Dialogues of judgement and dream interpretation in folk tales. Royal advisers and dream interpreters

Diálogos de juicio e interpretación de sueños en los cuentos populares. Consejeros reales e intérpretes de sueños


(University of Debrecen)


ORCID: 0000-0002-9193-3580

ABSTRACT: In the Hungarian-language narratives of the Carpathian Basin we frequently encounter accounts of royal dreams and the monarch’s order that they be deciphered, alongside the cruelty of the judgment which hangs over heroes, the discursive form of forgiveness, and the dialogue between the heroes and their helpers. This is because peasant storytellers liken the popular heroes and prophets to the speech and acts of the prophets, magicians, and sages familiar to them through biblical texts. In this study, I intend to examine the heroes’ dream-interpreting and judgmental practices, and the linguistic form of parables used when counselling the hero. Through close reading, I attempt to compare the events and dialogues known from the biblical texts with the stories and parables recurring in Hungarian, and Hungarian-language «gypsy» narratives.

KEYWORDS: counselling, apodictic revelation, informative dreams, symbolic dreams, scapegoat

RESUMEN: En las narraciones en idioma húngaro de la Cuenca de los Cárpatos, con frecuencia encontramos relatos de sueños reales y la orden del monarca de que se descifren, junto con la crueldad del juicio que se cierne sobre los héroes, la forma discursiva del perdón y el diálogo entre los héroes y sus ayudantes. Esto se debe a que los narradores campesinos comparan a los héroes y profetas populares con el discurso y los actos de los profetas, magos y sabios que les son familiares a través de los textos bíblicos. En este estudio, tengo la intención de examinar las prácticas de interpretación y juicio de los sueños de los héroes, y la forma lingüística de las parábolas utilizadas al aconsejar al héroe. A través de una lectura profunda, trato de comparar los eventos y diálogos conocidos de los textos bíblicos con las historias y parábolas que se repiten en las narraciones húngaras y gitanas en idioma húngaro.

PALABRAS-CLAVE: aconsejar, revelación apodíctica, sueños informativos, sueños simbólicos, chivo expiatorio


We begin our comments with the Kantian theorem: «You can stay safe from all error, if you do not start to judge something of which the knowledge you possess is insufficient» (Kant, 2014: 8). Except that whoever wants to judge, whoever seeks to extend his power and his word of law over the one who is subject to judgment, to demean another, depriving him of his human dignity and, if possible, of his right of defence, does not do so because he wishes to save himself from error, but because he wants the other’s guilt to be proven publicly and at any price, and in the end, he wishes to condemn. We can fully agree with Ákos Cseke’s statement expressed in the form of a question:

Is it not the helplessness of fears, insults, hopes, and the formless mass of inner words and thoughts that can hardly be undone, which —in a spirit which cannot manage its own affairs— becomes embodied in a thoughtless, unexpected and unintelligible judgement, but one which is endorsed and upheld by every member of the community, and stems from the mindset of that community? (Cseke, 2016: 73)

Cseke —just like Rene Girard, the religious anthropologist trained in the same line of thought (Girard, 2001: 19, 21)— sees the judgement itself in one infinitely “mimetic” cynical relationship of the individual and the community in the “the throes of violence”, where those who judge point to the scapegoat. This is the very opposite of the teaching of Jesus, about which Cseke states that «[…] in this sense, liberation from the will of judgment, in a special way, means precisely that —since we break free from the self-judgmental, dark and hellish instinct to judge and condemn the other— we will acquire the freedom to make a fair judgment, if we are so required» (Cseke, 2016: 79). Other optics are worth considering, as Albert Mello puts it:

«The King in his might loves justice» (Psalm 99:4). However, through the judgment, the king reaffirms justice in his country: the expression “practice of justice” […] is to be seen not only in the meaning of reward (punishing the guilty, exonerating the innocent), but in a more constructive —or as it is nowadays— restorative sense. (Mello, 2017: 119)

In the tale narratives of the Hungarian and Hungarian speaking «gypsy» communities of the Carpathian Basin —which represent the corpus for this present study—, the mindset and situational practice of judgement as carried out by the king (often the father) on the one hand, and the tale hero who suffers from hurt, jealousy and death on the other, are sharply and graphically divided from each other. The king makes judgements by referring to laws in force at the time, (sometimes selecting them in an authoritarian fashion while forcing others to listen, or to express approval), while the tale hero mostly leaves judgment to God:

I will not do anything to you, I will not punish you, but tomorrow morning, when the sky will be clearest, all six of us will go under the sky and all six of us will kneel down and pray. And then the punishment of God will come (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981c: 81)1.


He took his mother and took her off the tree.

—Stand by my side! My sin should be nothing in the world. Before God I should have no sin.

His mother stood beside him. Jancsi Babér drew his sword, and lifted it into the sky beside him, straight upwards. When he threw up the sword, the sword fell back downwards —well, it went into his mother’s head, and came out from her backside (Nagy G., coll. 1985d: I, 188).

In another instance, by listening to the categorical imperative of common sense and neighbourly love, he pardons the former sinner (his father, brothers)

—[…] I do not need this old king, even as a servant, but I will tell my own story. You, my kingly father, say you have no one. Never had anyone? / —But, once I had a son, I tied him on the back of a stallion, because he had let go of my one hundred year old prisoner. I have no family. / —The child you tied on the stallion's back is me, my father. You didn't recognize me, did you? But as soon as you entered my court, I recognised you. And it wasn’t you who stole the spoon, I'll tell you honestly. I put it in your pocket with my servant to test you. / —Sweet son! / —My Father! As I said. If you think you’ll stay with me, I'll send my mother a carriage and she’ll be here. Because you felt something in your heart for me, and so you tied me to the stallion’s back, I give you some bread for your old age (Szapu, coll. and ed. 1985a: 97-98).

In order to see and understand the Kantian statement, I already need to have pre-existing, proprietary knowledge, of what I do not know, what I do not know enough about, and what I am not able —due to my limited knowledge— to do, to judge, or to draw out the capacity to bring judgement. Consequently, I understand and accept that I am forced into a state of vulnerability in relation to (an)other(s): to make a judicious decision, to interpret the law without prejudice and bias, or to exercise judgment of the elders/ancestors. Above all, there is even a need to understand what Franz Rosenzweig wrote in his essay on Buber: plain lies are easy to make good —they are revocable; but the act is irrevocable (Rosenzweig, 1990: 102). They are utterly irreversible, or even unrepeatable, if the imposition of a “definitive” judgment, based on the “sacrifice mechanism” described by Girard (Girard, 2001: 32-46), leads (or might lead) to the unjustified death, loss, or sacrifice of an innocent “scapegoat”, something which I will discuss in this study.

Kant also says elsewhere, that if we are not speaking of domination, and «we do not restrict ourselves to the missing pieces of knowledge that are needed to make a judgement» (Kant 2014: 8), then —because «the mind wants to be satisfied» (Kant 2014: 8)— it is forced to become informed. But in a folk tale, it is not at all certain that this “satisfaction” is constituted by reason and desire for righteousness, goodness and virtue, insight and knowledge to forgive, and not arrogant lust for power, rank and fame which seeks to transcend divine glory, sexual desire2, violent manifestation of the will of the father, and the inexorable desire to solve someone’s message/letter/dream, and in a complete sense3. Some of the kings in the narrative actually follow Kantian orientation in their judgment and allow the right of necessity to enter into their thinking. They listen to others or (the good sense of)4 the truthful heart because of their limited or deficient knowledge, that is to say, Alvinczi’s criterion of “maintaining the commonwealth, i.e. ordinary human society”: «Whatever is necessary for the law and care for ordinary survival, is also necessary for the one who defends the law […]» (Alvinczi, 1989: 120). And since the lawgiver has not lost the knowledge of forgiveness, neighbourly love, or mercy5, («Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.» [Jn 7:24]), he is capable of retracting hurried, false or hasty judgment.

Then the king gathered the wise, and the fortune-tellers, and asked what the child, the brother, who was hiding his brother, deserved. He wanted to hide him. / Well, the fortune-tellers and the scientists told him that he deserved death for death. Well, soon the king announced that his two sons should be tied to the tail of a fast foal and carried to the castle courtyard. But the brother wouldn't let him. He said:

—Father, I won't allow that! This is what I say: we cannot be at peace like this. Please free my two brothers and set them on their journey. (Nagy G., coll. 1985c: I, 472-473)

Other kings, delighted with their self-belief and mania for power, throw scorn on the law («What people say, how disgusting this king is, he even takes the skin of the back of the poor [is true]» Varga, 2014: 94), pardon, and forgiveness, and let themselves be led by anger, stupidity, stigma and desire for exclusion. And later —when the shameful (preliminary) judgment is unveiled in the tale’s conclusion, when the hero hidden behind the mask reveals himself and speaks of the sacrifices he has made— they are destroyed and forced to abandon their power (see, for example, the variations of ATU 314, previously 532).


It seems we can address the question: Who is able and entitled to give advice (teach)? Who has the sure, convincing, acceptable, responsible, and not least legitimate/detailed knowledge and wisdom needed to make a just decision in a given crisis situation? In the etymological dictionaries we see that the Hungarian term “council/advice” (tanács) is probably a derivative of the verb tan- (to teach), and elsewhere we read that the basic term tan is an ancient derivation from the Uralic era: the Zürjen tun (seer), the Votjak tunadamsz (study), and the Samoyed tanandang (learn)6. Thus, in the Hungarian-language folk tale world, the person giving the advice —the advisor— is himself a seer, a person with the kind of knowledge who —satisfying the requirements of the Kantian concept— is able to use theoretical and practical reasoning at the same time, and for whom this latter is «the regulation (Vorschrift) of moral law» (Kant 2014: 10). But to keep within the spirit of sagas and fairy tales, it is worthwhile to refer to Claude Lecouteux, who, in the tradition of excellent mediaeval scholars, is supported by a vast amount of data, and discusses the relationship between the gandus and the magician in a chapter in the pages of his excellent book Les extatiques paiens. «The History of Norway, a 12th century chronicle, devotes a whole chapter to professional ecstatics […]: The Laplanders worship a vile spirit called gandus (the Norse gandr), thanks to whom they make prophecies, see far-off things in space and time, and discover hidden treasures. (Lecouteux, 2003: 35-36). Then, examining the quoted text of the chronicle, he emphasizes: «The text does indeed say praeruptus ventrem, which thwarts the intention of the narrator, who tries to get us to believe that tha gandus is an evil spirit serving the magicians.» (Lecouteux, 2003: 36-37).

