Imagine out hunting in the woods and you come upon the most beautiful deer in the world. The coat is a glossy white color, the tall majestic beauty of its antlers is almost holy in the visage of a strange mythical glow. The way it moves stirs your heart as the beauty of its movements and graceful strides, make it seem as if God had crafted this magnificent creature for you and you alone. For you’re privy to gaze upon its splendid image.
While you’re sitting in your deer stand wondering what wood to use to smoke the meat into tasty dry jerky. Yum yummy. Venison.
And by that I am referring to The White Stag by Kate Seredy
The story follows the epic journey of the Huns and Magyars, traveling west across Europe and Asia and settling into what would be today known as Hungary, following the instructions of their Hungarian pagan god, Hadur. And at the urging of their wise leader Old Nimrod (who dies at the end of chapter one) which both tell them to follow a white stag, but not to catch him until they had arrived at their destined new homeland. And so with both of Old Nimrod’s sons: Hunor and Magyar, they take their belongings with the clothes on their back and leave their barren unhealthy land to find a new place to make their home.
According to The New York Times when reviewing this book it states:
“The wonder of a fairy tale, the stirring romance of the heroic legend, rounded out with the color, atmosphere, and poetry of this artist’s retelling of the story of Attila”
And it couldn’t be even further from the truth. Although you may think the summary reads as your run-of-the-mill historical fiction, it basically is not. And that is what makes this story stand out more than any other historical fiction story about ancestral tribes, as well as their colonization into new worlds that would be known by even the most common layman to this day-it decides to weave a different approach and focus more on the legend and folklore-ish mysticism of the apparent tribal migration than anything based in fact.
It writes itself as a legendary story that villagers told around campfires and scribes wrote into proses that would fall into the same category of the Arthurian legends. That isn’t to say the writer throws away all context of historical logistics. She takes what was given to her and weaves it as mentioned before, a heroic legend. A basic retelling of the myths and legends carried from country to country about the Hun/Magyar migration and most importantly, from there the birth of their leader Attila The Hun when one of the Hun warriors Bendeguz leading the people meets a Cimmerian princess named Alleeta. And from their union help to free her people from enslavement widening the tribal party.
The stories within the book are separated into parts. Detailing the people and other places the Huns and Magyars come across. The battles the men rage against other tribes from ancient Europe, and the confrontations from people who will hinder or help their journey. All while still following The White Stag.
The story concludes with Attila The Hun taking over the leadership role after the death of his father and the tribes arriving to a beautiful, plentiful land which they call Hungary and paying homage to their god Hadur which they believe had sent the White Stag to lead them there. And the rest as they say is history.
The Review and Afterthoughts
While the book is written as a mythical legend. it takes great care to accurately portray the geographical locations that the tribes were documented to actually passed through, with the modern names of lands, rivers, and forests written in parenthesis against the ancient names they were given to at that time. Its a fascinating story that draws the reader in with its sword and sorcery dynamic with adventure, romance, and epic mystery.
If the teenager and/or young adult is already familiar with the real-life historical significance, they will find joy in reading this as entertainment. However, don’t expect your child to actually get any education from the book as it is merely more as a story dealing with the myth of the actual settling of the Huns into Europe and not what really happened from an archeological and sociological standpoint. If your kid is fascinated by the myths, folklore, and legends that make up part of a continent’s history this is the book for them.