Q: Was he called Andrej Jelík?
Andreas Jelky is a character from a short 18th-century wild adventure story published in German in Vienna in 1779. There are conflicting links between the character and the real-life person born in Baja, southern Hungary, on 20 April 1738 and baptized Andreas Anselmus Nepomucenus Jilka. He may have been the real-life person Andreas Jelky who died in Buda (now Budapest) on 6 December 1783.
Fabled character's America
The name Andreas Jelky first appeared in a 19-page story in Something for Everyone... (Etwas für Alle...), an annual Reader's-Digest-like magazine published in Vienna by the beginning of 1779. Modeled on Robinson and similar adventure stories, it opens with an aspiring tailor from a place spelled Boia apprenticing with his older brother in Vienna, who tells him in 1754 to go and gain experience in Paris. Jelky's journey gets diverted to the Seven Seas, shipwrecks, pirate raids, slavery, malevolent natives, passion, Indonesia, and a deserted coast. Several sentences say early on in the narrative that he visited Suriname in South America in late 1755 while mending sails on a Dutch ship. The story brings Jelky back to Vienna in 1777 where even Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Joseph II receive him in order to listen to his adventures.
The story of the story
The author of the 1779 story, as well as of the other anonymous articles in the magazine, was most likely its editor and publisher Anton Ferdinand von Geißau. It was presumably based on oral narration by an Andreas Jelky. The brief story was republished in separate pamphlets in Vienna and Prague in the same year and translated to Hungarian in 1784 with the name rendered as Jelky András.
Summaries of Geißau's article, mostly based on other summaries as time went by, showed up occasionally in periodicals and books for the next hundred years, when the journalist Ludwig Hevesi undertook to enlarge on its circulating themes. With no background research (his source was the Hungarian translation and three more recent summaries of the same story), but with his own substantial additions and fictionalization, he published his 300-page novel in Hungarian in 1872 and in German in 1875. It has since been reissued numerous times and popular culture adopted it as the experiences of the real-life person born in Baja.
Andreas's father was first recorded as Georg Ilcka, in the 1725 Baja army draft records, later also spelled Ilka (see the sidebar for more variations), his first name included Johannes Georg once. The draft record and the Baja Town Hall always listed him as German. He married Eva Kellner, identified by two modern sources as German too. Baja was a predominantly Serbian and Croatian town with a notable German minority, most of whom immigrated in the late 17th century, and several Hungarians.
Andrew Anselm Nepomuk Jilka
The Baja parish records show that Georg and Eva had 10 children, Andreas Anselmus Nepomucenus Jilka was the youngest born on 20 April 1738.