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Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 4, 1893.djvu/336

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SZÉKELY TALES.




THE south-eastern part of the Hungarian territory, better known as Transylvania, is inhabited by many a remnant of the old nationalities which played so important a rôle in the Middle Ages. The migration of the Turanian peoples from their homes in the East followed certain distinct routes by which one after the other invaded Europe. Two at least of these routes lead through the Carpathian mountains, one from the south and one from the north: the first through Wallachia (nowadays Roumania), the other through Moldavia.

As soon as one of those ancient tribes was dislodged from their seat by the tribes that attacked them, and they in their turn were also pushed westwards, they invariably took to one of those routes. These offered a double advantage: first they formed the easiest access to the rich countries behind, and, on the other hand, they formed "natural fortresses", easily to be defended against new invaders. Transylvania, a mountainous country, is also very rich in fastnesses, to which the dwellers of the plain could retreat when overwhelmed by the enemy. Such fastnesses exist in great numbers, and are almost impregnable. Hence the peculiar mixture of nationalities that are crowded into that small space of territory, and yet have been able to maintain their independence of character, language, and even religion.

One of the three recognised nationalities (at a Diet sitting in the sixteenth century) is the mysterious nationality of the Székelyek. The other two separate nations were the Hungarians, and the German Saxons, settled there as colonists in the thirteenth century. Of the unrecognised