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  • 1 Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities, Eötvös Loránd Research Network, Hungary
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Abstract

In the first half of the present article, I review collections of folk literature which include 19th-century folktales, placing a special emphasis on trying to establish the extent to which these texts and the associated collectors have been studied, explored, and published. Next, I demonstrate which of the texts in question may be considered as part of the canon of folk literature that emerged in the latter third of the 19th century, which works and authors defined the approaches that were considered relevant, and what the selection criteria for canonisation were. Alongside the interpretative canon, I shall also attempt to record the textual canon and its changes – to capture the act by which certain texts were clearly excluded from the canon while others were included by the individuals who wished to create or modify the canon. I would also like to show how the image of 19th-century collectors and collections created in the second half of the century became gradually transformed during the 20th century, and how these changes affected the place the collections in question occupy in folkloristics in general.

Abstract

In the first half of the present article, I review collections of folk literature which include 19th-century folktales, placing a special emphasis on trying to establish the extent to which these texts and the associated collectors have been studied, explored, and published.1 Next, I demonstrate which of the texts in question may be considered as part of the canon2 of folk literature that emerged in the latter third of the 19th century, which works and authors defined the approaches that were considered relevant, and what the selection criteria for canonisation were. Alongside the interpretative canon, I shall also attempt to record the textual canon and its changes – to capture the act by which certain texts were clearly excluded from the canon while others were included by the individuals who wished to create or modify the canon. I would also like to show how the image of 19th-century collectors and collections created in the second half of the century became gradually transformed during the 20th century, and how these changes affected the place the collections in question occupy in folkloristics in general.

Unknown collectors, unknown collections?

I shall attempt a brief review of 19th-century collections of, or including, folktales3 by seeking to answer the following questions: who was the person (directing the collecting work) under whose name the collection became known in the folkloristic community? What was their social status and occupation? Were they also actively involved in collecting or did they simply receive manuscript collections from someone else? Did they have a network of collectors, or were they surrounded in any other way by individuals who aided the collecting work in any way? What method did they use? Where and in what manner were they active and who did they collect from? Whose scholarly attention did the collector manage to attract (primarily in the past two decades) and from which viewpoint did they approach the material? Were the original manuscripts studied or did they remain dormant throughout the century without making an impact? Do we know where the manuscripts are to be found? Was there a new edition produced over the past hundred years, and if so, what was the nature of it?

Moving in a chronological order, the first collection that included folktales was one produced by István Szilcz, a landowner in Vasmegyer. The compilation, consisting of eight folktales and five legends, was created around 1789, probably with the purpose of entertaining, and remained unknown to folkloristics until 1917. This is when József Gulyás first wrote an account of it (Gulyás 1917:19) and went on to publish the original manuscript collection in 1931 in Sárospatak. True to the practice of the times, he did not strive for a literal transcription. This 1931 volume was republished, verbatim and complete with annotations, in 2004 Három vándorló Királyfirul való Historia. A sárospataki kéziratos mesegyűjtemény (1789) [A History of Three Princes. The Manuscript Folktale Collection of Sárospatak (1789) by Katalin Benedek], but this edition does not offer a comparison with the original manuscripts – a decision hard to justify from a scholarly point of view. With regard to the life of István Szilcz himself or the circumstances of the emergence of the compilation or the original manuscript, we know close to nothing. The manuscript is still in Sárospatak.

Literary historian Zoltán Hermann wrote about the emergence of this collection. The notebook containing the stories had itself been in use before 1789, as well as during the subsequent decade and a half. The stories had been written down sequentially, whereas a rental contract entered in the booklet in 1842, after the tales and legends, indicates its changed function (Hermann 2006:527). Although Zoltán Hermann's paper is not based on the texts themselves, it draws some important conclusions regarding the requirements that folkloristics have of authentic folktales. Among other things, he noted that the linguistic inconsistencies and the deteriorations of the text were seen as grave failings within the concept of folk literature used by romanticist scholarship with its focus on originality. Thus, not merely the text but the collector or the person recording it also came to be seen in a negative light for a long time (Hermann 2006:520). Examining the collection in terms of the oral vs. written dimension, Zoltán Hermann argues that tales were a far less rigid generic category even back in the 19th century than was believed or expected of them. He also mentions the fact that István Szilcz, the compiler of the volume, probably had a theory of his own concerning the genre and collecting of tales, and just because this did not coincide with the concept of the tale held by later canonisers, the texts lost none of their value, nor are they less deserving of research (Hermann 2006:524–525).

For a long time, instead of Szilcz's collection, scholarship considered a book called Mährchen der Magyaren [Tales of the Hungarians] compiled by György Gaal/Georg von Gaal (Pozsony, 1783 – Vienna, 1855) as the first collection of Hungarian folktales. This latter contained the texts of 17 tales and was published in the German language in Vienna in 1822. Gaal's primary goal by collecting and publishing these texts was to raise the popularity of Hungarian folk literature abroad. He is sure to have worked with the help of collectors whom he instructed at least partially by mail, while in other cases he used soldiers to note down the texts.4 The 1822 volume was also known to and popularised by the Brothers Grimm (cf. Grimm 1822:432–433, 1850:XLVI, 1856:345–347, 392–393), but all they reveal about Gaal's method of collecting is that the stories had come from a Hungarian old man who spoke no other language than his mother tongue. The Preface to Gaal's volume also enables us to reconstruct the fact that he and his friends pursued their collecting efforts over ten years in order to create “a collection I had always longed to create … which is the totality of clear and simple stories” (Gaal 1822). The Hungarian texts of this collection were published in Pest between 1857 and 1860, edited by Gábor Kazinczy and Ferenc Toldy. Since that time there has been no further edition of Gaal's collections of stories. Viktória Havay embarked on a philological exploration of the tales (comparing the Hungarian and German texts). The Hungarian and German language manuscripts of the collection are in the Manuscript Collection of the Library and Information Centre of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

Another member of the group, which Vilmos Voigt called the Vienna triad,5 was Count János Majláth/Johann Mailath (Pest, 1786 – Starnberg, 1855), writer and external member of the Bavarian Royal Academy, who published his collection, similarly to György Gaal, in German. It was first published in Brünn in 1825 (Magyarische Sagen und Märchen), then an extended edition was issued in Stuttgart and Tübingen in 1837 (Magyarische Sagen, Märchen und Erzählungen). He had probably noted down some of the stories himself from his informants and also asked others to write down the stories they heard. In one of the notes attached to his text, he talks about the genre of the tale, opportunities for collecting them, and the way in which the storyteller shapes the story (Mailath 1837:I:251–252). This partly allows us to conclude that it was mostly “by the shepherds' fire during night-time work in the fields” that he himself had tried “to salvage from oblivion” the stories which, he claims, were found “most commonly among shepherds and soldiers”, but he also talks about editorial principles. Accordingly, he had strung together several stories (collected from the same place) to constitute one, as other storytellers often do (and he considers himself one). The volume was published in Hungarian in 1864 (Magyar regék, mondák és népmesék) [Hungarian Sagas, Legends, and Folktales], translated by one of the most outstanding writers of the era, Ferenc Kazinczy.6 Since then, only the 1837 book has been re-published in a facsimile edition in Germany in 2013 (Mailath 2013). The location of János Mailáth's manuscripts has not been identified.

The first collection of folk literature and prose published in Hungarian was edited by the excellent poet, critic, literary scholar, and theoretician of folklore János Erdélyi (Kiskapos, 1814 – Sárospatak, 1868), who played an important role in integrating folk literature as a legitimate subject of scholarly discourse. During his one-year tour of Europe, he visited Jacob Grimm in his home (Erdélyi 1985:306). His three-volume collection, published 1846–48 under the title Népdalok és mondák [Folk Songs and Legends], consisted of texts that were submitted in response to two calls for submissions, one published by the Tudós Társaság [Learned Society] in 1831 and the other by the Kisfaludy Society in 1844. There were altogether 176 collections submitted from all over the country (which meant 8–10 thousand folklore texts; cf. Gulyás 2020:52). János Erdélyi himself collected little (Küllős 2014:601); his task was to coordinate7 the network of collectors who had volunteered and organised themselves in the wake of the calls and publications, as well as to arrange the texts submitted and to edit them into volumes. Népdalok és mondák contained 33 texts, and if we compare the existing manuscript material with the published texts, we can easily ascertain that Erdélyi made the fewest possible alterations on the texts (cf. Gulyás 2020). Another collection titled Magyar népmesék [Hungarian Folktales], consisting purely of tales, was published in 1855, also edited by János Erdélyi.