Anne Defrance, examining 17th-9th century magic tales, states that in the world of miracles, the mighty —fairies, magicians, and geniuses— have always embodied the notion of supreme knowledge, and power over the world7. Fairies and magicians can decipher the Great Book or the Book of Fates. We sometimes see them being described as wizards in the Bible: «Long ago there used to be a man called Simon in the city who was a magician and amazed the people of Samaria because he claimed to be very great. The city fathers listened to him and said: “This man is the power of God that is called Great.” And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.» (Acts, 8: 9-11) «Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts.» (Ex 7:11). The French historian, Marie-Françoise Baslez, mentions in her book Bible et Histoire that in the age of Paul, magic was something commonplace and that magicians were recruited from among the Jews (Baslez, 1992: 248-249)8; in Les mages et l’étoile de Bethléem, she notes that «[t]he Persian magicians, without being particularly involved in observing the sky, were responsible for prophecy and the interpretation of dreams» (Baslez, 2004: 247)9. In the tale narratives, they are further represented as scholars/wisemen10, fortune-tellers11, the «foresighted» (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981d: 85), ancient old men, old women, wizards12, taltoses13 (in the words of folklorist Ilona Nagy «mysterious people of fate» Nagy I., 2015: 180), doubles/doppelgangers14, or animals with extraordinary abilities (the ability to speak human languages, or to transfigure themselves), prestigious kings from another country, ministers, advisors, witches who deceive the king (not uncommonly «Gypsy» women), depending on whether the intention is to link the giver of advice and the meaning of what he says to the sacred (biblical) or the profane (sometimes mythical), as it illuminates his/her existential character. Because of the variety of their forms of appearance, we tend to ignore the latter distinction, and as a result we group the individual tales tellers and/or negate the marked differences between them and their worldviews. So —intentionally or not— we deprive the originally religious tellers of their original intentions and interpretations, and deprive ourselves of the astonishingly and immeasurably rich repertoire of the “religious tale”.

In the person of the visionary, fortune teller15, magus, magician, wise person, teacher, counsellor16 who appears in the tale narratives, we first and foremost meet an interpreter (mediator and interpreter). In addition, he/she adds commentary to the secret message to facilitate the king’s/pharaoh’s (and listener’s) position as a recipient, as this saves him from a face-threatening failure and hasty judgment. Folklorists and anthropologists know well that every time a storyteller assumes that his audience, especially the ethnographer, does not understand the meaning of the phrase he uses, the historical situation he evokes, the wisdom he conveys and the meaning of the example, he always provides an enlightening comment: he invokes the interpretive rhetorical turn.

The king applauded, Princes and counts and kings! (Let it be his words, not mine!) The good God has come to test my daughter. (And he was a crazy boy. Well, the little whip commanded everything.) P.M: But where did that whiplash come from? / M.B. Well, this, this, whip! Well, that doesn’t actually come to mind, I’m just saying so (Penckóferné Punykó, coll. 1993a: 115)17.

At this point it is worth first quoting Ilona Nagy, the folklorist: «The tale has many references which are explained by the collector, for the sake of the stranger, and which are not normally explained by a rational person, since everyone who sits there as a listener knows» (Nagy I., 2015: 80). It is worth turning to Foucault, who emphasizes the commentary’s relevance to language and its existence in language «[…] commentary can take place only if there is language-language that silently pre-exists within the discourse by which one tries to make that language speak; there can be no commentary without the absolute precondition of the text […]» (Foucault, 2002: 87). The interpreter of dreams-secrets tries to hear this absolutely primary language of divine revelation and the kerygmatic message encoded in that language, which is predominantly a tacit message («inspired speech» [Theißen, 2008: 184]), to understand its suggestion precisely, and to render it interpretable in the discourse18, and to overcome the difficulty of «translating» the commentary and «all kinds of symbolic actions, some of which were extremely odd.» (Rad, 2001: II, 95) References to words (parables, symbols, metaphors, allegories, etc.) and ritual signs, «symbolic actions», enclosed in the message text, usually refer to imminent danger.19 Beyond this, they may be interpreted in the context of traditional local or national cultural patterns20, so it can happen that the dream-interpreter is, on the one hand, an “interpreter” who both interprets and explains at the same time, mediates between the messenger and the person waiting for an explanation, while in another sense he is —to use the words of Veronika Görög-Karády— an “initiator”, who understands the future of the tale hero (Görög-Karády, 2006: 389). In almost all narratives, we learn that in order to fully decipher (possibly misinterpret) the message/secret, the interpreter/initiator, like his biblical ancestors, has to pay with his life («for this ministry exposes the prophet to greater danger than anyone else» [Rad, 2001: II, 95]). Retreating from fear of punishment that accompanies a task that seems impossible to others, or its accurate decoding, he/she sometimes holds back from undertaking the task itself for a certain amount of time.

Well, when dawn broke, the king was really sad about the new, exciting dream. He called together many, many wise men, professors and advisors. He called them together, so that they could interpret the new dream. And then, there was a very old man —maybe even ninety years old, who said he could interpret the king’s dream. When he began to interpret the king’s dream, first he said to the king:

—But my Royal Majesty, I would not like to be hurt, but to be honest and truthful.

—Well —the king said— you won't be, but tell me. [...]

This king was so annoyed at the poor old man that he had drawn his sword to cut him in two, but there were those who protected him, making sure that the king would not destroy the old man. But he also brandished it among the other prisoners. Well, please, the old man suffered for his truth-telling» (Bálint S., coll. 1975a: 183) [Emphasis added —PB].

And if he has to “translate” the message accurately (“tell the truth”), tell the danger/trouble (Rad, 2001: II, 403-404) to the king, he endlessly tries to hide his dream, lest he loses his life early. He is aware that being a “person with a mission”, he alone is capable of deciphering the message/dream, and averting the danger which threatens the king, usually by means of an outsider/celestial being whose existence, without having any sacred authority before the king, cannot be immediately revealed.

The seer, the wise, sometimes authority-embodying king of a foreign country —whether they seek advice from him, or encourage him to interpret a dream— seeks to warn, with or without words, above all of the ancient (Old Testament) law and the divine promise made to the elders. Just as occurs in the context which Gerhard von Rad discusses: «In her attempts to learn what constituted obedience to Jahweh and what disobedience, Israel was referred to the conscience of her priesthood» (Rad, 2001: II, 394). However, it is not only the priests but also the men of authority who play a decisive role in this regard. Deeply shocking for the reader/listener is the scene when in the narrative of John, the Pharisees rush to the temple servants: «Why did you not bring him?» (Jn 7:45), and they are accused of losing faith. But in the ring of accusers, the elderly Pharisee and chief Nicodemus («This man came to Jesus by night» [Jn 3:2]), full of doubt and faith, existential fear, and hopelessness, reminds the majority who are wound up by revenge and a desire for immediate judgment, of the law of their fathers: («Does our law judge a man without first giving him a hearing and learning what he does?» John 7: 50-51). It is questionable whether it is the adherence to the legal tradition of the ancestors, or the realization of the Saviour foretold by Moses («Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God» [Jn 3:2]) which makes him so brave that, in a tense atmosphere —«visibly degraded» (Marchadour, 2011: 71) in Marchadour’s words— he dares to call upon the wise men of judgment and thus risk himself being condemned. Which, even if it does not happen, is immediately prompted by the comment by “his own people”: «Are you from Galilee too? Search and see that no prophet arises from Galilee» (John 7:52). Alain Marchadour is of the opinion that, in Nicodemus’ eyes, Jesus is just a man and they need to listen to his defence and acknowledge what he does (Marchadour, 2011: 73). What is essential, however, is that Nicodemus remains silent against the wishes of his own people: this silence becomes significant in the text by (1) leaving space for an undefined personal development of the narrator, (2) making him fundamentally isolated, and no longer an ally for his own people, and uncertain in relation to Jesus, which is why his intervention does not lead in any definite direction (Marchadour quoting Vignolo, 2011: 73-74). Alan Culpepper, on the other hand, says exactly the opposite, arguing that Nicodemus’ actions indicate that he himself believes in Jesus, even if his answer to the Pharisees is far from a confession21. Culpepper refers to Steven A. Hunt, who provocatively states that Nicodemus may be the «spokesman for these Pharisees» (who appear in Chapters 9 and 3), from which Culpepper concludes that for the reader he embodies the division among the Pharisees («Nicodemus personifies for the reader the division among the Pharisees» [Culpepper, 2016: 257])22.

