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Literature / Toldi

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Toldi is a Hungarian Epic Poem written by János Arany, published in 1846, retelling the story of Folk Hero Miklós Toldi. Arany wrote the poem for a writing contest about Hungarian Folk Heroes, which he not only won, but became one of the most celebrated Hungarian writers of his time.

The poem is divided into 12 "songs", and tells the story of Miklós, a young man with Super Strength who yearns to be a knight, but becomes an outcast thanks to his scheming older brother. On his journey he fights beasts and men, until he reaches the city of Buda and saves it from an evil Czech knight, for which the King of Hungary pardons him.


Shortly after the poem's success, Arany started working on a sequel titled Toldi estéje ("The Night of Toldi"), in which Toldi, as an elderly knight, goes on one last adventure. The sequel was completed in 1848, but because of the political situation in Hungary (the 1848 Revolution), it got published only six years later, in 1854. Much later, in 1879, Arany wrote a third poem featuring Toldi, Toldi szerelme ("Toldi's Love"), which, as you may have guessed from the title, is a love story between Toldi and a woman named Rozgonyi Piroska, taking place after the first but before the second poem.

The poems have loosely been adapted to the animated film Heroic Times by Pannonia Film Studio in 1984. A new Animated Adaptation, by legendary Pannonia animator Marcell Jankovics, is set to be released in 2020.


The poem contains the following tropes:

  • Accidental Murder: In Song 3, György's men keep taunting Miklós until he loses his temper and tosses a millstone at them. The millstone hits one of the men, who dies instantly from the strike. The rest of the plot is driven by Miklós hiding from the law because of this murder.
  • Berserk Button: Do not call Toldi a peasant. If you're lucky, he'll just impress you with a feat of strength.
  • Big Brother Bully: György, Miklós's older brother, takes every opportunity to jab at Miklós. In Song 2, he calls him lazy and useless, calls out his mother for preferring Miklós over György and then slaps Miklós in the face.
  • Brutish Bulls: In Song 9, Toldi fights a rampaging bull that escaped from the shambles, wrestling the beast by grabbing it by the horns.
  • Bullying a Dragon: In Song 3, György encourages his men to taunt Miklós as he is brooding. When one of them hits him with a wooden spear, Miklós grabs a large millstone and tosses it at the soldier, killing him.
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  • Cub Cues Protective Parent: Toldi, in hiding, chances upon a litter of wolf cubs. Shortly afterwards, the cubs' parents show up and attack Toldi.
  • Dirty Coward: The Czech warrior taunts and mocks the Hungarian knights, but when he feels how strong Toldi is (from a simple handshake), he falls on his knees and begs for mercy without any actual fight, and then tries to stab Toldi in the back.
  • Escaped Animal Rampage: In Buda, a bull escapes from the shambles and rampages through the streets of the city. Miklós grabs the beast by the horns and returns it to the shambles.
  • The Good King: King Louis I of Hungary is portrayed as a wise, merciful monarch.
  • Good Parents: Miklós and György's mother is a kind, loving parent who cares a lot about both of his sons. Unfortunately, György doesn't return her love.
  • Historical Domain Character: King Louis of Hungary and Palatine Andrew Lackfinote . Toldi himself is an arguable case: the Folk Hero with Super Strength is a legendary figure, but there's evidence that a knight named Miklós Toldi indeed served in King Louis's army.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Laczfi calls Miklós a peasant multiple times after seeing him working on the fields, not realizing that he's talking to a nobleman.
  • Momma's Boy: Miklós is really close to his mother.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Miklós, after killing György's servant with the millstone, realizes what he's done and runs away.
  • Nice Guy: Toldi, despite his Super Strength, is usually humble, helpful and merciful - just don't make him angry. Bence, Toldi's elderly servant, is also loyal and helpful.
  • Parental Favoritism: György accuses his mother of this, claiming that he prefers Miklós. The truth is, the mother tries to love both of her sons equally, but that's not enough for György.
  • Protagonist Title: The poem is simply called "Toldi", which is the protagonist's family name.
  • Rage Breaking Point: Miklós tries his best to put up with the abuse from György and his men, but when one of the men hits him with a spear, he snaps, grabs a millstone and kills the man with it.
  • Savage Wolves: Toldi encounters and slays a pair of them in Song 5 (the Hungarian term "nádi farkas", i.e. "reed wolf" actually refers to the golden jackal, but they are described as large and savage as grey wolves).
  • Sibling Rivalry: György, Miklós's older brother, is mean to him simply because he's jealous at his strength, and does everything he can to make Miklós's life difficult.
  • Super Strength: Toldi is stronger than any other man, able to lift massive wooden rods and millstones, wrestle wolves and bulls, and make the Czech warrior's hand bleed from a simple handshake.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Italian knight in Toldi estéje is one for the Czech knight in Toldi. Both of them are foreign warriors who ride to Buda and challenge the Hungarian knights for a fight, slaying many of them until they're defeated by Toldi. That said, the Italian knight is far more honorable and not the Dirty Coward the Czech knight is.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: The butcher, after Toldi returns the bull to the shambles, only gives a piece of raw liver to Toldi as reward.


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