An essay written by István Ruman Csörsz offers a particularly important line of considerations that help us gain a nuanced understanding of the early collections. He approaches the texts submitted to Erdélyi from the angle of popular literature and thereby sheds an entirely new light on Erdélyi's activity in editing and forming the texts (Csörsz 2014). In her 2005 paper, Monika Gönczy offers an excellent example of the widely different ideas that were prevalent at the time concerning the type of text and the manner of publication that can or cannot be considered.8 Another study by Imola Küllős also proves that János Erdélyi's concept of folk literature was far broader than is generally believed of him or of the concept of folklore held by 19th-century collectors in general (Küllős 2014). Judit Gulyás explores János Erdélyi's relationship to folktales and points out, among other things, that Erdélyi used different strategies of text publication for poetry and prose texts (Gulyás 2014). A great advantage of this vast corpus is that most of it (including relevant correspondence) can be found in public collections in Budapest. Népdalok és mondák has not been re-published despite its great popularity.

Known as an art historian, historian, and later bishop, Arnold Ipolyi (Stummer) (Ipolykeszi, 1823 – Nagyvárad, 1886) also made use of folk tradition, as well as a wide array of other sources, in creating his magnum opus, Magyar Mythologia [Hungarian Mythology] (1854) – an attempt to reconstruct the ancient religion of the Hungarians. While he himself also carried out a certain amount of collecting (Domokos 2015:84), he essentially acted, similarly to János Erdélyi, as a coordinator at the hub of the collecting effort. His network of collectors included not only simple village people but practically all of his friends (a circle including a lawyer, a vicar, a novice priest, a schoolmaster, a doctor, and a literary historian) (cf. Kósa 2001:61; Benedek 2007:164–210; Domokos 2015:83–86). Best known to us, thanks to research carried out by Mariann Domokos, is the tale collection of Benedek Csaplár (Domokos 2015:137–160). A portion of Ipolyi's collection was published in 1914 by Lajos Kálmány (Ipolyi 1914), then, in 2006, Katalin Benedek arranged for print the textual corpus available in Budapest (Ipolyi 2006).

Gábor Kazinczy (Berettő, 1818 – Bánfalva, 1864), a well-known organiser of literary life as well as a politician, poet, and author, had three-fold ties to folktales. Firstly, he had translated tales in preparation for the publication of a series to be titled Népek meséi [Tales of Folks], which was to acquaint the Hungarian readership with the folklore of non-Hungarian peoples (Domokos 2008:280). Secondly, he edited collections compiled by others9 and, in the 1850s and 60s, even joined the ongoing efforts to collect folktales through his network of collectors. The exact composition of this network is not known to us – the only collector to have been commemorated in a brief study is József Beke, a teacher in a Protestant folk school in Velezd (cf. Domokos 2015:179–191). After Gábor Kazinczy's death in 1864, the collection of Palóc tales from Borsod County10 passed into the hands of the Kisfaludy Society, but they were never published. Kazinczy's manuscript collections can still be found in Budapest.

László Merényi (Pomáz, 1837 – Budapest, 1907), later an administrative official, had begun collecting folktales when he was a law student. The publication of his volume Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales] (1861) was welcomed by the press and his contemporaries: it was lauded as a contribution to the emerging national literature and seen as a sequel to János Erdélyi's Népdalok és mondák (1846–1848) (Domokos 2007:140–145). Merényi went on to publish two more collections, in two volumes each, titled Sajóvölgyi eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales from the Sajó Valley] (1862) and Dunamelléki eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales from the Danube Valley] (1863–1864). At the same time, he sought financial support for his collection tour of Transylvania from the Academy. This was the first paid (and therefore official) academic collecting tour in search of folktales, and, accordingly, it was viewed with great interest by both the press and the contemporary public. However, the collecting tour was not a success, and it also became a widely held conviction that Merényi's published tales had not been recorded in their authentic form. Collectors turned their backs on him and he became marginalised as a literary figure.11 This set the tone for the way in which he was later viewed in folkloristics – before Mariann Domokos, not a single folklorist had considered his persona or his collections worth studying. The manuscripts for his collection are in an unknown location, his published collection was never re-published.

László Arany (Nagyszalonta, 1844 – Budapest, 1898), son of one of the most outstanding poets of the age, who later became secretary and then director of the Hungarian Land Credit Institute, published his work Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales] in 1862, at the age of 18. A critical edition of this work was completed in 2018 by Mariann Domokos and Judit Gulyás (Domokos – Gulyás 2018). In this volume, the editors were able to analyse the way in which Arany had shaped the texts in question, since they had access to the first record of the tales, complete with corrections, as well as the published volume. The texts published in Eredeti népmesék were noted down by Juliska Arany, László Arany, and their mother, probably from memory, thus they are probably closely associated with Nagyszalonta or Nagykőrös. László Arany later made some considerable changes to the tales.12 The manuscripts can be currently found in Budapest. Mariann Domokos wrote about László Arany's concept of the tale (Domokos 2010), while Judit Gulyás compared three variants of the same tale, each associated with this family (Gulyás 2010b).

Transylvanian Unitarian vicar, later bishop, teacher, and writer János Kriza (Nagyajta, 1811 – Kolozsvár, 1875) published his first advertisement for volunteer collectors in 1842, but his collection of folktales and poetry entitled Vadrózsák [Wild Roses], representative of the folklore of the Székely (or Sekler) ethnic group, could not be published until 1863. Kriza himself probably did little collecting, instead he single-handedly coordinated his extensive network of collectors.13 Most of these collectors were Unitarian priests and teachers, and as a result, Vadrózsák mostly comprises textual material collected in the Unitarian villages of the Székelyföld region. Although tales occupy a prime position within the collected material, the greater part of this corpus has remained unpublished to this day. Vadrózsák has become one of the most canonical collections of folk literature in the Hungarian language and has been re-published eight times. 2013 saw the publication of the portion of the collected material containing previously unpublished texts other than tales and legends (Kriza 2013). The activity of the individual collectors has been explored in several papers (Szakál 2017, 2018, 2019), and a source publication has examined this collecting effort in its social historical context (Szakál 2020). The manuscripts are in public collections in Budapest and Cluj, but a portion of the corpus is still missing.

Later renowned as a critic, literary historian, and university professor, Pál Gyulai (Kolozsvár, 1826 – Budapest, 1909) was among the leading figures in creating the canon for what we understand to constitute Hungarian folk literature. He had probably started collecting independently as early as the 1840s, but his name is mainly associated with the collection of folk literature and folktales collected between 1858 and 1862 by him and his students while acting as a college teacher.14 This collection was never published, and the manuscripts can be found in Budapest.

Sámuel Szabó (Székelyföldvár, 1829 – Kolozsvár, 1905) was also a lecturer at a Calvinist College in Transylvania; his collections did not appear until 2009 when they were published after being edited by Katalin Olosz (Szabó 2009). With the help of his student collectors from Marosvásárhely, Szabó had created a collection in the 1860s on par with Kriza's Vadrózsák. The texts were published in their manuscript student paper, issues of which can still to be found in a public collection in Marosvásárhely. Later, in Kolozsvár, Szabó organized his students there to collect folktales as an assignment in two academic years. These manuscripts are still in Kolozsvár.

A collector active in the second half of the 19th century was Gyula Pap (Felsőpálfalva, 1843 – Salgótarján, 1931), whose work Palócz népköltemények [Palóc Folk Literature] (1865) contains six fairy tale texts. The introduction to his volume reveals that he managed to get his collections published by recruiting subscribers, and that János Erdélyi had been instrumental in helping him accomplish this (Pap 1865:XXII). His collecting efforts focused on the Salgó area in Nógrád County, probably in the years directly preceding the publication. We know practically nothing about his collection, the location of the manuscripts is still unknown.

The line of 19th-century collections of folk literature and prose is concluded by the first three volumes of the series Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [Collection of Hungarian Folk Literature, CHFL] edited by László Arany and Pál Gyulai and launched in 1872; by Lajos Kálmány's two-volume work (Koszorúk az Alföld vad virágaiból I–II., 1877–1878 [Wreaths from the Wild Flowers of the Great Plain]), and finally by the collections of folktales by Elek Benedek (Székely tündérország [The Fairy Land of the Seklers], 1885, Székely mesemondó [The Sekler Storyteller], 1888, Magyar Mese- és Mondavilág I–V. [The World of Hungarian Tales and Legends, Vols. I–V], 1894–96).15 The first volume of Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény appeared under the title Elegyes gyűjtések Magyarország és Erdély különböző részeiből [Miscellaneous Collections from Various Parts of Hungary and Transylvania] (1872).16 The second volume (Csongrád megyei gyűjtés, 1872 [Csongrád County Collection]) contained folk literature and prose collected by Károly Török,17 while the third volume (Székelyföldi gyűjtés, 1882 [Székelyföld Collection, 1882]) contained texts collected by János Kriza, Balázs Orbán, Elek Benedek, and Jób Sebesi. These volumes indicate the onset of a new period, that of institutionalised folkloristics, therefore I merely enumerate the collections published after this point.