Kant clearly states: «[…] the moral law preceded [the human being] as a prohibition» (Kant, 2009: 42) («but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.» [Gen 17]). Girard also states precisely: «The goal of the Law is peace among humankind. Jesus never scorns the Law, even when it takes the form of prohibitions» (Girard, 2001: 14). In the Christian tradition, the prohibition was preceded, firstly by the Ten Commandments, which although «[…] perhaps not actually giving Luther’s ideas an extreme interpretation by regarding the whole Old Testament as the deposit of a “legal religion”, at the very least took it for granted that the decalogue was “Law”» (Rad, 2001: II, 389), and secondly, by the “golden rule”. Northrop Frye thinks of the interpretation of the law and basic wisdom as follows: «Law is general: wisdom begins in interpreting and commenting on law, and applying it to specific and variable situations. There are two wider principles in such wisdom. In the first place, the wise man is the one who follows in the accepted way, in what experience and tradition have shown to be the right way» (Frye, 1983: 121). A wise man23, no matter how old he may be in the tale, with the experience of sacred knowledge and accumulated experience, even if he does not initially and immediately reveal, does not disclose, that the plight of the individual (king) in need of counselling is related to the desire to free himself from a previous sinful act/relationship, in other words, he is evoking a not completely honest promise/covenant («Shall we make a blood pact? / —I don't need it! A word itself is enough for a king. Well, if you have a credible line, you wouldn't talk about paper and you wouldn't talk about a blood pact! But if one man can be trusted by another, just the mere word is enough, because pure truth dwells in the soul.» [Grin, ed. 2005: 211]). It is also possible that the situation was caused by a masked character weakness, an obsession with evil power, or some kind of unconquerable animal instinct within the human being that covers up good sense. And since the king is unable to see the cause of his momentary confusion, his indecision, his world-emptiness (in the sense of non-vision), because of his personal involvement (sometimes he must judge the people of his own house24), in his rage he suddenly appears scandalously biased, and maybe he is. Therefore, in his process of orientation, he will turn to another/others who see better, more clearly, than he does, because he or she assumes that they are impartial, and possess sufficient experience and knowledge to consider the good and the bad, to find the right and the wrong.

Then the king was very pleased with his son, and then he remembered that he had wanted to hang his son and that the counsellors were right. They had won over his bad intentions and he thanked God that he’d listened to his counsellors (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981d: 124).

It is true —and this must not be overlooked or ignored— that sometimes, under the logic of ruthlessly strict conditions imposed by the king («You know, there is no mercy in the laws of kings» [Grin, ed. 2005: 221]), counsellors are not free from threats (Rad, 2001: II, 74-75), nor from the cunning, or subtle speech which these threats cause, as we see in some biblical stories and tale narratives. The behaviour and attitude of the true wise person(s) is clearly stated by the Apostle James: «But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity»25 (Jas 3:17). If we look at where the sages (the storytellers) take their case law from, apart from the Laws and divine revelations, then it is the judgements of former judges and the “Parables” (and the 3,000 parables collected by Solomon), and (folk) wisdom must also be mentioned. This is why Frye says, although of course, restricting himself to the worldly, commonplace horizon of everyman, and with his wiser form somewhat diminished in its metaphysical aspect, its divine inspiration, its visionary abilities: «The wise man’s present moment is the moment in which past and future are balanced, the uncertainties of the future being minimized by the observance of the law that comes down from the past» (Frye, 1983: 128-129).

A further highlight among the expectations of the wise is that they must be able and willing to take responsibility for the fate of the other (sometimes a cursed being and sometimes a whole divine people), without any desire for profit. When legislating, it is not possible to assert material self-interest, to insist on a status granting extraordinary rights, to hold a separate opinion, or to hide behind a deceptive veil of a loss of ability in a given situation.26 However, many take advantage of —or hope for— this opportunity in the fairy tale. In their law enforcement and advisory activities, the condition imposed on them, which Rosenzweig summarizes, is that: «as soon as a capability becomes capable, it is no longer capable; it becomes an otherwise-incapable-capacity, a requirement» (Rosenzweig, 1990: 105). This obligatory exercise of skill (which is similar to knowledge when knowledge is no longer continuous learning, but the possession of knowledge) can no longer be neglected. We can no longer pretend it is not in our possession, cannot circumvent the task entrusted to us simply because its consequences are delicate, dangerous, outrageous, or contradictory, and because the solution is outrageous to others (the community). From this point of view, it is instructive to consider the words of Gama’li-el, the master of Jerusalem Pharisee theology (from whom Paul studied [Marguerat, 2004: 144]), and one of the temple masters who condemned Peter and John, when speaking in the council:

But a Pharisee in the council named Gama’li-el, a teacher of the law, held in honour by all the people, […] And he said to them, “Men of Israel, take care what you do with these men. […] So in the present case I tell you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this undertaking is of men, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!” So they took his advice […] (Acts 5:34-35, 38-39).

This entrustment to the will of God in judgment, which John emphasizes: «I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I seek not my own but him who sent me» (Jn 5:30) (Léon-Dufour, 1990: II, 63), and the deliberate retreat of the mighty on earth are found in one of the tales of István Jakab:

When the old king looked around with his half-eye and heard what they were talking about, and who was discussing it, the old king says, “Well, you see, you are just children!” / He said to the king:

Believe, my king, believe from me that you have sent your own sweet child to death. You cannot be the hangman for your child and neither can anyone else. Rather, she must be given to the destiny and will of God.

The other kings were asked what he should do. The old king says, / - You must grab the girl and put her in a barrel, and seal it up. Leave a hole in one side of the barrel where she can breathe» (Nagy and Vöő, 2002c: 427. Cf. Lammel A. and Nagy I., coll. and eds. 1985: 427).

It is undoubtedly a fact that one can study at length puzzles and mysterious messages demanding the interpretation of the life situation in the tale narrative, continue the productive or even divergent discourse of earlier interpretations of the law and divergent case law, perhaps make many suggestions on the basis of the many ways of seeing of many pairs of eyes (which sometimes overwrite each other, or contradict each other), which is precisely why we can say that disputing the law (in principle) is a wise process. But “becoming a requirement” demands from all those involved in counselling a prudent moral commitment, that is to say, absolute loyalty, which is not equal to a servile spirit, or the suppression of free expression, turning away one’s eyes, profitability, or the desire to conform. In the tale, the silence or delayed disclosure of the dream, signifies loyalty, even if the king interprets this delay at the first moment as a completely different gesture, as a resistance to his will. Because his impatient curiosity, his desire for full knowledge demands immediate response. So he experiences silence as a scandalous, unacceptable rejection of his condemnation, which he rewards as does a tyrant: punishing the discouraging denialist by walling him up, exiling him from the world. The king of folk tales reasonably assumes what Görög-Karády says after examining the tale narratives: «In some cases, the narrator tries to rationalise this episode of “interrogation”: in fact, behind it lies the presumption that dreams contain information, pointers to the future that can be important to the dreamer and the environment» (Görög-Karády, 2006: 396). The king interprets silence as a questioning and shaking of his power, or as an attempt at this, which he thinks must be nipped in the bud and suppressed by his legitimate power.

When, in certain narratives, the king calls upon wise men or kings of other countries27 to hear his decision in an emergency, which, because of his sense of hurt and embarrassment, can be no more than a hasty one, or, at his request, speak in his name, we almost always see those who have been “called on” by the community. Indeed, they argue fiercely, contradict each other, or exaggerate their condemnation, but most of all try to hide their uncertainty. Girard says with cruel ruthlessness in this regard: «The existence of a debate already indicates that a decision is impossible. The indecisive debate reflects the crisis that it endeavours to decide» (Girard, 1989: 112). György Kocsi, a Catholic theologian, explains the different historical experiences: «[…] the opposing parties called upon God to justify their views, and they may not have conveyed God’s pure teaching, but often expressed their own views as the word of God. Think of Jeremiah’s bitter struggles with the false prophets who spoke in the name of God as he did (Jer 19-20; 27-28)» (Kocsi, 2007: 408). The Girardesque crisis goes beyond the personal indecision of the king —and the advisers; in one sense it highlights the impossibility of the law and legal custom. Alternatively, the crisis may be traced back to an existential conflict that, beyond the life of the litigant, jeopardizes the safety of the whole community, in the sense that the continuity of royal inheritance is unravelled. The disobedience of the prince or princess is an outrage because the decision inspired by love must be condemned because it breaches the custom of the law. The crisis, as Cseke refers to Girard, simply highlights that «[…] imitation, hate, mutual opposition, common judgment, false testimony, and secretly or overtly violent acts against a chosen enemy are all an unconscious mechanism in which individuals participate as “puppet-like pupils of mimeticism” and serve the community's cyclically self-destructive and rebuilding life, that is, its ultimate maintenance» (Cseke, 2016: 15). Recognizing the crisis, seeking to seize the opportunity, the self-proclaimed counsellors, who are self-deprecating, unabashedly powerless, will, like disrespectful flies, fly to the corpse of the victim treated as a scapegoat and to the king wounded in his sense of hurt.

Once upon a time there was a king, who lived far beyond the furthest seas. He was so powerful that he had a great reputation all over the earth. All the kings were talking about the fact that while he was alive, the system would never change. He was not a bad man, he did not wish evil on the people, he always sought truth for the people. But there were many, many rich boyars who wanted to deceive him» (Nagy O., coll. and intr. 1988: 185).

Examining the tale narratives, we see that competing in interpretation means that the “wise men” engage in a discourse with the purpose of, among other things, the desire to exert influence before the king, to profit from the promised reward (the desire for profit), to seek spiritual superiority, to make a show of sophisticated ability and, last but not least, the desirability of being a deterrent judge/victim maker28. But in the tale narratives there is an old king who sweeps aside the suggestions of fake advisers, and profit-seeking ministers, and even if he does not acquit, produces a judgement acceptable to everyone to avoid the ritual murder. The essence of this judgment is to trust “fate” to God in future litigation, instead of violence based on mimetic rage. As such, the judges accept the overruling of their judgments, thereby relieving themselves of subsequent prosecution, and the king is freed from rendering a judgment which is contrary to the moral values ​​of the community and which requires a modification of the law. This is an important moment because the tale narrative reveals the victim’s innocence.29

Most storytellers, though individuals belonging to the marginalized class of peasant society, are not social or agrarian revolutionaries, as Ortutay wanted to present the great storyteller Fedics30, nor even the fierce enemy of the traditional (Christian) order. On the contrary, they experience in their own world a religious-ethical inclination, a religion without a divine experience, so they are more “restorers” of values ​​for the traditional community they are accustomed to, and are accepted as the advocates of truth and virtue in setting up the opposition between the heroes and their opponents in what is thought to be the normal context of life. The storyteller is not a representative of communist ideas that transform existing society, but a courageous promoter of a socially better “just” life under the existing circumstances. Let us honestly ask ourselves, contemporary researchers, where would he have obtained the knowledge, courage, and impulse to proclaim futuristic, social ideas given that he was raised in the spirit of the Christian beliefs and local laws/traditions of the peasant world?31 The spirit and world of the tale were in fact fed from an archaic belief system and a communal-Christian approach which meant that the Carpathian Basin region, as a result of the backward economic-social conditions, by no means wished to distance itself from the centuries-old tradition because it could only affirm and define itself in this way.


