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This article is about the bird. For the ruler in the Turkic Seljuk dynasty, see Tughril. For the leader of the Turkic Kayı tribe, see Ertuğrul.
Turul bird in the Royal Castle, Budapest, Hungary

The Turul is the most important bird in the origin myth of the Magyars (Hungarian people). It is a divine messenger, and perches on top of the tree of life along with the other spirits of unborn children in the form of birds. The Turul became a symbol of power, strength, and nobility, and it is still used today on the coat of arms of the Hungarian Army, the Counter Terrorism Centre and the Office of National Security.[1][2] The most common motifs of the ninth and the early tenth centuries—the griffin, wolf and hind—seldom figure in later Hungarian iconography and heraldic symbolism, however the Hawk or Turul, which in shamanistic lore rested upon the tree of life connecting the earth with the netherworld and the skies, preserved for longer as a device belonging to the ruling house.[3]

The Turul is probably based on a large falcon, and the origin of the word is most likely Turkic: togrıl or turgul means a medium to large bird of prey of the family Accipitridae, goshawk or red kite.[4] In Hungarian the word sólyom means falcon, and there are three ancient words describing different kinds of falcons: kerecsen (saker falcon), zongor [Turkish sungur = gyrfalcon] (which survives in the male name Zsombor) and turul.

Emese's dream[edit]

Hungarian art: Turul bird (9th century)

In the legends the Turul is mentioned at least twice to have shaped the fate of the Hungarians: on the first occasion Emese, mother of Álmos, wife of Ügyek, had a dream in which a Turul appeared, impregnated her symbolically and a stream of crystal-clear water started to flow from her womb.[5] As it moved west, it grew into a great river, which signified that her child was going to be the father of a line of great rulers. The second time, the leader of the Hungarian tribes had a dream in which eagles attacked their horses and a Turul came and saved them. This symbolised that they had to migrate, and when they did so, the Turul helped them to show the way and eventually led them to the land that became Hungary.

This legend is about Hun-Magyar kinship, and the base of the theory that Magyars reconquered Hungary as their rightful inheritance from Attila's great Hun Empire.

In Hungarian tradition,[6] the royal house of the Huns and subsequently Hungarians bears the name of the Turul clan (original Latin: genere Turul). It was later called the House of Arpad, and traditionally descends from the wise and just king Nimrod, the first king on Earth.[7]


Turul with the Holy Crown of Hungary, Tatabánya, Hungary

The Turul represents the god's power and will. The Turul was seen as the ancestor of Attila, and it was also the symbol of the Huns. It is often represented carrying the flaming Sword of God (sword of Attila), and bearing a crown. This crown is not linked directly to the Holy Crown of Hungary, but rather to the crown of Attila, as Attila is traditionally considered the first king of Hungary, as written in Chronicon Pictum and other codexes.

Turul statues[edit]

There were 3 large Turul statues, each with a wingspan of 15 metres, in Greater Hungary (before the country had its borders reconfigured by the Treaty of Trianon). The last of the three stands on a mountain near Tatabánya, Hungary, but the other two were destroyed. It is the largest bird statue in the world, and the largest bronze statue in Central Europe[1]. There remain 195 Turul statues in Hungary, as well as 48 in Romania (32 in Transylvania and 16 in Partium), 8 in Slovakia, 7 in Serbia, 5 in Ukraine, 1 in Austria. And one more as of 29 September 2012, St. Michael the Archangel's Day erected in Hungary's Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park[2].

Postage stamps[edit]

Kingdom of Hungary first issue (1900) with image of Turuls

Some of the Kingdom of Hungary postage stamps issued after 1900 feature Turuls.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom Warhol, Birdwatcher's Daily Companion: 365 Days of Advice, Insight, and Information for Enthusiastic Birders, Marcus Schneck, Quarry Books, 2010, p. 158
  2. ^ István Dienes, The Hungarians cross the Carpathians, Corvina Press, 1972, p. 71
  3. ^ Martyn C. Rady, Nobility, land and service in medieval Hungary, Palgrave Macmillan, 2000, p.12
  4. ^ "Great Turkish Dictionary". Turkish Language Association. Retrieved 1 August 2009. 
  5. ^ "Magyar Néprajzi Lexikon: Emese". mek.oszk.hu. Retrieved 1 June 2014. 
  6. ^ Arnold Ipolyi, "Magyar mitológia" (Hungarian Mythology) 1854; Gáspár Heltai, Hungarian Mythology
  7. ^ Chronicon Pictum, Gesta Hungarorum

External links[edit]