The years 1874–1876 saw a collecting campaign run by a nation-wide network of collectors associated in folkloristics with the name of Lajos Abafi. A thorough study of its history was published by Péter Pogány (Pogány 1954), in which the author reveals, among many other things, that the texts that had been submitted and the edited manuscript of the collection that was eventually submitted for publication can all be found in various archives in Budapest.

Another collecting effort in the 1870s was carried out by a Gyula Balás – of whom we know practically nothing beyond the fact that he submitted his collections to the Kisfaludy Society from Mezőkovácsháza and these were indeed published in a local edition (Balogh 1988).

Palóc folktales were published by Gyula Istvánffy (Miskolc, 1863 – Miskolc, 1921), a schoolteacher in Lipótszentmiklós, and by Sándor Pintér (Etes, 1841 – Szécsény, 1915), a practicing solicitor in the town of Szécsény. The former collection was published in Lipótszentmiklós in 1890 (Palócz mesék a fonóból) [Palóc Tales from the Spinning Room], while Pintér published his work in Losonc in 1891 under the title Népmesékről XIII eredeti palóczmesével [About Folktales, with XIII Original Palócz Tales]. Sándor Pintér's manuscripts were probably destroyed, while a re-print edition of his book of folk stories appeared in 1999 (Pintér 1999). An extended edition of Gyula Istvánffy's publication was completed by 1912 but was not published until 1963 under the professional oversight of Ferenc Bodgál.

Another schoolteacher, Rafael Dékány (Kecskemét, 1828 – Budapest, 1895) produced a collection of folktales from the Great Plain in the 1880s, manuscripts of which are available for research in a public collection in Budapest, but the stories have only appeared in the form of two publications for children to date.

A learned society in Marosvásárhely, called the Kemény Zsigmond Társaság [Zsigmond Kemény Society], organized competitions for the collection of folk literature in 1896–97 (Olosz 1972). Manuscripts submitted for the first round became lost, while the second round received four submissions: the collection by schoolteacher János Ősz (Királyfalva, 1863 – Marosvásárhely, 1941); a joint submission by schoolteacher János Kóbori (Szentlászló, 1862 – Marosvásárhely, 1933) from Marosvásárhely and vicar Ferenc Vajda (Farcád, 1865 – Székelyudvarhely 1938) from Székelyudvarhely; one by István Kolumbán (Olasztelek, 1874 – Budapest, 1963), a schoolteacher from Székelyudvarhely; and one submission from Sándor Borbély, head of the Institute for the Deaf and Dumb in Vác. János Ősz went on to self-publish his collection (Berde 1937, 1938, 1941; Faragó 1955). The other collections were published in excerpts only (Ősz 1941). István Kolumbán's folktale collections were published with a full scholarly apparatus by Katalin Olosz (Olosz 1972). Kolumbán's manuscripts are in Marosvásárhely. All the other folktale collections are presently at unidentified locations.

Lájos Kálmány (Szeged, 1852 – Szeged, 1919) was a pastor who served as vicar in numerous villages of the Great Plain and collected folklore texts during his stays. This resulted in a vast collection, which he began to publish in instalments in 1877, edited and financed by himself. He worked without fellow collectors and thus had the chance to notice if one of his informants showed a particular talent for storytelling. His legacy is currently located in Budapest, a part of it having been published in the 1950s, while the complete material was published in 2015 (Kálmány 2015).

A collector widely known to this day is Elek Benedek (Kisbacon, 1859 – Kisbacon, 1929), but we have very little closer information about his collection.18 We do know that he used to re-tell the stories and that he defined himself as a “son of the people” so he felt quite natural in telling folk stories and writing ballads.19 A vanishingly few of his collected texts actually survived; what we still have access to are his published books of folktales regularly re-published in children's editions. Despite the fact that, as we have seen, the corpus of folk literature and prose that includes 19th-century folktales is associated with a relatively small number of texts, collections, and collectors, folkloristics had shown little interest in studying them until quite recently. Interpretations or thorough philological analyses of these texts have not been done in the 20th century, there have been no studies to analyse, interpret, or explore them to any extent, and not many critical editions have been completed either. Since most of the basic research is missing and source exploration has only been completed in a handful of cases, we are talking about practically unknown texts, collectors, and text-shaping strategies when it comes to the 19th-century corpus of folktales (or to 19th-century folklore collection in general).

Canon and canonisation in the 19th-century collections of folktales

As the above review of 19th-century collections containing folktales has revealed, the sporadic folktale collections of the first half of the 19th century were gradually replaced from the 1840s20 and 1850s onwards by textual publications following increasingly precisely defined principles.21 By the beginning of the 1860s, collections emerged which permitted scholars to formulate and also to enforce fundamental principles for collecting and text publication. Then, the Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [Collection of Hungarian Folklore], launched in 1972, represented the institutionalised framework for operating along these principles – and at the same time the beginning of folkloristics as a separate and vigorous discipline in its own right.

In the early 1860s, we can point out four pieces of scholarly writing that clearly outlined the elements and sphere of interpretation of the open canon of the 19th century. First in chronological order is János Arany's criticism of Merényi's Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales] (1861), which was published in Szépirodalmi Figyelő in 1861. This was followed by Pál Gyulai's review in Budapesti Szemle in 1862, which described László Arany's Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales] (1862), whilst also forming an opinion of all previous collections of folktales alongside Merényi's. In the third article (published in Koszorú in 1864), László Arany criticised László Merényi's third book, Dunamelléki eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales from the Danube Valley] (1863–64). The last paper was László Arany's inauguration address (Magyar népmeséinkről [On Our Hungarian Folktales], 1867) in which he reviews the folktale collections that had been published to date.

In his writing on Merényi's book, János Arany first introduced two pairs of concepts into common parlance and scholarly discourse – he declared that there existed good collectors and bad collectors, as well as excellent storytellers and clumsy storytellers. “A good collector should be gifted, above all, with the abilities of a perfect storyteller. Moving around among the people, in their spinning houses or by the shepherds' fires, growing up among them, as it were, he should command not only their language, their turns of phrase, but their entire way of thinking, the characteristic knacks of their imagination, their mannerisms should all be engraved on his mind in indelible letters. He should be someone who, had he remained in that circle, might have gone on to figure as the most enchanting storyteller of the land. (…) He should have such a good command of their manner of recital and ornamentation that, given the bare bones of any story, he should be able to transform it as if he had taken it directly from the lips of one of the best storytellers. He should be able to recognise the slightest touch of anything that is foreign to this style which might mingle with the text due to the scribes and assistant collectors and be able to remove it without damage. (…) A good collector stops being clever the minute he starts writing down the text. (…) He does not keep reminding himself that he is a learned man and can on that pretext feel entitled to add or subtract; nor to explain at points where the people do not deem it necessary; to render probable something that is absurd, nor to cast a literary hue over it all as if he were writing some kind of an artistic short story. His job is to provide the truest possible representation of the text in terms of content and form alike, as if it were being performed orally by an excellent storyteller. Excellent, I say, for there are also clumsy storytellers whose unseemly tirades, absent-minded repetitions, littered with ‘and then’ and ‘so he said’ are really not fit for a printed collection. (…) In his storytelling, the collector can follow the freedom of the excellent storyteller, but not with poetic freedom” (Arany, J. 1861:7, 21).

After all of the above, he classifies Merényi as one of the good collectors (“to tell a story, quite like that, according to the way in which the people think, just as a clever peasant storyteller would tell it – our collector is perfectly capable of all of this”, cf. Arany, J. 1861:21), and he clearly encouraged Merényi to continue with his efforts. While János Arany praises this collector, he also chides him and uses words in his criticism which were soon to become key words in condemning folktale collections and collectors, and even in excluding them from the canon. With regard to Merényi he notes, among other things, that he “sometimes over-colours things, includes lengthy descriptions, and even where he does preserve the original folk expression, he falsifies the manner of the narrative” (Arany, J. 1861:21); (…) at other times he takes unfair advantage of his own talent and “being in possession of a great many folk proverbs, similes and parables, and finding himself discontented with the simple flow of the story, he volunteers additions on his own initiative which do not reflect the spirit of the people” (Arany, J. 1861:22). Recurring phrases in János Arany's writings include falsification, not in the spirit of the people, originality, authenticity, and he also often speaks of what may be seen (in an unambiguously negative light) as literary additions, forgeries, suspicious, non-folklore invention, arbitrary addition, verbose vanity, or the crooked use of the popular way of speaking (Arany, J. 1861:37, 38, 53, 54).