Counselling, like a parable, is actually a “parable discourse”32 (1), which can be quite brief, and it is only the person of the “counsellor” (the one who ‘intervenes’ in the Biblical sense) who dominates the conversation («I who speak to you am he» [Jn 4:26]). (2) It may require reflexivity when the hero has to reflect on his anticipated fate, meaning that the call must be answered in some way to make it clear to the counsellor: «Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word.» (Jn 8:43). (3) It can be an open revelation/self-demonstration when the hero does not hesitate to declare/confess his fate in a distressed situation.

Let us consider some narrative examples to justify the above.

Well, my lord, my creator, when they got to a forest, they found a man on the edge of the forest. A very old man. But he was such an old man, that he could barely walk.

—May God wish you good evening, grandfather!

—May God wish the same to you, my son. Where are you going in this great world?

—Well, my dear grandfather, you gave me advice in my dream. Please give me advice now, too!

—I’ll give it to you, but not for free.

—How should I pay, grandfather?

—I'm hungry, my son.

With that he took out the food from his satchel, and gave it to the old man. (Nagy G, coll. 1985b: I, 239.) [emphasis added —PB.]

The voluntary gesture (which is the epitome of free grace), which at first sight is denied to the hero, is in fact a trial, in the spirit of Marion (2007: 71), or we could express it as: Can I give first without a desire for profit? Giving food or hospitality, as a symbolic act of Christian neighbourly love, convinces the patron, the counsellor, that the hero who asks for help is ready for openness, inclusion, spiritual well-being, continuous dialogue; in other words, he deserves the help which advice can provide.

The counsellor, either by listening to a “heavenly voice”, or recalling the Code of Laws or the decisions of previous judges, or relying on his own experiences and observations, setting out conditions and prohibitions, sets the tone for the one seeking advice, who is “unsure” in his confusion, but has the potential for balanced, thoughtful, and prudent behaviour. Typically, in the particular syntactic structure of “parable discourses”, the counsellor (dream interpreter) (1), before fully or partially deciphering the dream, obscures the celestial message / dream, for the sake of caution against the earthly governor, and at first he speaks mysteriously, pathetically. We see this in the name of his own god, or it is implied that he has been lent authority, but he calls this god, who is unacceptable to the ruler, only in a state of fear. (2) He puts forward decisive questions or parables that promise a wise and acceptable solution for the discerning and believing listeners, equipped as they are with their knowledge of biblical stories, holy places, and folk wisdom. (3) Moreover, his speech which anticipates the royal destiny, and foresees imminent trouble in the near future: “you will see ...”, “this is how it will be…”, (cf. Brague, 2005: 108) alternates between imperative and declarative. (4.) Explaining the command hidden in the advice, illuminating the source of the forthcoming trouble and averting it, and indicating the possibilities for survival, making the alien god/spirit’s suggestion to the ruler clear to him does not necessarily require an immediate response from the addressee; but he waits patiently, expecting cooperation, expecting the response and/or act of judgment which derives from insight.

There are many types of folk tales about someone (mostly the protagonist) receiving/hearing a message in his/her dream (Solymossy, 1943: 286-340): he hears/receives an apodictic revelation, or knowledge which defines his destiny: the dream thus has a text-constituting and meaning-making function. The Christian Bible Lexicon defines a dream as: «An experience of sleeping (H. halóm, Gr. onar). […] According to the unified testimony of the Old Testament, God uses sleep in various forms as a means of revelation. Thus the dream will be a simple prophecy, a way of proclaiming the future in pictures (Gen 37:5 ff; 40:41; Judges, 7:13; Dan 2:1 ff; 4:1 ff), a means of deciphering some mystery (1 Sam 28:65; Job 4:12 ff), a warning or admonition from God (Job 7:14), or a divine command (Gen 20:6; 31:11, 24).»33 Theißen divides dreams into two —and from our point of view important— clearly distinct groups: «In the Bible, we can distinguish between informative dreams that are self-explanatory, and symbolic dreams that require explanation. [...] In the New Testament only the informative dream occurs» (Theißen, 2008: 128). Medieval scholar Lecouteux writes: «Dreams were part of daily reality in the pagan world» (Lecouteux, 2003: 28) and later goes on: «To the pre-Christian mind-set, sleep permits the free movement of genies, spirits, and Doubles, and distance presents no obstacle whatsoever» (Lecouteux, 2003: 29). The folklorist Veronica Görög-Karády, who examines tales which feature a predestination dream from a fundamentally structural point of view, distinguishes between the dream-seeing and the dream-explaining aspects of dreams (Görög-Karády, 2006: 390). For dream vision, as the prediction of the hero’s fate, when another (a helper) tells the hero about the task ahead and its consequences,34 we could cite many tale examples, and here just two will suffice:

Well, —he says— on a nice evening, they lie down on the fleece in front of the hide on the embroidered fleece, with the old shepherd. Bandi says: “Brother Peter, give me enough bread for a couple of days, I don’t ask for anything else. I’m leaving, I’m setting out on my way, and I’m going to continue until I hear something else. Then, when I’m done, and I can’t go any further, then I’ll come back, I’ll look for Uncle Peter.” Well, Uncle Peter started thinking: “Well, my son” he said “I am sorry, but I will not hold you back on your path, I had those kind of dreams, as I told you, as if I had seen you as a king, son. Go on, try your luck! (Bálint S., coll. 1975c: 448-449) [emphasis added —PB]


Well, time passed, time went round. Here comes the man back to his home —of course, he was tired— from his work. His wife was very happy to tell him something. She said: “My dear partner, she said, now I want to tell you good news.” “What's that my wife? Tell me!” “Well —she said— I had a dream which showed me we would have a little family. But not only did it come in a dream, but I know for sure it’ll be so, anyway. (Bálint S., coll. 1975c: 478) [emphasis added —PB.]

Deciphering the dream of predestination, which often awaits the hero himself, is of paramount importance in the folk tale; as Görög-Karády puts it: «According to the texts, the dream seems to be decisive because it points in a direction relevant to the dreamer: in fact, his personality induces a dream that is nothing other than the fulfilment of desire. A dream-driven hero is an active, self-conscious person, and confident in himself» (Görög-Karády, 2006: 400).

One night, when the king goes to bed, he saw in a dream that his daughter gave birth to two sons at the same time. Those boys will be so strong that there will be none stronger in the world, and they will occupy the whole world.

In the morning, when he gets up, he tells his dream to the great people, the ministers and the wise men, so they can interpret his dream. Well, they all said that he had to build a house for the girl on one of the biggest rocks, a palace, and lock her inside, with an iron door, to prevent anyone at all from entering. (Görög, coll. and ed. 2012b: 68)

3.1. The scapegoat who conceals the dream

Let us consider other examples of how to decipher (understand) the dream of predestination and to keep silent about (delayed decoding) the mysterious message, and the ‘self-conscious’ hero’s fulfilment of destiny. I would rather say that, unlike Jonah in the Bible, the hero is one who accepts his mission, follows the path indicated for him and trusts the promise made to him right to the end.

Mihály Fedics’s tale “The Boy Who Concealed His Dream” (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 193-202), which is not only one of the best known versions of dream-concealment in the Hungarian language area, but also, beyond the structuralist approach, offers an excellent opportunity for narratological and phenomenological interpretation. The very beginning of the story is fundamentally different from the other versions:

Then it became so fashionable in countries, among the Kings, that whoever dreamed, everyone had to tell the dream the next morning. This young man had dreamed of a bigger danger to the king, as if it had already come to pass, and so he did not reveal it. So the king had him put among the stones. But so that he would waste away, and not die quickly (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 193. [emphasis added —PB.])

The storyteller —in an unusual way— plays with time: its relation to the story and the storytelling; he starts by saying “then it became fashionable”. The word ‘then’ is not essentially different from the word ‘after’ (‘après cela’ has no particular historical value [Léon-Dufour, 1990: II, 100]), with which it is possible to start the founding story, but in both cases the implicit or earlier existence and validity of the pre/earlier time is decisive —the time which the ‘then’ separates— as it delimits the narrative that is being told in the present, which is the introductory (but not the initial) part of the narrative. It follows that presumably there was no such fashion before. The tale does not tell us that it was customary to admit the dream before the ‘then’ (and not at the beginning), only that when the story was told (i.e. not at the time of the story), this fashion was already customary. The storyteller Fedics pretends, like biblical narrators, that as an omniscient narrator, he was aware of what was before, even in the beginning. André Wénin defines the beginning as: «The beginning cannot be conceived as a determined or determinable moment or time, but rather as a kind of space in which humanity appears with all the components that constitute it here and now, everywhere and always» (Wénin, 2000: 34). Fedics is generous, in other words, like biblical narrators and storytellers (as he had heard in preachers’ interpretations), he refuses to have a historically definable past («The gospel text does not give a date, but it does demonstrate good knowledge of the procedure for registering people. […]» [Baslez, 1992: 190]), of events which occurred in the past. He is only interested in the time of the story being told (Focant, 2000: 90), and in doing so, he wants to give greater credibility, believability, and reality to what is being told. Klaus Seybold’s statement about the factual nature of biblical texts is important from our point of view: «There is little sign in the narratives that they function as evidence of reality. […] Often the narrator draws attention to traces and signs (‘until the day’) that suggest the reality of what was said» (Seybold, 2010: 151). This is the language we see in the case of many storytellers, including in the tale told by Tombácz, “He Who Understood the Words of Animals”: «When the thing happened which I want to talk about now […]» (Bálint S., coll. 1975b: 534).

