Arany comes from the impoverished gentry. He initially worked as a teacher, actor and notary. But as early as 1846 he had a great success with his first novel. In the same year he finished his masterpiece Toldi, for which he received the Kisfaludy price. In Toldi the story of a hero of the people is told, which he promoted the emerging national consciousness of the Hungarians. During the Hungarian war of 1848/49 he wrote for this reason, patriotic poems.
His passion turned into pessimism, and in 1877 he withdrew from various activities. He remained only the lyrical and epic work, which was a link between the non-literate folk poetry and the more abstract art books for him. Arany completed the Toldi trilogy with Toldi's Eve ( 1854) and Toldi's Love ( 1879).
In Geszt is today in his former home a little Arany János Museum.
His son László Arany was also a poet.