Writing in 1862, Pál Gyulai harangues László Arany's newly published volume Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales]. In the introductory and concluding parts of the paper, he complains about a lack of sufficient interest in folktales,22 whilst also expressing his hope that soon they would be discovered by wider audiences, as well as by critics, and an ever-greater number of competent collectors would start collecting tales. He might feel this option more probable partly because he sees, and presents, the collection of folktales as a developmental process with the collections of György Gaal and János Majláth marking the beginnings, while the apex would be represented by László Arany's just published work and János Kriza's book under preparation at the time.

Gyulai's writing is the first review of the collections of tales published up to that date complete with critical remarks which clearly reveal which traits were sought or condemned in collections of folktales in the 19th century. He dedicates a separate passage to discussing Gaal's German and Hungarian tale collections, and remarks, with regard to the latter, that the texts “betray at every point that they were not drawn from a pure and rich source (…) – his presentation is languid, it lacks the Hungarian flavour, it is neither sufficiently naïve, nor sufficiently Hungarian” (Gyulai 1862:387). Majláth, Gyulai finds, “hunts and hoards all that is miraculous” (Gyulai 1862:387–388); János Erdélyi's storytelling style is an improvement, but “still not sufficiently simple, (…) it lacks the lightness with which the story glides along, the charm of unsought naiveté, the natural turns, and fleeting but nonetheless characteristic descriptions, a certain undisturbed unity of ambiance, the relaxed and spontaneous charm of the language, its caprice and pictorial power (Gyulai 1862:388). Merényi, while considered far more adept than Erdélyi, is blamed by Gyulai for his penchant to “over-colour” his text – but Gyulai still believes he would “turn out to be one of our most excellent collectors of folktales” (Gyulai 1862:388). He praises László Arany, stating that while his collection contains fewer texts, his narration and approach to the language are closest to the ideal formulated by János Arany.

The third piece of writing that contributed significantly to creating a canon in the collection of folktales was László Arany's 1864 criticism of Merényi's Dunamelléki eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales from the Danube Valley] (1863–64). In it he reiterates his father's opinion and refers to the principles stated three years earlier (originally with the intention to help improve) to judge the new collection and its manner of presentation. In a tone far sterner than his father's, László Arany expresses his disappointment in the collector who, he claims, has made absolutely no use of the critical remarks offered. He declares that Merényi self-indulgently uses his own imagination “to create and conjure” (just like “the writer of some horror novel”), and that his tales are usually far removed from a “sound and healthy folktale” (Arany, L. 1864:209). After repeatedly inventorying the flaws that János Arany had pointed out (the overuse of folkish phrases and turns of speech, inconsistencies, and the occasional highly literary formulation), he explains Merényi's doggedness by deeming that perhaps “this is how he finds [the stories] beautiful” (Arany, L. 1864:210). This supposition is confirmed by the fact that Merényi's flaws seem to abound most at points where he had obviously invested most effort into embellishing his tales. The fact that Arany finds this different ideal of the folktale unacceptable is proven by the references he makes to two groups that contributed significantly to canon formation, both of which represent ideals different from Merényi's. One of these is the reference to the Brothers Grimm, who favoured simplicity in their collection. Summarily he declares, “I brought up all of this to convince Merényi, if that is at all possible, that this dreadful load of folkish ornamentation and decorative embellishment is far from beautiful, at least experts of the folktale literature do not find it so” (Arany, L. 1864:210). The spirit of the entirety of the paper leaves no doubt that László Arany sees his own group, along with the Brothers Grimm, as experts of the folktale literature, creators of the Hungarian canon of the folktale.

In his inauguration speech at the Kisfaludy Society (On Hungarian Folktales), László Arany inventories (without value judgement or ranking order, simply marking the number of tales contained in each collection) the collections of folktales that had emerged to date. This inventory includes, beyond the titles listed by Gyulai, Gyula Pap's Palócz népköltemények [Palócz Folk Literature].23

Thus, over the first half of the 1860s, the four authors and their writings discussed so far laid the foundations for the paradigm within which contemporary and later collections of folktales (and folk literature in the broader sense) were to be interpreted. They envision collections of folktales in a hierarchic order, with the works of Gaal and Majláth at the bottom (the beginning), followed by Erdélyi, and later Merényi who goes within a few years from being seen as a promising collector to being a condemned collector. Gyula Pap is also placed on the periphery of the canon with his collection that László Arany first considered promising (Arany, L. 1865:475) but made little mention of later. This canon only tangentially notes the folktale collections of Ipolyi (as a collateral textual corpus required for Magyar Mythologia), and completely omits István Szilcz, Gábor Kazinczy, or Sámuel Szabó, or other minor collectors belonging to the collecting network. One obvious reason for this is that these texts were still in manuscript form at the time, whereas the canon could only include published works. The great, classic collections were those by László Arany and János Kriza, but the true apex of this hierarchic construct came to be constituted by the volumes of the series Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [Collection of Hungarian Folklore] launched in 1872. The Kisfaludy Society had commissioned Pál Gyulai to embark on this project as early as 1861, and he had chosen László Arany as his co-editor. This meant the emergence of an institutional and accountable forum for the practical implementation of the guiding principles for collecting and editing folk literature.

There was only one point in the 19th century when it seemed necessary to re-draw the boundaries of this canon. The years 1894–96 saw the publication of Elek Benedek's five-volume Magyar Mese- és Mondavilág [The World of Hungarian Tales and Legends]. The first critical reflection on the first volume came from László Arany in Budapesti Szemle in 1894.24 This was followed by a strand of polemics25 between Lajos Katona (Vác, 1862 – Budapest, 1910), the ethnographer who laid down the foundations of Hungarian comparative folkloristics, and Elek Benedek himself, based on an article published by the former in 1899. This dispute took place partly in Ethnographia and partly in Benedek's own journal, Magyar Kritika.

In the Preface to his book, Elek Benedek explains his strategy of text formation in a manner that is clear and accessible to any reader: he is mostly re-telling tales that had already been published, with the aim of making them “a common treasure before the great millennial celebrations” (Benedek, E. 1894:III). Such a notion of the collector's task puts an ever-increasing emphasis on the manner of storytelling (as the title page states: “told by Elek Benedek”26), and this is also reflected in the last sentences of the Preface: “By way of information I note that my book, as the attentive reader may well establish, is no simple collection of tales and legends picked up or quoted from any manner of place. I myself wrote each and every one of them, to the best of my abilities” (Benedek, E. 1894:IV). Perhaps anticipating later objections, Benedek also adds, “this re-writing, however, does not mean depriving the folktales of their authentic character” (Benedek, E. 1894:III), it simply means choosing a style which renders the texts equally enjoyable “to the people and the educated audience”. As part of the contents list, Benedek also provides the source of each of his tales, so they can be easily identified and compared (Benedek, E. 1894:V–VII). It is in response to this gesture, deemed offensive vis-à-vis their declared principles, that László Arany offers a scathing critique of the first volume. He declares that, on final balance, Benedek's work “cannot be included among the source publications of Hungarian folklore” (Arany, L. 1894:477). After such an irremediable exclusion from the canon, he assigns Benedek's collection its place within the ranks of children's literature, claiming that “this enterprise will stand its ground as reading fit for the growing generation” (Arany, L. 1894:478).

In support of his opinion, László Arany also compares Benedek with earlier collectors of folktales. It is revealed that in his opinion, Benedek's manner of presentation “is not as authentic and archaic, nor as rich as that of Kriza”, “his colouring is less rich and varied than that used by László Merényi”, and as regards the structure of his tales, he “can compete neither with János Erdélyi, nor the greater part of the folktales included in the latest collection of the Kisfaludy Society”. At the same time, he admits that his style is closer to the folklore register than the volumes of the Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [Collection of Hungarian Folklore], nor is it so “overly profuse” as Merényi's and is more readable to the general public than the tales of Kriza (Arany, L. 1894:476). However, even if Benedek is able “to tell the tales with ease and fluidity,” in vain is he “acquainted with the innumerable ins and outs and common tricks of the trade of storytelling” (Arany, L. 1894:476), in László Arany's judgement, his presentation of the tales is at odds with the rules of literary structure.