The text also emphasizes “everyone had to tell the dream”, which is a kind of binding order for everyone («The purest verbal expression of authority is the word of command […]» [Frye, 1983: 211]), even outside the king’s direct environment, i.e. for the whole people, which comes from the mouth of the king who represents the state, and to whom everyone is legally responsible. However, legal responsibility can only be discussed if the order/ban has been publicly announced or expressed in writing and is known to everyone35, which is why Fedics started the tale by saying, “then it became fashionable”. In interpreting the passage relevant to our case (II Kings 22:13), Frye notes: «[…] the king’s obvious conviction that it was a matter of highest importance for the people as a whole to know the contents of a written document. Inevitably such a document would be a law book: the primary social elements to be committed to writing are the laws» (Frye, 1983: 201). Unlike primitive societies, there is a feudal hierarchy interpreted by storytellers in a special way in the folk tale (even though the king has some of the prestige of the primitive tribal chief). In further exploring the possible meaning of the command to “everyone”, it is worth considering Theißen’s statement, although he himself approaches the issue from the point of view of religious philosophy and writes of the “golden rule” (Matt. 7:12) that «it is a commandment binding upon all men. In this way, a maxim designed for the rulers became mandatory for ordinary people, and a rule that was originally practiced among people close to one another became a code of conduct for all humans» (Theißen, 2008: 437). The obvious question is: where does this reference to “everyone” —as a key word— come from in the memory and linguistic repertoire of the highly religious Fedics? A literary hermeneutist can only assume knowledge of the narrator, but he can hardly speak of certainties without the risk of error. Thus we can assume that some details of the interpretation of the priest reading Paul’s letters many times in the Temple remain in the memory of the narrator. In Theißen’s discourse on conscience, Paul, referring to Romans 2:8-11, speaks of an act-based judgment that «extends to all human beings, whether Jewish or Gentile» (Theißen, 2008: 459) —the latter phrase gaining special meaning in our case, since the story talks about a power rivalry between a Christian king and a Turkish sultan. But at the close of the tale, the sentence is pronounced, and the victim is about to meet the fate of the scapegoat: the boy stands by the gallows and the Turkish Sultan notices the approach of two armies of different colours (white and black) with distinctly different attributes —obviously following Fedics’ own religious beliefs and culture— and asks the hangman for his own hanging in order to gain his own spiritual salvation36, not knowing that «he that is hanged [on a tree] is accursed of God. (Deut 21:23)» (Frye, 1983: 149)37. Girard is right again: «The powers themselves proclaim their false glory, but the Cross reveals their violent origin […]» (Girard, 2001: 142), as the innocence of the scapegoat to be sacrificed is revealed in the well-deserved death of the Turkish Sultan.

Fedics’ Christian king issues a binding order unworthy of a good ruler on a subject that is neither lawful nor biblical, and which forbids one to remain silent about, i.e. to conceal, an otherwise uncheckable dream by the power of a word which overrides all previous custom. After all, the reigning king believes that the secret38, mysterious, non-ordinary message may have the power of divine prophecy (the true prophet’s message is an unpopular message [Frye, 1983: 126]) and may be a source of danger for him. As von Rad writes: «[…] the reason why these men [the prophets] were hated and feared was this power inherent in the word. Their power to bring about disaster, and the possibility that they might do so, were not contested» (Rad, 2001: II, 91). The king suspects, as in the Bible story of Nebuchadnezzar, and because he does not trust anyone, he is infinitely lonely and terrified. That is why he is capable of threatening and killing (threatening the other with death is a declaration of murderous intent, and in a contradictory way sounds just like the biblical statement: «Don’t fear!» which confirms that you should «Fear me because my revenge will be fulfilled!»). Let us repeat the words of Nebuchadnezzar, also determined to behave in a stubborn fashion in his suspicion: «The word from me is sure: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins» (Dan 2:5). The difficulty lies not in the conviction, for determination, consistency, keeping one’s word are in themselves (royal) virtues, but it is the anger of suspicion, the righteous judgment which comes from a sudden rush of blood, which distinguishes the suspicious king from the wise one: «He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly» (Prov 14:29).

Paul Ricœur asks a crucial question that is relevant in our case:

What does announcing signify here? It is not a foreseeing, in the sense of seeing into the future. Rather it is saying in advance what will be. The announcement, in this sense, bears on an apodictic future, halfway between the indicative and the imperative. This unique kind of link to the future holds in reserve the enigmas that will occupy us (Ricœur, 1998: 168).

The boy does not tell what he dreamed, does not tell the king about the imminent danger, in other words he hides, conceals, keeps secret what he will have to say anyway when he sees that the time has come, the time for the message currently veiled, and existing in silence, to be brought forth and spoken. It is his task to recount and decipher the dream: to make it audible and visible. In accordance with Albert Mello’s expression, the verbs “be attentive” and “listen” are synonymous, and create a synonymous parallelism (Mello, 2017: 112); and only after this can the other two tasks —to interpret and comment— be completed.

Of course, the tale is not about how they checked (perhaps with the help of some dream commandoes, or «thought-police» [Frye, 1983: 131]) whether everyone was dreaming and, if so, what they were dreaming. We have no idea whether the boy had dreamed of anything, nor can we have any idea («Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.» [Dan 2:19]). In truth we have no idea how it happened that the young man had concealed his dream, nor whether was there ever such an important man whose dream had so much influenced the king that he would have to listen, and indeed to be shut up in a stone building as a result of his silence. This silence on the part of the narrator, or even more precisely the silence about certain facts (just like in a detective story), enhances the dynamism and dramatic nature of the tale: we would probably be no more advanced in the story if we were aware of the missing facts.

At the beginning of the story, the listener/reader is not, or may not be, aware that the young man is a prophet39 (in the tale, however, we need to be careful about the term “prophet”40; in this present case, however, it is about more than just fulfilling the role of a fortune teller or seer), since «The prophet is the messenger certain of being sent by God to say what God will certainly do» (Ricœur, 1998: 169)41. In his manifestation in the text, it is only certain that in some way, he has fallen into disarray, this unspoken story followed by a brutal judgment narrative, is condensed into a single sentence, and the victim who takes on the persona of the scapegoat is condemned by the king to a lingering death: «So the king had him put out on the stones in revenge» (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 193). At this point, the narrator deliberately or unintentionally speaks: he anticipates the immediate future, i.e. places the future (what stands in front of him) in the past (what stands behind him): “it has come to fruition”, as the dream could have come true in the story. Wolf speaks of the Old Testament concept: «The future […] does not for the Israelite lie before him, but at his back» (Wolff, 1974: 88). At this point in the story, for the time being, only the fact of dream suppression has been fulfilled: which is scandalous in the king's eyes and so he harshly punishes the boy; the narrator, with the verb “fulfilled”, refers to the first part of the boy’s dream. The French anthropologist of religion, René Girard, writes in his book The Scapegoat: «To Herodias, John the Baptist is scandalous because he speaks the truth, and there is no worse enemy of desire than its own truth. That is how it can make a scandal of this truth; the truth itself becomes scandalous, and that is scandal at its worst» (Girard, 1989: 133). In Girard’s sense, the silence of the dream itself, the denial of revealing the supposed or real truth, is the scandal which must be punished: he himself becomes a scapegoat (like Christ, the universal scapegoat of human sin [Frye, 1983: 149]) and must be cast out; and moreover be condemned to death. In this case, the king alone condemns, no one is asked for advice, and he ignores discourse with councillors and/or sages42. The power of the tyrant rests not on discourse, but on incontrovertible statements, on present-day and future monologues. The king does not want to weigh things up, because his anger against the breaker of the prohibition goes beyond insight and the information provided by common sense, and so he decides as a tyrant: immediately and with no chance of appeal. In making the exclusion, he sets himself apart as a setter of precedent and, in order to give greater weight to his decision, imposes a kind of death that terrifies, horrifies and deters others from breaking the prohibition: «But let it be lingering, so that you do not die quickly» (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 193). Thus he sins against the Law: he does not wish to exercise right judgment or the virtues of mercy with which a king can and should live generously, and let others live (Theißen, 2008: 437—438). In his exemplary narrative, Fedics draws a great deal from the story and linguistic manifestations of the kings of the Old Testament (or Pilate) and Jesus, the scapegoat.

The king's daughter —who always appears in this type of fairy tale— negotiates with the masons to leave an “invisible hole” through which to feed the condemned. Did she do it out of love, as is the determining factor in other versions? Or did you just feel sorry for young man who —apart from breaking the ban— is innocent and who her father had set as a scapegoat in front of the court, and who himself did not want to take part in this play? Did she realize that she herself was breaking the law by rebelling against the judgment and that she was thus accountable for her actions? Did she suspect that this young man possessed the kind of knowledge («prophecy dream, “Then Joseph said to Pharaoh”, “The dream of Pharaoh is one; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do.”» Gen. 41:25), which will in the near future save the king and his whole country? And though she herself had no knowledge of the true dream, the menacing message of the silent dream, and the experience that «behind every prediction of disaster there stands a concealed alternative» (Buber, 2016: 166) she acts as she should with a messenger, a person who knows a secret and can interpret a dream: she saves him from executing a meaningless judgment. To save here means that she wants to give the Other a chance to survive at the cost of her own life; she wishes to give the “guilty” time to prove the meaning of the silence; after the tyrannical decision, she endeavours to defer enforcement of the judgment, whether by deceit or by agreement, patiently waiting for the judgment delivered in anger to be overturned, altered, or possibly annulled. She becomes a companion, as Karl Barth says: «Assistance is an active commitment to the other person. Assistance: being so close to our fellow human being that our own actions help his or her capacity to act. […] Man, as man, as God’s creature, owes this assistance, and he can do no more than stand up for the other» (Barth, 1990: 114). It is owed without anyone claiming the debt or calling for payment; since she is solely and exclusively conscientious in hastening to help her vulnerable fellow human being, she listens to the inner word that comes from the heart. In the narrative text, the possible connotation of “rescuing” the one condemned to a slow death, enclosed in a stone wall, is what Mello says of the basic meaning of “liberating” in the Book of Psalms: «to take prey from the beast’s mouth». In our case this means «grasping [the one condemned to death] from a horrific situation with a brave action» (Mello, 2017: 120).

