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A short history of the Vitéz László fair puppet plays
Traditional Hungarian marketplace puppetry features two puppet characters: Vitéz László and Paprika Jancsi.
There are no records available to help us decide which of the two appeared first, but both characters have an approximately 200-years-old tradition.
We are aware of several puppeteers who were playing Vitéz László, and there were even some who had both puppets in their stashes.
According to the available data, the name of the Vitéz László puppet was mentioned first in a newspaper article from 1840.
It is certain that it was part of the repertoire of the Hincz puppeteer family during the second half of the 19th century, and it was also used as the permanent "host" of the puppet theatre of Lóránd Orbók named after the character in the 1910s. Later the Kemény-Korngut family introduced the Vitéz László scenes to its programme and has kept it alive ever since.
Thanks to the 83 year old master

Henrik Kemény it is still the most popular puppet character in Hungary. Kemény, who represents the third generation of puppeteers in his family has been recently awarded the highest national ordain in Hungary. Unfortunately he has no successors who would continue the tradition.
János Pályi picked up this tradition, spicing up the character by adding his own temperament and masterful play that has been recognised at several international puppet festivals.
"Vitéz László and the magic mill" scene
The mill is haunted by devils and ghosts. They don't let the wheat to be ground. Without flour there is no bread and thus life[1] is impossible. The miller asks Vitéz László to drive away the devils and ghosts from the mill Vitéz. László takes the mission and gets a bag of wheat that he has to mill. The miller is too afraid to go with him and watch the fight, so he asks him to mill the bag of wheat before he comes back, as a proof of the mill being ghost-free. Vitéz László tries to enter the mill but the devils and a ghost prevent him every time, and he even has to confront death.
In the end the mill mills again, and a bag of wheat gives a bag of flour. The miller however wants to double-cross Vitéz László and keep his reward, so László has to teach him a lesson, too. His real award however is the applause from the audience.


[1] In Hungarian the word life means wheat  as well, which is the most important grain for maing bread



Thanks to Michael Búzás for the clip.


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