Lajos Katona expressed his opinion regarding Elek Benedek's collection in 1899 in the context of criticising the selection criteria used in a French collection of tales (Katona 1899a:63–65). From this paper we can reconstruct the appearance of a new bone of contention: Katona claims that we can distinguish apocryphal and authentic folktales, where the texts of Benedek's collection represent the former category, while authentic folktales would clearly be “László Arany's collection with all its flavours, and Kriza's died-in-the-wool Authentic Folktales” (Katona 1899a:64), as well as the volumes of the CHF and the tales published in the journal Magyar Nyelvőr. In his somewhat heated reply (Katona 1899b), Elek Benedek demands evidence to support the accusation of forgery and argues with Lajos Katona regarding the characteristic traits of the genuine folktale (Benedek, E. 1899a:174). Benedek also repeatedly emphasises that although his tale collections are the most popular among readers, and during his collecting tours he still keeps coming across people who re-tell him his own tales, people like Pál Gyulai or Lajos Katona fail to take notice of this and, aside from a single article that was published in Budapesti Szemle, “there has been no criticism of any significant stature” of his work (Benedek, E. 1898:295, 1899a:173). Lajos Katona gave a reply (Katona 1899b) that was even more categorical than that of László Arany: “not even all of Mr. E. B.’s protest or indignant rejection will shake my opinion, for even if he claims a thousand times that we ought to have paid attention to The World of Hungarian Tales and Legends and studied it, we folklorists and ethnographers will never recognise it as of any use to our purposes” (Katona 1899b:174). With this statement he draws a clear dividing line between “us” and “him”, declaring that it is impossible for Benedek to enter the canon they had constructed. Katona justifies all of this by arguing that the principles of textual publication have changed since the first publications of János Kriza and László Arany and the first volumes of Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény, and Elek Benedek “does not and will not understand what is meant by a real folktale or, rather, it is something else he considers to be it than the totality of the latest scholarly literature of the examination and comparison of tales” (Katona 1899b:175). Going even further, Katona states that it is no longer possible in his time to publish a text as an authentic folktale if it has been re-worked, re-told, or stylised by the collector, no matter what an excellent storyteller he may be. In response to which Elek Benedek furiously rejects the idea that Lajos Katona “and his folklorist colleagues are the only ones to know what a real folktale is (…). Can a folktale be genuine if it has received a literary form? Of course it cannot! Stories published by the notary of the most godforsaken village – they are the real folktales; what I tell based on my very own notes, in my own storytelling voice, with the best of my talent for storytelling, is no longer a real folktale, it is not trustworthy enough for the world-famous folklorist” (Benedek, E. 1899b:244). With this, Benedek actually openly opposes the theoretical tenet at the very base of the canon whereby not everybody is equally well suited for the role of storyteller and tale collector. He questions the assumption whereby “the notary of a godforsaken village” (i.e., a literate but not a literary person) will be less likely to shape the tales, and the texts he collects will be closer to those told by the people than Elek Benedek's tales.

In 1903, the pages of Ethnographia saw another debate concerning the originality and the mode of collecting and presentation of folktale texts. In his paper Magyar népmese-typusok [Types of Hungarian Folktales], Lajos Katona accused Sándor Pintér of plagiarism. He claimed that Pintér had borrowed one of his tales from János Erdélyi and re-wrote it to reflect a palóc dialect, because he had found some verbatim analogies between the texts of the two tales. And ‘since the collector does not note this circumstance’, reasoned Katona, ‘his procedure may give rise to doubt concerning the originality of his other stories, or at least forewarn us to exercise the utmost caution in their regard” (Katona 1903a:133). In his response, Sándor Pintér replied in a proud letter published in the following issue of Ethnographia. First, he declared as a fact that he had “neither read Erdélyi's tales, nor seen them in writing or in print, thus he cannot have re-written the previously mentioned tale ‘in a more folkish style’” (Pintér 1903:197). Next, he named the source of the tale in question, “a lame spinster of the name of ‘Örzse’, some 60–65 years of age and with a true gift for storytelling” (Pintér 1903:197), and went on to describe to Katona his method of tale collection.27 In the second half of the letter, he points a whole line of impassioned questions at Katona, a philologist, asking him how he thinks about folktales, about the independent recurrence of folktale texts in different locations, and what he might have done in order to avoid the charge of plagiarism. “What is it I should have remarked? According to Lajos Katona, I should have stated that if there is a similar tale anywhere else in the world, this is not ‘a re-telling of that tale in a more folkish style.’ Dear Sir! Do you know where, how, in what way, and in which region János Erdélyi had come by the folktale titled ‘The Widowed Man and the Orphan Girl’? Do you know me to have been familiar with the folktale published by Erdélyi? Do you also know for a fact that no other person could have known this tale other than the person who told it to Erdélyi? And then, highly honoured fellow member, what right have you to proclaim that all of the tales currently still in my desk drawer are already dubious with regard to their originality?” (Pintér 1903:199) Finally, he requests Lajos Katona to pay him the honour of a personal visit, to examine in his home the tales that he had noted down and the storytellers who will be invited and produced for the occasion” (Pintér 1903:199–200). In his reply published in the same issue of the journal (Katona 1903b:200–203), Lajos Katona apparently accepts Sándor Pintér's answer and seemingly believes that the latter had not been familiar with Erdélyi's tales and thus could not have re-written them. At the same time, Katona revisits with such obstinate frequency the question of tales cropping up at some distance from each other in both time and space in such similar forms that in effect he manages to keep open the option that Pintér may in fact have made recourse to Erdélyi's collection of tales – which in this case would be equivalent to saying that his collection was entirely devoid of use for scholarship.

To sum up, we can confidently say that the canon of the late 19th century left intact the hierarchy that had emerged in the middle of the century and which accorded value to collections (such as the collections of János Erdélyi or László Arany, or the volumes of Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény) produced by individuals who were associated with the central institutions of the field (Kisfaludy Society, Tudós Társaság [Learned Society], editors of Ethnographia), with the only exception being János Kriza's Vadrózsák. This pattern was disrupted only by one firm manoeuvre (relegating Elek Benedek to the counter-canon) and one attempt (questioning the credibility of Sándor Pintér's collection of tales). Collections of palóc folktales are mentioned in passing, while Transylvanian collections, with the exception of Kriza's Vadrózsák, never appeared in print and therefore had no chance of becoming incorporated in the canon (Katona 1894).

In the 20th century, folklorists devoted little attention to collections of folk literature, including folktales in their own right, since the main priority of folktale research at the time was to focus on recent collections and engage in the vast enterprise of catalogue-building.

In the earliest years of the century, it was Antal Horger who highlighted the text-building strategies of 19th-century collectors (among them canonised figures such as János Kriza or László Arany). He claims that the collectors created and re-wrote the tale texts in the name of a particular aesthetic ideal. The difference, he claims, was only in their mode. “While Merényi remained a greasy rustic, László Arany used a literary language, and Kriza wrote his own tales in an endearing Transylvanian dialect” (Horger 1908:456). This statement, made in Volume X of the CHF, led to a lengthy debate between him and Gyula Sebestyén on the pages of Ethnographia (Erdélyi, L. 1913; Horger 1908, 1912, 1913; Sebestyén 1912, 1913a, 1913b). In his logically cogent reasoning, Horger is not seeking to condemn Kriza's manner of storytelling, he merely draws attention to the fact that in the 19th century, “in Kriza's time, it was not merely permitted but practically an expectation to ‘smooth out’ the folktales they had collected,” since “scholars, as well as the wider audiences, were likewise only interested in beautiful Hungarian folktales” (Horger 1913:54). Gyula Sebestyén's increasingly heated replies turned more and more personal. By 1913, he was declaring Antal Horger to be a “common collector” and a “bad ethnographer” (Sebestyén 1913a:57) who is incapable of forming an opinion about Kriza. Since this debate was not followed by an act of re-examining the historical tale corpus or re-thinking the principles of textual construction, after Antal Horger had exposed the problem, Hungarian folkloristics needed to wait another century for the question to re-surface and research efforts to shift in the direction of examining the historical texts.

The effort of reviewing 19th-century folktale collections in the 20th century is largely associated with the name of Gyula Ortutay (Szabadka, 1910 – Budapest, 1978), a defining figure of the Budapest school of performer-centered narrative research.28 He surveyed the main collections in four papers (Ortutay 1939, 1960, 1962, 1963), mostly with the purpose of self-legitimization – i.e., with the intention to demonstrate the kind of foundations upon which the volumes of the paradigm-shifting Új Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [New Collection of Hungarian Folklore, NCHF] were built, and the works that should be considered its predecessors. In his writings he establishes a hierarchic order amongst the 19th-century collectors he considers his forerunners, where the criterion, the “extent of re-writing,” is drawn from an imagined notion of authenticity.

