Places: St. Peter’s Umbrella

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Szent Péter Esernyöje, 1895 (English translation, 1900)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Comic realism

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedGlogova

Glogova St. Peter’s Umbrella (glog-AH-vah). Small Hungarian village (now part of Slovakia), between Selmecbánya and Besztercebánya, located in a narrow valley between barren mountain slopes. The stream that flows through the valley, the Biela Voda, can be dangerous when swollen by sudden rain. Glogova has a small thatched schoolhouse, the majority of whose pupils bear a suspicious resemblance to the schoolmaster, who is the only man who remains in the village during the summer months, when other men go down to the plain to work as laborers.

When the village is first described–in advance of the arrival of its new priest, János Bélyi–it is a miserable place, its clay soil being full of pebbles, unable to lend much support to any crops but oats and potatoes. The pale feathergrass that grows in abundance resembles grey hair, giving the impression that the land is old and decrepit. However, giant rocks looming over the valley lend a certain dignity to the peasant hovels. Although no flowers grow there, save mallow in the villagers’ gardens, the air is perfumed by elder and juniper. The village has no proper land registry, having lost its records in a fire, so all the villagers till as much land as they can and leave the remainder to the Church–a circumstance that embodies an allegory of the villagers’ attitude to spiritual matters.

When the new priest arrives, he inherits nothing from his predecessor but a bad dog, but his fortunes are transformed when his orphaned infant sister is brought to him and is saved from exposure to a storm by the unexplained appearance of an umbrella over her basket–the first of several apparent miracles associated with the umbrella.

When the story returns to Glogova in its last chapters, the valley has been transformed by the wealth imported as a consequence of outsiders who come to the village wishing to be married under the miraculous umbrella. When Gyury pursues Veronica, having discovered that he cares more for her than for his lost fortune, the chase takes him across Magát’s cloverfield, Srankóas’ maize fields, Szlávik’s corn fields to Gongoly’s meadow–a sequence redolent of the valley’s new prosperity, whose symbolism is further extended by the rediscovery of Veronica’s discarded ring when grass in the meadow is cut to make hay.

*Besztercebánya

*Besztercebánya (behs-tehrt-seh-BAHN-ya; now Banská Bystrica). Town on the Garam River, where the wealthy bachelor Pál Gregorics lives in an ugly stone house. The town is a model of bourgeois conformity; all its drawing rooms are furnished in exactly the same style, and all are equipped with cherrywood pianos. Behind Pál’s house is a smaller one, set in an orchard known as the “Lebanon,” that he buys to house his cook and mistress; it becomes the subject of a bizarre auction when the old man’s would-be heirs hear about a potentially valuable caldron walled up inside. Gyury returns to the old Gregorics house when he becomes György Wibra, attorney-at-law. The Jewish merchant Jónás Müncz’s shop is on Wheat Street.

Bábaszék

Bábaszék (behb-ah-TSHEK). Mountain village near Zólyom, where Müncz’s widow takes up residence, summoned to open a shop there because the inhabitants wish to sustain the illusion that their village is really a town and they have been told that no town is worthy of the name unless it has a resident Jew. Gyury first meets Veronica in the so-called town hall. but the most significant setting featured in the story is the Mravuscáns’ house. When Gyury and his traveling companions dine and spend a night there, Gyury has a dream about Saint Peter. His subsequent journey from Bábaszék to Glogova, through the Liskovina Woods full of birch trees, ferns, and anthoxantum flowers. past the old castle of Szlatina and the Brána mountain, is described in loving detail.

Haláp

Haláp. Village in which Veronica Bélyi was born and orphaned at the age of two, when her widowed mother died. The local judge ordered that she should rotate her residence among all the families in the village–an arrangement that lasted only ten days.

*Pest

*Pest (pesht). City (now part of Hungary’s capital, Budapest) in which Gyury attends university. He lives at a lodginghouse called “Seven Owls” and dines at a cheap restaurant called the “First of April.”

*Szeged

*Szeged (SEDJ-ed). City on the Danube River where the precious umbrella falls into water, causing the commotion that reveals its true value.

BibliographyReményi, Joseph. “Kálmán Mikszáth: Novelist and Satirist.” Hungarian Writers and Literature. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1964. Pages 154 to 164 introduce Mikszáth’s works. Establishes a context for Mikszáth’s works.Scheer, Steven C. Kálmán Mikszáth. Boston: Twayne, 1977. A good starting place in the study of Mikszáth’s life and work. Bibliography.
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