Reading the text, we have no concrete certainty about the intention to help. It is customary in the folk tale that the assistant later becomes the hero’s wife (although sometimes not, because of their different beliefs and nationalities) and subsequently —but for the listener in the here-and-now— this explains the girl’s actions. In his dramatic story-weaving, Fedics tells us only: «Years later, his father faced the danger that the young man had dreamed of» (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 193). The timing of myth and tale —the real duration of days, months, and years (one day is a year in a tale)— and its rapid passing cannot be measured by the time of real history, but rather we approach the sense of time conceived by the narrator’s stories and prophecies, as Wolff says: «Thus the prophetic promise leads our understanding of time further by showing the way to turn towards the future […].» (Wolff, 1974: 89). Fedics suggests in his story what Ricœur states: «The imminence that the prophet confronts is decidedly intrahistorical» (Ricœur, 1998: 170). The imminent threat of an event occurring in the life of the wicked king is foreshadowed. With all the certainty of his faith, the dream-teller tells the first mysterious quest to the princess who visits him in his hiding place:

I told you, this is my dream! That’s why I didn’t want to tell the dream. I knew if I had explained it, as he understood it, he would become angrier with me and immediately lose his temper. But then he would have been lost, because he would never ever have been able to explain it. (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 195)

The young man’s argument to the princess about what the Turkish Sultan will require of his father still convinces the listener/reader that we are dealing with a prophet (not merely a fortune teller, or seer) who appears frequently in the tale, and who, in his silent dream, would have brought news to the king which, through his unbelief, his inability to see basic common sense, and by the foreshadowing of his own actions, would have brought destruction to them both (Cf. Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981e: 147-178). In this respect, he is not only the prophetic possessor of faith and knowledge, but is himself a lifesaver; in his conduct we recognize the revelation of Jesus that he who believes in the anointed man’s mission (the desire to guide on the true path: the obligation to practice neighbourly love, righteousness, and mercy) is saved, and appears on the right side, as a helper.

In the case of our tale, we must contradict Ricœur’s statement in the Bible report: «[…] the announcement, constitutive of the prophetic message, is not followed by any development of a narrative character where the accomplishment of the prophecy would be recounted» (Ricœur, 1998: 171); the threefold way of deciphering is the essence of the story-telling, and even provokes the anger of the Turkish Sultan: «Well, you dog”, he wrote, “now there is no pardon! You have worked with your wisdom, or with others, but let him come to me, the one who did this to me» (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 197). Anger (which we know «already has the seed of murder» [Theißen, 2008: 444] and in which, «sometimes revenge is reduced to powerlessness or the release of rage and confusion» [Cseke, 2016: 27]) as we shall see later, by its very nature first provokes sorrow for the boy’s loss. But anger ultimately leads to the opposite: it causes the fall of the Sultan because he is unable to recognize that the armed forces arriving from the West and the East are in fact liberating/rescuing soldiers coming to help the dream-explainer on the gallows, and not celestial armies.

In the storyteller’s worldview, we see little difference in character in the work of a king who forbids by law the concealment of a dream, and the sultan who is unable to forgive the successful interpretation of the “pre-set” tasks in the dream/prophecy (i.e. to show mercy to the one who can solve the puzzle). Knowing the secret and breaking the prohibition we encounter everywhere a scapegoat, only the anointed ruler can/will forgive him who serves the interests of his power in the current moment: as such, his mercy is not law enforcement and charity, but self-interest. It is by no means irrelevant that, in expressing his Christian convictions, Fedics goes beyond presenting political-power struggles and interprets justice as an act of grace in the tale’s conclusion.

3.2. The prestige of the father/king: two texts woven together

Finally, let us consider two «Gypsy» story variants that, when we closely read both their structure and their intentions, show a number of similarities, but also many striking differences in story-weaving and presentation.

In the story told by the «gypsy» taleteller with the greatest repertoire (243 folk tales and 13 superstitious stories), Lajos Ámi, «A man had twelve sons and he strictly insisted that every morning they tell him what they had dreamed» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 422-430), the father insists the dream be recounted, but:

The youngest boy, even though his father wanted to cut his neck, would not even say anything about his dream. His father asks:

—So you dreamed?

—I dreamed!

—And why don't you tell me?

—Well, I’m not telling you my dream; I’d rather die!» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 422).

Ámi’s tale shows a haunting resemblance to the founding story of the «gypsy» tale from Marosszentkiraly, János Puji’s “Dog-headed Tartar” (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 105-116) in which the poor man also demands that his three sons dream which craft they wish to follow, and then tell him the next day. «But go to bed at night, and in the morning you tell me what you dreamed of.» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 105). The legitimacy of the Freudian approach, with which Görög-Karády interprets this fact is in no way diminished —«Fatherly and royal arbitrariness coincide: the obligatory reporting of a dream can be considered a symbolic expression of the abuse of parental power» (Görög-Karády, 2006: 399)—, since in both tales it is the youngest who, unlike his brothers, «doesn't want even to tell God. So I will beat him […]» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 106), the father tells the king who is visiting when he asks him to justify his actions («I can’t get it out of this villain! I asked him, “Have you dreamed?” Well, he didn’t deny that he dreamed; he dreamed. But he says that even if I kill him, he will not tell it.» [Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 423]). The “abuse of parental power” that is the threat of corporal punishment, is the traditional form of maintaining the father’s —and of course every other source of teaching authority’s— prestige, and is, of course, found in the biblical parable: «On the lips of him who has understanding wisdom is found, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense» (Prov 10:13, Cf. Bódis, 2018: 91). However, any stigmatization of the hero in our particular tale narrative as “stupid” or “simple” does not fit at all; we would rather describe his behaviour as stubborn, wilful, obstinate, or determined, which in an authoritarian family-social hierarchy obviously qualifies as unacceptable resistance.

Thanks to his familiar story-weaving process, Ámi works his way through the story and delays its progress, making a small detour in the narrative. The boy refuses to interpret the king’s dream, so —according to the logic of the tale— he is made a turkey herd; however, since «he understood all the languages of all the birds and the animals on earth» (Erdész, ed. 1968: II, 423), he learned from the turkeys that the king would get involved in a war, and also that «since the world had existed there had never been such a great war», (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 423) and because of this he started to cry bitterly. In other words, in Ámi’s tale the “symbolic action” mentioned by von Rad in relation to the strange behaviour of the prophets can be accurately demonstrated: «[…] in early cultures it [the sign] probably had an even greater power […] than the word» (Rad, 2001: II, 96). The king monitors everything the boy does with great attention, and, in what in his eyes are the incomprehensible “symbolic acts” he sees the cause of his tears, but the boy refuses to reveal the knowledge which determines the fate of the king and the whole kingdom (instead, he just cries, but «Do not symbolic actions sometimes seem to conceal more than they reveal?» [Rad, 2001: II, 96]). In Ámi’s tale, it is only after the second refusal to report on the news and to interpret the future, that the one who conceals the dream is walled up. From now on, the king’s daughter will give charity to him, and he —and this is a rare occurrence— will be pardoned by the king as a result of the pangs of his conscience. «I do not want it either,” said the king, “I don’t want him to die in the rubbish; poor thing, who laughed at something I don’t even think about!» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 424). The gesture of mercy (which will also be repeated later in the case of the gardener under the gallows), is Ámi’s particular invention, and is based on the realization that the stranger/other was crying/laughing at something that the judge had not thought of; in other words, he was punished for something, condemned to suffer for something that was not a crime: silence or crying/laughing belongs to one’s own private sphere, as we would say today.

The boy is liberated from the “prisont”, and to compensate him for his isolation from light and nature he is promoted as the gardener’s assistant. And as a way of thanking him, he grows such beautiful roses that the old gardener who has long served in the court is demoted. In the tale, it remains somewhat mysterious why the boy puts the old gardener in such a position (accusing him of stealing when he is fired and, in an act of true wizardry, of smuggling his pruning scissors in his bundle) that he is condemned to be hanged. It may not be necessary to look for a particular ethical reason lying in the background. Ámi’s scenic masterstroke includes having the one waiting to be hanged tell the secret («Well, me, they’re going to hang me, but I’m innocent, I know nothing about the theft! But this young gardener will go so far as to steal the king’s daughter!» [Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 427]), a secret contained in the boy’s original dream: «My Father, your Majesty the King, I dreamed this, that I would be the king’s son-in-law, and I did not want to tell that to my father!» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 428). Talking about the dream motif, he unveils the secret: «Because I didn’t want to tell my dream. I dreamed that the king would hold the washbasin for me and the queen the gold shawl. And so the queen will dry me with her towel.» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 116.) We may also suspect that the tale is about the ruthless rivalry of two fortune tellers/magicians, since the “old man” knows his opponent’s secret just as does the holder of the secret himself. Again, Ámi relies on a biblical experience, for, like Joseph’s dream, he anticipates that the king will worship before him43, and he will marry the daughter who cares for him with such faithful love.

Ámi’s hero makes an apologetic confession after the king discovers the love affair between the two young people44 and sees the gardener’s words come true, as well as the justification for his merciful gesture. In Puji’s tale, we hear the prohibition before the judgement much earlier and in a simpler form: «He [the boy] was told not to care for the girl, for only trouble would come of it» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 106).45 In Ámi’s tale, the king also forgives the forbidden relationship, and the boy can finally say that the reason for his “symbolic act”, his crying, was the coming war. The king, at the same time, and relying on biblical histories, declares the boy’s status: «Now I see that he is a man of great intelligence; he sees the future of the world!”, “Well, my son, you are a fortune teller, because you see the future of the world.» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 429).