In his 1960 paper on György Gaal, he writes that the latter “had shaped the material of his storytellers with a firm hand (…), and Gaal cannot be excused even if we are fairly closely acquainted by now with the history of the re-writing of the Grimms' tales” (Ortutay 1960:27). Concerning János Majláth, he declares that his collection “is saturated, through and through, with the romantic attitude of its author, so unfortunate in his destiny, and in no way to be considered as an authentic product of the peasantry. His method – that of forgery and transformation – will, as we have seen, go on to haunt our collections for a long time to come, although in a declining manner” (Ortutay 1939:230). Judgement is passed along similar lines regarding János Erdélyi.

In 1960 he wrote, „even if the literary re-writing had done considerable damage to the usability of the text, nevertheless a great portion of his collection deserves the epithet ‘blood from our blood’” (Ortutay 1960:27). As regards Merényi, he states that “János Arany had condemned sharply this method of over-decorating re-writing”, and that Merényi's collection “is of no use to us today except as a database fit to prove the existence of certain textual types and structures” (Ortutay 1960:30). László Arany's collection Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales], he claims, is “far closer to the genuine voice of the folktale, even if it does inevitably resort to re-writing” (Ortutay 1960:30).

Ortutay also frequently expresses his opinion regarding the publication of the individual volumes. He believes that the collections of István Szilcz, György Gaal, and Arnold Ipolyi would be worthy of publication (Ortutay 1963b:91) and János Erdélyi's deserves re-publication (Ortutay 1962:533). He justifies this claim by stating that “various stages in the history of the Hungarian folktale could be carefully re-examined on the occasion of their publication” (Ortutay 1963b:91).

Perhaps the most serious difficulty in relation to these pronouncements is that Gyula Ortutay, although in possession of considerable experience as a tale collector (and partly founding his opinions on this), had probably never examined a single original manuscript thoroughly. This way he could only presume that György Gaal had changed the texts of his storytellers or that Majláth's method had been forgery, and that this tendency decreases with each new collection until we finally reach the stage when “the real voice of the folktale” comes to dominate (Ortutay 1960:30). The very word “forgery” probably sounds far too harsh and may ring familiar from János Arany's essay of 1861. As regards János Erdélyi, it is again not very clear what Ortutay meant when he claimed that the re-writing “had done considerable damage to the usability of the text.” We may even question whether the extent of re-writing may be genuinely captured and measured through the tale collections of an entire century. I believe this is one of the things that could be explored on one specific corpus (besides many other dimensions) and if the question appears in some sense relevant, the texts/collectors could then be ranked accordingly. This, however, entails very special requirements as far as sources are concerned (most of all a rich range of philological variants: notes taken on location, clean draft, text prepared for publication, and published version should all be available simultaneously). Only after carrying out textological investigations based on these can we make any serious claims, for example, that the extent of transformation showed a declining tendency in our collections. Neither is it clear whether Gyula Ortutay's preferences regarding editions and re-editions were in any way connected with promoting scholarship, since these collections, in my judgement, can also be examined without publication/re-publication (perhaps with more difficulty), but by excluding certain texts/collectors ab ovo from scholarly investigation,29 we deprive ourselves of the chance to see the entire corpus in all of its historical dimensions. Based on all of the above, we may safely say that Gyula Ortutay had no intention of changing the structure of the previously emerged canon by his statements concerning the 19th-century tale corpus, and it was mostly in order to name his own forerunners that he included certain collectors in the canon.

Another important representative of the Budapest school was Ágnes Kovács, who published important essays concerning the collecting activity of Arnold Ipolyi and László Arany and had plans to produce critical editions of their collections (Kovács 1982, 1989). She wrote repeatedly about János Kriza and his network of collectors in connection with the Kriza legacy which turned up in 1949 (Kovács 1956, 1961a). She also authored the only paper of the period to be written clearly with the intent of re-canonisation – in Ethnographia, in 1961, she argued for Elek Benedek's rehabilitation (Kovács 1961b). After having familiarised herself with the original manuscripts, she claimed that the manner of text formation used by other collectors in the late 19th and early 20th century (re-writing, transforming the text received from the original storyteller) does not differ significantly from that of Benedek's. Although in this paper Ágnes Kovács incorporates Elek Benedek in the canon, she does not question the legitimacy of the dichotomy of bad collector/good collector established in the late 19th century within the canon – in other words, she rehabilitates Benedek as a good collector. This gesture entered the history of the canonisation of these collections as a one-off case but did not create a precedent for scholarship to re-think the collections of others and thereby arrive at a position that all collectors may be deserving of research in order to contribute to an understanding of the period.

As we have seen, over the course of the 20th century the canon did become modified and more nuanced under the influence of the above-described publications, but it was not transformed significantly. On the peripheries we find János Majláth and László Merényi as collectors clearly deemed unworthy of research. More significance is accorded to the collections of István Szilcz, György Gaal, Arnold Ipolyi, and János Erdélyi. An even higher grade in this notional hierarchy is occupied by the volumes of the CHF, Elek Benedek, and Lajos Kálmány whom Ortutay considered a direct predecessor to performer-centered research, as well as the “classic collections” – László Arany's Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales] and János Kriza's Vadrózsák [Wild Roses]. The apex of this construct is occupied once again by the present – i.e., the Új Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény. The only significant way in which the canon has become modified compared to the end of the 19th century is that Ágnes Kovács has incorporated Elek Benedek, as well as other fellow collectors in the cases of Arnold Ipolyi, László Arany, and János Kriza.

Besides those listed above, new members of the canon incorporated around this time were the publications containing the collections of folk literature submitted for the contest invited by the Zsigmond Kemény Society in 1897 and published in Transylvania by József Faragó and Katalin Olosz. Although these also became known in mainland Hungary, particularly A kecskés ember [The Man with the Goat] (1972)30 – a collection of folktales which may be seen as a scholarly publication – they never became emphatic parts of the canon. This is also what happened to Gyula Istvánffy's collection published in 1963 by Ferenc Bodgál. Attempts to re-formulate the canon established in the 19th century, particularly at altering its canon of interpretation, did not commence until the 21st century. Forerunners to such research within folkloristics may be pinpointed in two writings by Péter Niedermüller (Niedermüller 1987, 1990) which, probably unwittingly, continued along Antal Horger's idea. Niedermüller argued that the 19th-century textual base is very much a construct – in his view, the scholarship of the 19th century considered texts as clearly something of value, and whatever was declared devoid of value according to an aesthetic criterion was either corrected as unpresentable in its existing form or left entirely out of consideration. What we find in the background of such collecting and publishing activity is a concept of pure folklore which existed in the minds of all collectors (and, we might add, corresponding concepts of collecting, of folk literature, of tales, of the collector, the data publisher, or of what may be considered a beautiful text, etc.), based on which they pursued their collecting and text publishing activity. It is this same latent paradigm (the construction of the rustic by the elite) that Róbert Milbacher wrote about in his book (Milbacher 2000). He presents concrete case studies (based on the examination of literary texts) to demonstrate how folk culture splits into two strands in the process: texts which the elite culture finds presentable and usable, and those which are unacceptable for the elite and are thus condemned to being silenced, replaced, or deleted altogether. If we take this tendency of literary history (also in relation to the research efforts represented by Márton Szilágyi) as our point of departure, in Hungary, scholars like Judit Gulyás and Mariann Domokos mark the trend which is committed to a thorough philological examination of 19th-century folktale collections in order to gain a thorough understanding (after the exploration of the material) of what was in fact considered a folktale in the 19th century and what were the different concepts of the folktale existing in the minds of the collectors. Besides her programmatic paper (Gulyás 2007), Judit Gulyás wrote several other articles on the appearance of the folktale in the Hungarian literature of the 19th century, and on the attempt made on behalf of the elite to integrate the genre of the fairy-tale with the literary canon. Mariann Domokos has been publishing continually since 2002 about 19th-century collectors, executing important source publication work. These two authors had jointly prepared the critical edition of László Arany's Eredeti népmesék [Authentic Folktales] (1862) (cf. Domokos – Gulyás 2018).

Anyone studying mid-19th century Hungarian folklore collections today must take into consideration the research carried out by István Csörsz Rumen and Imola Küllős (Cf. OHP 2000, 2006, 2013, 2015). At least as regards János Erdélyi, the authors demonstrated through specific collections that the activity of the collectors who lived at this time cannot be viewed separately from the tradition of popular literature but must be imagined as an organic part of it.

Katalin Olosz continued her investigations, launched in the 1960s, with renewed dynamism after the post-communist transition. These recent volumes of historical folkloristics have been of a pioneering value both in their approach and in their philological precision, their handling of the texts and in the exhaustive exploration of all possible sources and all routes to any of the collections (Cf. Szabó 2009; Kriza 2013; Kanyaró 2015; Olosz 2018).

