Hungarian coins devoted to poet Arany

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April 13, 2017 – To mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of János Arany, the Magyar Nemzeti Bank is issuing a 5,000-forint miniature gold coin, a 10,000-forint silver coin and an identical 2,000-forint non-ferrous coin. 

Hungary / 5000 HUF / Gold .999 / 0.5g / 11mm / Design: Vilmos Király / Mintage: 5,000.

The front of the small gold coin depicts a golden motif drawing on the golden ratio, which is composed by the titles of Arany’s most important works. The back of the coin bears a portrait relief of János Arany by Miklós Barabás.

Hungary / 10,000 HUF / Silver .925 / 31.46g / 38.61mm / Design: Vilmos Király / Mintage: 5,000.

The silver and non-ferrous versions depict the statue ensemble of Miklós Toldi by Alajos Strobl which stands before the entrance to the National Museum. The back features a half portrait of János Arany, the writer’s signature and the quote of his arc poetica. The collector coins were designed by the sculptor Vilmos Király.

Hungarian poet János Arany (1817-1882).

János Arany

János Arany was a Hungarian poet, teacher, editor, director of the Kisfaludy Society, member and Secretary of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and one of the best known and most renowned figures in Hungarian literature.
As the greatest Hungarian ballad writer, he was known as the Shakespeare of ballads, while some called him the notary of Szalonta for his profession, whereas in his home town he was given the name the listening man, likely in reflection of his character.

Early life

Arany was born into a poor Calvinist family and was a late child to his parents. He was raised with great care, as eight of nine siblings died of tuberculosis before him. He was a true child prodigy and started working as a tutor at the age of eleven to support his ageing parents. Despite his austere background, he was very well educated and as an adult he read the great works of Latin, Greek, German, English and French literature in the original and did a great deal of significant translation work. His translations of Shakespeare are outstanding. His vocabulary was unparalleled, as he used some 60 thousand individual words in his works, surpassing his contemporaries by far.

A key figure in Hungarian literature and political life

His literary career started in 1845 with the satirical epic Az elveszett alkotmány, but he achieved real fame with his award-winning narrative poem Toldi in 1846. This hugely influential work also led to a lifelong friendship with the poet Sándor Petofi. He was already involved in public life at the start of his career, writing articles on politics. He participated in the Revolution and War of Independence of 1848-49 as a national guard, and was later employed at the Ministry of the Interior under Bertalan Szemere. After the revolution failed he was on the run for some time, but ultimately avoided retribution and moved to Nagykorös, where he worked as a teacher from 1851 to 1860. His life changed completely when he was elected as the Director of the Kisfaludy Society and returned to Pest. During the Compromise period, Arany was a key figure in Hungarian literature and political life. He became Secretary of the Academy in 1865 and later served as General Secretary.

He remained in this position until 1877, after which he wrote a poetic cycle entitled Öszikék and the poems included in the Kapcsos book. The Toldi trilogy was completed in 1879 with the publication of Toldi szerelme. Shortly before his death, he wrote Sejtelem, a poetic conclusion to his career.

More information on this release can be found on the website of the Hungarian Mint.

To read the Toldi trilogy in English, please click here.

And if rather want to listen to Arany’s ‘Bards of Wales’, you can do so on YouTube.