Ámi’s other original storytelling device we can observe in the fact that the statement in the text, «But if I tell my jealous king what one turkey said to another, then I must die immediately […]» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 428), cannot remain without consequences, even if it is a folk tale, not a play. At the king’s command, he finally told the secret of the turkeys’ talk, after kissing the wife he had been given for revealing the dream twice and for a final time. «But when he said his last word, the gardener’s assistant groaned, and died immediately. He was buried, he was the king’s brave son-in-law no more» (Erdész, coll. and ed. 1968: II, 430). Lastly, as stated in prophecy (and this motif also appears in many other types of variants), anyone who reveals the mystery of the message must die, as if the verb to betray is also accompanied by the revelation of the message and its secret source, and the power it has over someone, and the fact that it introduces them to an uninitiated mystery. Finally, the last occasion, which in relation to Heidegger’s existence related-to-death, is the very last act, after all bears witness to faithful love («Nevertheless, faithfulness represents love, and not the other way round» [Mello, 2017: 117]) for the one to whom it is declared “I love you”; this is the last evocation of the “past”, which is the time before this final accomplishment.

In conclusion, storytellers are keen to reach an interpretive rhetorical turn in both dream interpretation and the giving of advice. In tale narratives —just as in biblical texts— dreamers fear the king’s revenge, so they reveal the secret of the dream, either by telling parables or through intermediaries. What is characteristic of the discourse between folk tale heroes is the fluency of the live speech, the concision of the evangelists, the directness of the address and response, the purposefulness of the ethical teaching on the part of the advice giver, and the expression of the faithfulness on the part of the hero. Storytellers are alive when they can alternate between open and direct speech as in prophetic speech (when the speaker speaks on behalf of someone), and dependent speech in statements alternating between the command and the statement as described by Ricœur.

The concealment of the dream from parents and the decipherment of the predestination dream is a common motif in the folk tale, which tale tellers took from ancient Eastern (Indian, Egyptian, Sumerian-Akkadian) legends and literary texts. In all the narratives, we see that in the fate of the hero, both activities bring a fundamental twist. In the first case, he is exiled from home and only in the final scene is the reason for his initial silence before his parents revealed; in the second case, he is helped to escape from captivity by solving the king’s dream with the help of the mediator (the princess). It seems that in the narratives interpreted above, one of the most essential aspects of the fairy tale —the secret and the miracle associated with it— becomes the focus of the tale, from its appearance to its revelation. (Translated by George Seel).


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PENCKÓFERNÉ PUNYKÓ, Mária (1993b) (coll.): «Jóska», [Johnny] en Tűzoltó nagymadár. Beregújfalusi népmesék és mondák, Nagy Ilona (ed.), Ungvár, Hatodik Síp Alapítvány, pp. 176–183.

RAD, Gerhard von (2001): Old Testament Theology I-II, The Theology of Israel’s Prophetic Traditions, London-Leiden, Westminster John Knox Press Louisville, (Translated by D.M.G. Stalker).

RICŒUR, Paul (1998): «Sentinel of Imminence», en Thinking Biblically. Exegetical and Hermeneutical Studies, Ricœur, Paul - Lacocque, André (eds.), Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press, (Translated by David Pellauer).

ROSENZWEIG, Franz (1990): «Az építők, Levél M. Bubernek», [The builders, Letter to M. Buber] en Nem hang és füst. Válogatott írások, Budapest, Holnap kiadó, (Hungarian translation by Tatár György), pp. 84–108.

SEYBOLD, Klaus (2010): «Tanítási célok. Narratív teológia», [Teaching goals, narrative theology] en Narratívák 9. Narratív teológia, Horváth Imre and Thomka Beáta (eds.), Budapest, Kijárat, pp. 147–166.

SOLYMOSSY, Sándor (1943): «Hitvilág», [The Belief World] en A magyarság néprajza IV. Szellemi Néprajz II.2, Viski Károly (press, org. by), Budapest, Királyi Magyar Egyetemi Nyomda, pp. 286–340.

SZAPU, Magda (1985a) (coll. and ed.): «Az ősz hajú rab», [The Grey-haired Prisoner] en Mesemondó és közösége Kaposszentjakabon, Szapu Magda (coll. and ed.), Budapest, MTA Néprajzi Kutató Csoport, pp. 90–98.

SZAPU, Magda (1985b) (coll. and ed.): «Égigérő fa», [The Tree that Reached the Sky] en Mesemondó és közösége Kaposszentjakabon, Szapu Magda (coll. and ed.), Budapest, MTA Néprajzi Kutató Csoport, pp. 124–129.

SZAPU, Magda (1985c) (coll. and ed.): «Öveghegy királynéja (Jakab királyfi)», [The queen of the crystal mountain (prince Jacob)] en Mesemondó és közösége Kaposszentjakabon, Szapu Magda (coll. and ed.), Budapest, MTA Néprajzi Kutató Csoport, pp. 114–124.

SZENNAY, András (2009): «Öregek és öregség - a Bibliában», [The Old and Old Age - in the Bible]. URL: https://baloghpet.com/2009/10/08/szennay-andras-oregek-es-oregseg---a-bibliaban/

SZENT BIBLIA, [The Holy Bible] (2011) Budapest, Magyar Bibliai Társulat.

THEISSEN, Gerd (2008): Az őskereszténység élményvilága és magatartásformái. Az őskereszténység pszichológiája, [The Concepts and Forms of Behaviour of The Early Christian World. Early Christian Psychology] Budapest, Kálvin kiadó, (Hungarian trans. Szabó Csaba).

VARGA, Norbert (2014) (coll. and ed.): «A cigány és a Jóisten I.», [The Gypsy and the Good God I.] en Kígyótestvér. Népmesék és mondák Balogfalváról Balog Ernő tolmácsolásában, Varga Norbert (coll. and ed.), Dunaszerdahely, Vámbéry Polgári Társulás, pp. 93–99.

VERNANT, Jean-Pierre (2006): Myth and Thoughts among the Greeks, New York, Zone Books, (Translated by Janet Lloyd with Jeff Fort).

WÉNIN, André (2000): «Le mythique et l’ historique dans le premier testament», en Bible et histoire. Écriture, interprétation et action dans le temps, Hermans, Michel and Sauvage, Pierre (eds.), Bruxelles, Éd. Lessius, pp. 31–56.

WOLFF, Hans Walter (1974): Anthropology of the Old Testament, London, SCM Press Ltd, (Translated by Margaret Kohl).

Fecha de recepción: 20 de enero de 2021
Fecha de aceptación: 12 de abril de 2021


1 Cf. «So they went in and knelt in front of him, and pleaded with him not to hurt them. And so, after that, the son of Stumped Cow was still merciful to them, and so they lived happily with the fairies in the castle - if they have not died, they are still alive» (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981b: 284).

2 «This prince was twenty or twenty one years old, and any woman he liked who went to fetch water, he humiliated. So the young girls and women didn’t really want to fetch water for this king» (Szapu, coll. and ed. 1985c: 114).

3 «Evil is always embodied by members of the ruling class. Arrogance, ambition, envy, uncontrolled behaviour and blasphemy are all their characteristics» (Nagy G., coll. 1985a: I, 34).

4 «Well, my dear son, a death for a death. Despite the fact that you’re alive. There’s no mercy, a death for a death»; in this way the king passed judgement on the two older boys (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981a: 208).

5 «Immediately, [the king] called his son to be questioned and said to him, ‘Because you have taken the lives of innocent people, you are banished from my country and I no longer acknowledge you as my son. And the wealth you would have inherited will be given to the relatives of the deceased. And you are wiped away from everything. Now you can go where you have eyes to see!» (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981f: 345).

6 Magyar etimológiai szótár [Etymological Dictionary of Hungarian] URL: https://www.arcanum.hu/hu/online-kiadvanyok/Lexikonok-magyar-etimologiai-szotar-F14D3/t-F4015/tanit-F406A/#Lexikonok%5ESzT-ETIM-tan%C3%ADt (downloaded: 2019.11.10)

7 «Dans les contrées merveilleuses, les puissances que sont les fées, les magiciens et les génies ont toujours incarné ce fantasme d’un savoir suprême, d’un pouvoir sur le monde [...] Fées et magiciens savent donc aussi déchiffrer le Grand livre, ou livre des Destins [...]» (Defrance, 2009: 64).

8 Cf.: «The critic is a stranger who comes from outside and who refuses to enter the normal networks of hospitality and companionship; he stays on the margins; it is above all the magician who shows the symbols of credibility. Joseph therefore reinterprets this biblical figure in approaching the charismatics of the desert and the Christian apostles» (Baslez, 1992: 248).

9 Cf.: «The magi, those extraordinary figures whose role at the origins of philosophical thought has often been stressed, claimed to hold some power of mastery and control over the daemonic soul» (Vernant, 2006 : 365).

10 «And so then the king called all of the counsellors and wise men and asked for their opinion about what he should do. The wise men said that he should announce that anyone who could climb to the top of the tree that reached the sky and bring back the princess, should be given half the kingdom and any girl he chose» (Szapu, coll. and ed. 1985b: 124). Cf.: «Well, in the meantime the king looked for the wise ones. The king called together all the wise ones, called to him. […] The wise ones of the world are here, and they can’t decipher it» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 107-108).

11 «The diviner is a man who can see the invisible. He knows, through direct contact, things and events from which he is separated by space and time. A quasi-ritualistic formula is used to define him: the man who knows all things past, present, and to come» (Vernant, 2006: 382).

12 «Not far from there, there lived a magician. He could show things with his magical power» (Görög, coll. and ed. 2012a: 92).

13 «Once the old man said that the great wise man, he might well be a taltos» [in Hungarian culture, a seer with some shaman-like characteristics, translator’s note] (Nagy O., coll. and intr. 1991: 190).

14 «In mythical times, there was a hiérosgamos, or sacred marriage, between a mortal and his psychic Double, the being who accompanies him from birth to death, remains after his body has died, and transfers itself to another individual, often to another member of the first mortal’s family» (Lecouteux, 2003: 72). Cf.: «The colossus is not an image; it is a “double”, as the dead man is a double of his living self» (Vernant, 2006: 322).