Summarising the above, my goal in this paper has been to demonstrate that even though studies in textual folkloristics have become enlivened over the past few years, the great number of unexplored or only partially explored 19th-century collectors and collections leave us with plenty of further work to do. On the one hand, it is crucial to carry out certain important pieces of basic research, while it is also indispensable that we re-think certain pronouncements of 19th- and 20th-century folkloristics which are often summary generalisations unsupported by sources but which live on uncritically in the scholarly literature of the field.

Acknowledgement

The completion of this paper was supported by the MTA Premium Postdoctoral Research Program. The author is a member of the MTA–ELTE Lendület (“Momentum”) Historical Folkloristics Research Group.

References

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1

For earlier English-language summaries of the topic, see Voigt 2010:1175–1187; Ortutay 1972:286–322.

2

For more on the concepts used in connection with the canon, cf. Szajbély 2005:81–89. Mihály Szajbély uses these concepts to describe the emergence and operation of the literary canon. According to his interpretation, “the role of the open canon is to define the role of literature and to describe the attributes that works need to have to fulfil this function. It names the criteria a work must fulfil before it is considered literary and draws the boundary accordingly between the canonised and the extra-canonical. It shapes the corpus of the works that are within the sphere of the canonised – the textual canon – and pairs these with the set of expectations and approaches considered relevant to their interpretation – the interpretative canon” (Szajbély 2005).

3

Since we only have a single 18th-century collection that includes tales, I consider this work (Szilcz's collection of tales) among the collections proposed for discussion.

5

Cf. Voigt 1982:144, 1989:375–377. The reason Vilmos Voigt connects these authors is that all three were active in Vienna, in the service of Hungarian culture. The third member of the triad was Count Alajos Mednyánszki, who published his collection of legends in Pest in 1829 under the title Erzählungen, Sagen und Legenden aus Ungarns Vorzeit.

6

Since Ferenc Kazinczy's translation was complete by 1825, some of the tales could be published in the journal Muzárion (cf. Gulyás 2006). In view of the period, we must also definitely reckon with the canonisation of texts published in chapbook editions in the case not only of Mailáth but also, for instance, of Arnold Ipolyi.

7

It is important to note that in line with the common practice of the 19th (as well as the 20th) century, János Erdélyi enlisted students for his collecting efforts, among other collectors. In the preface to his 1855 volume, he mentions “the scholarly youth of Sárospatak” who assisted him in his endeavors (cf. Erdélyi 1855:[2]).

8

Gönczy 2005. The example of József Kelecsényi, one of the many Transylvanian collectors, demonstrates that there were individuals who did not approve of János Erdélyi's treatment of the texts.

9

See some of the previously mentioned collections, Gaal György magyar népmesegyűjteménye [György Gaal's Collection of Hungarian Folktales] (1857–60), and Magyar regék, mondák és népmesék. Gróf Majláth János után Kazinczy Ferencz [Hungarian Sagas, Legends, and Folktales. By Ferencz Kazinczy, Based on Count János Majláth] (1864).

10

The Palóc are an ethnic group living in the northern part of the Hungarian-speaking area and clearly distinguishable by their dialect and customs. In the 19th century, great interest was shown in discovering the ethnography of groups living on the peripheries (e.g., Palóc, Székely), believed to be more archaic.

11

See Domokos 2007 for changes in the appraisal of László Merényi as a collector of folktales.

12

See the studies of Judit Gulyás and Mariann Domokos in this volume.

13

For a published version of the correspondence and other documents related to the collectors' network, see Szakál 2012.

14

For identifying student collectors and exploring the role that Pál Gyulai played in the history of 19th-century folklore collecting, see Domokos 2015:221–264, 376–382.

15

Elek Benedek's collection has been published in a great number of selected and re-printed editions, but there has been no critical edition, which may be related to the fact that the current location of his manuscripts of ethnographic relevance is unknown.

16

For more on the history of this publication, see Domokos 2015:265–343.

17

For a good point of departure on Károly Török's manuscripts (the location of which is currently unknown), see Domokos 2015:335–336.

18

For the best description of Elek Benedek, the storyteller and writer of stories (particularly in relation to analyses of his tales), see Kovács 1974, 1977.

19

Writing about Elek Benedek as an author and forger of ballads, Katalin Olosz also discusses Benedek's self-definition. Cf. Olosz 2011, primarily 111–112. On Elek Benedek as a writer of stories, see Gulyás 2011:25–46.

20

For more on the literary publications of folktales outside the collections in the 1840s, see Gulyás 2010a.

21

This was clearly also related to the 1836 establishment and goals of the Kisfaludy Society.

22

Gyulai 1862:386, 392. Arnold Ipolyi complains of similar problems, cf. Ipolyi 1858.

23

Cf. Arany, L. 1867:40–41; also, László Arany introduced Gyula Pap's book: Arany, L. 1865.

24

Arany, L. 1894:473–478. This review was published with the signature r.--, so it was not clear to contemporaries, who authored it. Elek Benedek clearly saw Pál Gyulai behind it, but in fact the paper had been authored by László Arany.

25

For a detailed analysis of this polemic, see Gulyás 2011.

26

This method was in fact applied by all collectors in the era, explicitly or implicitly, and shaped the stories to a varying extent. Allusion to it in the title, besides Elek Benedek's case, is made by Gyula Istvánffy. The full text on the title page of his 1890 collection reads, Palócz mesék a fonóból. Meséli: Istvánffy Gyula. [Palóc Tales from the Spinning Room. As told by: Gyula Istvánffy].

27

He informed Katona that he still had several folktales hiding in his desk drawer which are also original, meaning that either he himself had written them down following the original storyteller verbatim, or had someone else write them down for him, except for a few rare cases when the storytellers themselves wrote the tales down.

28

The Budapest or performer-centered school of folktale research believed that studying the personality of the individual storytellers and the communities surrounding them was an aspect of outstanding importance in the understanding of folktales. Its departure was marked by Gyula Ortutay's book Fedics Mihály mesél [Storytelling by Mihály Fedics] (1940), which was published as the opening volume of Új Magyar Népköltési Gyűjtemény [New Collection of Hungarian Folklore].

29

Cf. for example Ortutay's statement regarding László Merényi, “I would not consider republishing Merényi's rare volumes” (Ortutay 1963b:91).

30

With regard to the present volume, see Kovács 1972.

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  • Niedermüller, Péter 1990 Adatok a magyar folklór szövegbázisának megkonstruálásához a XIX. században [Data for Reconstructing the Textual Base of Hungarian Folklore in the 19th century]. Ethnographia 101(1):96104.

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  • OHP = Old Hungarian Poetry 18th Century (Régi Magyar Költők Tára XVIII. század) 2006 Közköltészet 2. Társasági és lakodalmi költészet [Public Poetry 2. Society and Wedding Poetry]. Budapest: Universitas.

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  • Olosz, Katalin 2011 Benedek Elek és Sebesi Jób balladagyűjtésének problémái [Problems Related to the Ballad Collections of Elek Benedek and Jób Sebesi]. In Benedek, Katalin (ed.) A népköltészet terített asztalánál, 100124. Budapest: MTA Néprajzi Kutatóintézete.

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  • Olosz, Katalin 2018 Nagyszalontai népballadák és epikus énekek 1912–1919. A Folklore Fellows Magyar osztálya nagyszalontai gyűjtőszövetségének hagyatékából összegyűjtötte, szerkesztette, bevezető tanulmánnyal és jegyzetekkel közzéteszi Olosz Katalin [Folk Ballads and Epic Songs from Nagyszalonta, 1912–1919. Collected and Edited Based on the Legacy of the Collecting Society of the Hungarian Department of the Nagyszalonta Collecting Society of Folklore Fellows, and with an Introductory Essay and Notes by Katalin Olosz]. Kolozsvár: Kriza János Néprajzi Társaság.

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  • Ortutay, Gyula 1963b A magyar népmesekutatás eredményei és feladatai [Achievements and Further Tasks of Hungarian Folktale Research]. Az MTA Nyelv- és Irodalomtudományi Osztályának Közleményei 20(1‒4):8595.

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  • Ősz, János 1941 A csudatáska. Eredeti székely népmesék [The Magic Sack. Original Sekler Folk Stories]. Kovács, László (ed.) Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Szépmíves Céh.

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  • Pap, Gyula 1865 Palóc népköltemények [Palóc Folk Poetry]. Sárospatak: Forster Rezső.

  • Pintér, Sándor 1903 Nyilt levél Katona Lajos úrhoz [Open Letter to Mr. Lajos Katona]. Ethnographia 14(4):197.

  • Pintér, Sándor 1999 A népmesékről. XIII eredeti palóczmesével [On Folktales, with XIII original Palócz Tales]. Galcsik, Zsolt (ed.). Szécsény: Honismereti Alapítvány. (Facsimile edition).

