Friday, April 22, 2016

S is for Szaffi

A young baron raised by Gypsies, a Turkish girl raised by a swamp witch wise woman, an eerily clever cat, an Italian assassin, and an evil knight search for buried treasure in post-Ottoman rule Hungary.
Szaffi (1984) is a feature length animated movie based on a novel written by famous 19th century Hungarian author, Jókai Mór. Fun fact: Johann Strauss wrote an operetta titled The Gypsy Baron, based on the same novel - the cartoon, in turn, based its music on Strauss'. It is one of the most memorable film scores in Hungarian animation.

Turkish rule is ending in Hungary; the Emperor's armies are pushing the Ottoman forces out. The last Turkish stronghold is the castle of Temesvár, held by Ahmed pasha. When the pasha sees that all is lost, he sneaks out of the castle with his baby daughter and all his treasures, and runs to his Hungarian friend, Botsinkay Gáspár, who has a little son (the two kids are engages from birth). They bury the treasure and run - the Hungarian nobleman also has to flee since the Emperor will punish everyone who lived in friendship with the Turks. As they flee, they lose the baby in a flood. She is fished out by a kind, wise old woman.
The two noblemen flee to Turkey - where Ahmed is beheaded for losing Temesvár, and Gáspár dies of illness. His little son, Jónás, is found and raised by Gypsies. When the Emperor declares amnesty for all fugitives, he returns home with his scroll proving nobility, to claim his father's estate. However, the knight that governs the lands is not happy - he has been looking for the pasha's buried treasure, and had his eyes on the estate as well.

Shenanigens ensue. Jónás finds the estate in bad repair. The knight sends an Italian assassin after him. Jónás runs into the old woman and think she is a witch; he also meets Szaffi, who shares a name with a black cat, and thinks that she is a shape-shifter. The wise old woman tells him that he will find "the treasure" when he gets married. Jónás goes off to propose to a rich (and horrible) lady, and promptly gets kicked out. The knight still hunts him (he also wants to marry the rich lady). But with the help of the Gypsies that raised Jónás, and the knowledge of the old woman, everything turns out fine in the end.

Some quotable moments:

The Knight is planning to get rid of Jónás, talking to the assassin:

Knight: "Now you go after him, and stab him in the back!"
Assassin: "Oh no, no, no! I'm an intellectual. Forgery, poisoning, counterfeit money, movie reviews, but murder?! Nooo, I can't look at blood..."

Jónás flees from the dungeons dressed in a dead bear's skin, and helped by the bear's keeper, who is a Gypsy friend of his. A guard finds the discarded bear skin, and goes to report to the Knight:

Knight: "What the devil is that in your hands?"
Guard: "A bear skin, sir. As far as I can tell, it's Goliath's."
Knight: "Whaaat? And where is the bear's keeper? The Gypsy?"
Guard: "He took Goliath for a walk."
Guard: "Well, um, it's very hot outside, I thought..."

You can watch the movie (in Hungarian) here. It is also possible to find English subtitles for it on some subtitle websites.


  1. LOL - those quotes are wonderful - "movie reviews" :)
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  2. I agree with Natasha. I must say the Hungary seems to have some really great cartoons and animated movies.

  3. definitely one i would watch (after a to z that is). love the story line.

  4. That looks fun. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I love the movie reviews line, too.

  6. I like this one, looks like it's both cute and fun.

  7. That sounds like my kind of story. I just recently found out about Jókai Mór, since I was looking up the namesakes of some of the streets in Abony (where part of my current WIP is set). I'm not surprised to learn there's one in Budapest too.