he would become ‘the whip of God’, who would conquer all nations.

And so Attila waited and waited, all throughout his childhood, for the sword to find its way to him. He did not wait in vain.

One day it happened that a Hun shepherd noticed one of his young oxen limping badly. He examined its leg and found a bloody wound on it. What could have caused such a deep wound, he wondered?

As he looked around a blinding flame shot up before him, and he saw that it was coming from a sword sticking out of the ground. He approached the sword, pulled it out, and ran to King Attila crying: ‘King Attila, I found this sword in the meadow, and I think you are the only one worthy of it!’

Attila recognized at once, that the sword was God’s sword. He grabbed it, swiped it in the four directions of the earth, and said: ‘With God’s sword I will punish all the nations of the Earth!’
(Adaptation by Dénes Lengyel)

Attila forced taxes from the Byzantine Empire and held all of Europe in fear with his pillaging military expeditions. The center of his huge empire was somewhere on the Great Plains, close to where the Tisza and Maros rivers meet. Famous chronicles speak of the pomp and splendor of his court, and of his world-conquering and ruthless deeds. The people of Europe and the Christian church spoke of him, and remembered the deeds of the barbaric Hun hordes, with hatred. This had a negative effect in the judgment of the roving Hungarians by their European contemporaries, but this heritage was one the ancient Hungarians accepted. The kinship between Attila’s people and the Hungarians was a popular topic of Hungarian legends and outstanding works of art, from the illustrations in Anonymus‘s Gesta Hungarorum to the famous painting of Attila by Mór Than, and from the famous dramas by the Transylvanian writer Miklós Bánffy through Géza Gárdonyi‘s wonderful novel The Invisible Man to the rock-opera by Levente Szörényi and Sándor Lezsák, first staged in the year 2000.

The outstanding writer and national educator of the twentieth century, Gyula Illyés, considered both Finno-Ugric peoples as well as the Scythians to be the ancestors of present day Hungarians. He writes about the kinship between Huns and Hungarians in his essay entitled Who is Hungarian? After Attila‘s sudden and unexpected death the Hun Empire fell, and the remaining Huns fled. According to legend they went back to Scythia under the leadership of Prince Csaba, while a smaller group hid in the mountains of Transylvania, in Csiglemező, under the leadership of Aladár. A legend of origin, their runic writing and a few folksongs and ballads alludes to the Hun ancestry of the Székely people.

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