15 Isiah speaks of them in a surprisingly hard and clear way: «And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?» (Is. 8:19)

16 «Well, and so the advisors met once again, to avoid hurting the children, they would have to make one more attempt. They advisors came together one more time, and they decided that whoever could make the finest canvas and spread it out so that you could draw it through the eye of a needle, that person would have the kingdom» (Penavin, coll. and intr. 1971: 28-29).

17 Cf. «Well, the teacher in the meantime, as we say, was my own teacher, as I say, like me, would have got me up in front of the blackboard to count, but Pisti and I would only have counted in the Gypsy way.» Penavin, coll. and intr. 1971: 177. - furthermore: «When he started, the prince was dressed once again in the palace, his wife was working in the kitchen all day, and in the evening, as is usual in our villages, in the old days, on Saturday evenings they had a little entertainment; it was called the lament, the bride had to be present there, too» (Nagy and Vöő, 2002b: 689).

18 «[…] when a prophet did receive such a revelation, it was in every case something purely personal. It lifted him right out of the common ruck. He was allowed to know God’s designs and to share in God’s emotions; […]» (Rad, 2001: II. 63).

19 «The symbol was a creative prefiguration of the future which would be speedily and inevitably realised» (Rad, 2001: II. 96).

20 «Since the dreamer always moves within a particular social and cultural space, a dream is necessarily also a social and cultural product which bears the stamp of the macro and micro communities, including in the choice and interpretation of the symbols used» (Görög-Karády, 2006: 389).

21 «His appearance therefore carries some level of implication that he believes in Jesus, even if his response to the Pharisees stops short of a confession» (Culpepper, 2016: 257).

22 Cf. «It is hard to determine, for example, what single “type” a character like Nicodemus or Pilate represent. Their interactions with Jesus lend themselves to various readings» (Nolette and Hunt, 2013: 238).

23 «As in Egypt and Mesopotamia, in the Old Testament world, old and wise words are synonymous. According to Old Testament documents, the guardians of tradition are the elderly, who pass on to both successive generations both religious and profane knowledge. “Do not disregard the discourse of the aged, for they themselves learned from their fathers; because from them you will gain understanding and learn how to give an answer in time of need.” (Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 8:9). “But wisdom in the biblical sense, assumes more than just knowledge; it demands the personal life experience of the elders.” “Wisdom dwells in an aged man and intelligence in a long life” (for example, Job 12:12; and many more, Ecc. 6:34; 25:3-6; Ez. 7:26, etc.). It has long been known that a wise man is not born; a person only becomes wise with the passing of time» (Szennay, 2009). Cf. The writings of Noiray, in which he traces the development of the wise person and the scientist, with special attention over the last two centuries: «The wise person is par excellence, the one who knows. But he is not only that: the wise person in the 19th century is still the one who knows everything» (Noiray, 1998: 144).

24 «But then it happened that there were advisers to the king, and they talked to the king and advised him not to hang his son, but to release him, or at most, to exile him. And this will be the cleverest because the boy is still young and will be in exile anyway to find his aunts. So the king obeyed the counsellors» (Dobos, coll. and ed. 1981d: 91).

25 In the translation of Károli, «Wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, fair, obedient, full of mercy and good fruit, not sceptical nor hypocritical» (Szent Biblia [The Holy Bible] 2011: 270).

26 Alvinczi emphasizes the office of judge, saying: «It is not good to show favour, it is inappropriate to look for one’s own profit, to indulge in secret revenge, but to look only for the common good, and to choose only a person who is suitable for public service» (Alvinczi, 1989: 125).

27 «Well, listen to me, son, if you dare to do this to me, I will judge you! - He immediately announced that he would judge his child. He gathered the court counsellors, the counts, the princes, the court fools, and those who were their counsellors to judge the child» (Nagy and Vöő, 2002c: 448).

28 «Caiaphas is the perfect sacrificer who puts victims to death to save those who live. By reminding us of this John emphasizes that every real cultural decision has a sacrificial character (decidere, remember, is to cut the victim’s throat) that refers back to an unrevealed effect of the scapegoat, the sacred type of representation of persecution» (Girard, 1989: 114).

29 «When they heard that he [the king] was going to shoot his son in the head, there were older kings, and they began to murmur: / —If you shot him, the news would go around the country that you shot your only son, ... / Well, in the middle distance there was a humpbacked king. What did he come up with? / —Don't shoot! Don't hang him, don't stab him with a sword, I'll tell you something! This is the last word on this matter. Send someone to the stable. You have a three year old stallion that hasn’t yet seen the light of day. Get him out, tie the kid on his back, and send him out into the world. Let him go! If he dies on horseback, at least it won't hurt that you killed your own son» (Szapu, coll. and ed. 1985a: 90).

30 «The servant’s fate, social status, legal vulnerability, eternal insecurity are nothing more than tossing and stumbling between the counterpoints of rebellion and humility. […] We can grasp the form, the individual, the temperament, and thus the whole of his view, in this tension between oppositions, the combined manifestation of rebellious and serf-like behaviour […]» (noted Fedics’s tale-collector. Ortutay, 1978: 57-58). Furthermore, von Rad also emphasizes this about the Prophets, «[…] they do not in any sense regard themselves as the revolutionary mouthpiece of one social group” even though they are deeply rooted in religious tradition» (Rad, 2001: II. 179).

31 Kálmán Benda described the spirituality of 18th-century Protestant schools as «teaching unconditional respect and obedience to the ruler and the state, the acceptance of the social situation, and that the sufferings in this world would be compensated for by the promises of the next» (Benda, 1988: 108).

32 («How can Satan cast out Satan?» [Mk, 3,23]); «This seems to me to be important in defining a parable which is an indirect discourse that can, but need not, include narrative elements since in this passage there are none» (Girard, 1989: 186).

33 Keresztény Bibliai Lexikon [Christian Bible Lexicon] URL: https://www.arcanum.hu/hu/online-kiadvanyok/Lexikonok-keresztyen-bibliai-lexikon-C97B2/a-a-C97B4/alom-almodik-C986A/

34 «When the Prince reached nineteen, well, he dreamed he had met an old man. The old man demanded a bite of bread. And he was happy to give it to him, and the old man helped him with many things. Well, the old man said to him in a dream: / —Have you heard, dear son? There is a world-renowned princess out there in the world. But beautiful as she is, her heart is so hard, and her soul is so proud and arrogant. If you convince the princess, she will be your wife. But you will live such a happy life, like no-one has ever before» (Nagy G., coll. 1985: I. 238).

35 «[…] for Israel this law was far from being a known quantity which only needed to be called to mind —it was something learned by experience. When Israel heard the commandments read aloud— […] —she came face to face with her God» (Rad, 2001: II. 394).

36 «Well, the Sultan says, ‘You’ll have a pardon if you tell me what this black thing is that comes from here.’ ‘Well, that’s the black devils. They think they are hanging a legitimate child, they come for its soul. They carry it off.’ ‘Well what’s the other one?’ ‘They think they are hanging an illegitimate child, they come for its soul. These are the angels.’ The Sultan pushed him away. He was glad that the angels were blessing the spirit of the illegitimate child. He said to the hangman, “Hang me!” The hangman hanged him» (Ortutay, coll. and ed. 1978: 201).

37 Cf. «Dear Brother, if you did, it was a bet, and you had to do it; you must do one more thing for me —take me under a cross. There I’ll pray for my sins until I die. / And so for a joke he took him— not under the cross, but under the gallows. He hugged it with all his might, from his heart and soul (because he thought it was the root of the cross, but it was the root of the gallows) and prayed there» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1976: 258).

38 «In all cultures, dreams are the great means of communication with the other world, the invisible, the hidden side of things. […] Pagans and Christians alike engaged in this practice because knowledge of the future has always been […] one of man’s principle concerns. Most witchcraft rituals show this very clearly» (Lecouteux, 2003: 24).

39 «Prophecy in the Bible is a comprehensive view of the human situation, surveying it from creation to final deliverance, and it is a view which marks the extent of what in other contexts we could call the creative imagination. It incorporates the perspective of wisdom but enlarges it.» Frye, 1983: 128. Cf.: «In the community he is the voice of the living Lord)» (Marguerat, 2004: 222).

40 Dauzat notes that even among the Old Testament fathers, there was uncertainty in the use of the term prophet, sometimes phaïnô: «he who shows what will be», sometimes phêmi: «explain», or «who speaks to someone», i.e. explains the meaning of something to them (Dauzat, 2004: 753).

41 Cf. also in relation to the dream of the officials: «“We have seen a dream”, they replied, “and there is no one here to decipher it.” Joseph said, “Isn't it for God to solve the dream? But tell me anyway!”» (Ter. 40: 9).

42 Unlike in the famous Bible story: «So in the morning his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men; and Pharaoh told them his dream, but there was none who could interpret it to Pharaoh» (Gen 41:8).

43 «Now Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers they only hated him the more. He said to them, Hear this dream which I have dreamed: behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and lo, my sheaf arose and stood upright; and behold, your sheaves gathered round it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Or are you indeed to have dominion over us?” So they hated him yet more for his dreams and for his words» (Gen 37: 5-8).

44 «But as they grow up side-by-side, because of their natural attraction, they break the ban and keep making love. Then the boy came forward. Immediately the king assembled his council men. —Judge this boy. —Well, each one said something. An old minister says: —Listen to me, my lord. You will be able to make some use of this boy again sometime. Make a crypt and wall him up there. And then let him perish there, lest you see him perish before your eyes. —You said well, old minister. —Immediately the king brought stone masons» (Nagy O., coll. and ed. 1978: 106).

45 «And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph, and said, “Lie with me.” 8- But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Lo, having me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand; 9- he is not greater in this house than I am; nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife; how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie with her or to be with her…» (Gen 39, 7-10).