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  • Pogány, Péter 1954 Szájhagyomány mentésünk elfelejtett korszaka és szervezője. (Megkerült Abafi – Kálmány sajtórakész népköltési gyűjteménye) [The Forgotten Era of Salvaging Oral Tradition and the Organiser of the Operation. The Finding of Abafi and Kálmány’s Ready-For-Print Collection of Folk Literature]. Ethnographia 65:541567.

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  • Sebestyén, Gyula 1912 Kriza székely népmeséiről [On Kriza’s Sekler Folktales]. Ethnographia 23(6):368372.

  • Sebestyén, Gyula 1913a Kriza újabban megvádolt mesemondása [On Kriza’s Recently Condemned Art of Storytelling]. Ethnographia 24(1):5758.

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  • Sebestyén, Gyula 1913b Az új Vadrózsaper záradéka [Conclusions of the Recent “Wild Roses” Trial]. Ethnographia 24(2):124126.

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  • Szabó, Sámuel 2009 Erdélyi néphagyományok 1863–1884 [Transylvanian Folk Traditions 1863–1884]. Olosz, Katalin (ed.) BudapestMarosvásárhely.

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  • Szajbély, Mihály 2005 A nemzeti narratíva szerepe a magyar irodalmi kánon alakulásában Világos után [The Role of the National Narrative in the Changes of the Hungarian Literary Canon after the Battle of Világos]. Budapest: Universitas.

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  • Szakál, Anna (ed.) 2012 „Így nőtt fejemre a sok vadrózsa…” Levelek, dokumentumok Kriza János népköltészeti gyűjtőtevékenységének történetéhez [„How the Wild Roses Grew on Top of Me” Contributions to the History of János Kriza’s Activities as a Collector of Folk Poetry]. Kolozsvár: Kriza János Néprajzi Társaság – Magyar Unitárius Egyház.

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  • Szakál, Anna (ed.) 2017 Források Kriza János gyűjtőhálózatának kutatásához [Sources for Studying János Kriza’s Network of Collectors]. Nyelv-és Irodalomtudományi Közlemények 61(1):728.

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  • Szakál, Anna (ed.) 2018 „A mi magát a székel lére feleresztését illeti […] az minden esetre ha nincs is nehezebb, mint a prédikaczió dolgozás, de oly nehéz van.” – Hitelesség, hamisítás, szövegalakítás a Vadrózsák néhány meseszövegének példáján [„As Regards Watering down the Székely – Well If It Is Not More Difficult than Sermonising, It Is as Difficult” – Authenticity, Forgery, and Text Formation on the Example of a Few Tale Texts]. In Keszeg, Vilmos Szakál, Anna (eds.) Korszakok, életművek, események és eredmények az erdélyi néprajzkutatásban, 1166. Kolozsvár: Kriza János Néprajzi Társaság.

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  • Szakál, Anna (ed.) 2019 „Ismerem-e Tiboldit? Már ki ne ismerné itt Székelyországban a mi jó öreg bátyánkat, a mi kedves mesemondónkat!” – A kiváló tanító, a híres alkalmi költő és a szorgalmas gyűjtő Tiboldi István [„Do I Know Tiboldi? Who on Earth Could Not Know Our Dear Old Brother Here in Székely Lands, Our Dear Old Storyteller?” István Tiboldi, the Excellent Teacher, Famous Occasional Poet, and Hard-Working Collector]. Erdélyi Múzeum 81(2):2881.

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  • Szakál, Anna (ed.) 2020 Önfejű unitárius lelkész – innovatív néprajzi gyűjtő. Ürmösi Sándor (1815–1872) írásos hagyatéka [A Hard-Headed Unitarian Vicar – and an Innovative Ethnographic Collector. The Written Legacy of Sándor Ürmösi (1815–1872)]. Kolozsvár: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület.

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  • Voigt, Vilmos 1982 A magyar népmesekutatás a múlt század első felében [Hungarian Folktale Research in the Second Half of the Last Century]. In Kríza, Ildikó (ed.) Kriza János és a kortársi eszmeáramlatok, 139150. Budapest: Akadémiai.

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  • Voigt, Vilmos 1987 Gaal, Georg von. In Ranke, Kurt (ed.) Enzyklopädie des Märchens. Handwörterbuch zur historischen und vergleichenden Erzählforschung, 623625. Berlin – New York: Walter de Gruyter.

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  • Voigt, Vilmos 1989 A magyar mese- és mondakutatás bécsi triásza [The Vienna Triad of Hungarian Tale and Legend Research]. In Jankovics, József (ed.) A magyar nyelv és kultúra a Duna völgyében. I. Kapcsolatok és kölcsönhatások a 18–19. század fordulóján, 375377. Budapest – Wien: Nemzetközi Magyar Filológiai Társaság.

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  • Voigt, Vilmos 1997 Gaal György. In Csoma, Zsigmond Gráfik, Imre (eds.) Kapcsolatok és konfliktusok Közép-Európa vidéki életében. Tanulmányok Gaál Károly professzor 75. születésnapjára, 205216. Szombathely: Vas Megye Önkormányzata.

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  • Voigt, Vilmos 2010 Ungarn. In Brednich, Rolf Wilhelm (hrsg.) Enzyklopädie des Märchens 13:11751187. Berlin – New York: Walter de Gruyter.

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Senior Editors

Editor-in-Chief: Ágnes FÜLEMILE
Associate editors: Fruzsina CSEH;
Zsuzsanna CSELÉNYI

Review Editors: Csaba MÉSZÁROS; Katalin VARGHA

Editorial Board
  • Balázs BALOGH (Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities)
  • Elek BARTHA (University of Debrecen)
  • Balázs BORSOS (Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities)
  • Miklós CSERI (Hungarian Open Air Museum, the Skanzen of Szentendre)
  • Lajos KEMECSI (Museum of Ethnography)
  • László KÓSA (Eötvös University, Budapest)
  • lldikó LANDGRAF (Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities)
  • Tamás MOHAY (Eötvös University, Budapest)
  • László MÓD (University of Szeged)
  • Attila PALÁDI-KOVÁCS (Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities and Eötvös University, Budapest)
  • Gábor VARGYAS (Institute of Ethnology, Research Centre for the Humanities and University of Pécs)
  • Vilmos VOIGT (Eötvös University, Budapest)
Advisory Board
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  • Daniel DRASCEK (Regensburg, Germany)
  • Dagnoslaw DEMSKI (Warsaw, Poland)
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  • Krista HARPER (Amherst, MA USA)
  • Anya PETERSON ROYCE (Bloomington, IN USA)
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  • Mary N. TAYLOR (New York, NY USA)
  • András ZEMPLÉNI (Paris, France)

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Manuscripts and editorial correspondence:

Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Institute of Ethnology
Research Centre for the Humanities
Hungarian Academy of Sciences
H-1453 Budapest, Pf. 33
E-mail: actaethnographicahungarica@gmail.com

Reviews:
Mészáros, Csaba or Vargha, Katalin review editors
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E-mail: meszaros.csaba@btk.mta.hu or vargha.katalin@btk.mta.hu

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2021  
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Scimago  
Scimago
H-index
7
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,1
Scimago Quartile Score Cultural Studies (Q4)
Demography (Q4)
Music (Q4)
Scopus  
Scopus
Cite Score
0,3
Scopus
CIte Score Rank
Music 77/153 (Q3)
Cultural Studies 630/1127 (Q3)
Demography 103/124 (Q4)
Scopus
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2020  
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6
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,127
Scimago
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Cultural Studies Q3
Demography Q4
Music Q2
Scopus
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29/78=0,4
Scopus
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Demography 83/109 (Q4)
Music 61/147 (Q2)
Scopus
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Scopus
Cites
39
Scopus
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21
Days from submission to acceptance 29
Days from acceptance to publication 236

 

2019  
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H-index
5
Scimago
Journal Rank
0,142
Scimago
Quartile Score
Cultural Studies Q2
Demography Q4
Music Q2
Scopus
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23/79=0,3
Scopus
Cite Score Rank
Cultural Studies 508/1002 (Q3)
Demography 83/104 (Q4)
Music 60/142 (Q2)
Scopus
SNIP
0,568
Scopus
Cites
28
Scopus
Documents
28

 

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Acta Ethnographica Hungarica
Language English
Size B5
Year of
Foundation
1950
Volumes
per Year
1
Issues
per Year
2
Founder Magyar Tudományos Akadémia
Founder's
Address
H-1051 Budapest, Hungary, Széchenyi István tér 9.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Publisher's
Address
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Responsible
Publisher
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 1216-9803 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2586 (Online)