All images fangirled over in this post are from this website via google.
Turns out I was mistaken when I said in my last post that the next post would be about Charlemagne. I thought Charlemagne was next, but I looked at my list and it turns out I’ve got a few books to go before we reach Karl, King of the Franks. But that’s all right, because today we have Kate Seredy’s retelling of the Huns’ migration from Asia to Europe, The White Stag! Kate Seredy is one of my favorite authors, and her writing and her art are just some of the most beautiful I have ever seen.
I’d pass up the opportunity to see the Mona Lisa if I could instead see a giant print of one of Seredy’s illustrations.
I mean, look at it. Do you see what I mean?
Do you see what I mean?
Kate Seredy is amazing, okay? Okay good, got that covered.
Now The White Stag is simply lovely, and was interesting going into it, because it traces the lineage of Attila the Hun, and he’s a Bad Guy, right? But no, this is a Hungarian story. Attila is not a Bad Guy, he’s just another in a long line of people who has to fight to live so has gotten really good at fighting.
It is by no means factual. I don’t recall seeing a date anywhere about the book and one of the most important plot devices in the book is the appearance of a magical white stag leading the Huns and the Magyars to their destination, or heralding impending divine intervention. In the forward to The White Stag, Seredy says the book is for those who “want to hear the voice of pagan gods in wind and thunder, who want to see fairies dance in the moonlight, who can believe that faith can move mountains, can follow the thread on the pages of this book. It is a fragile thread; it cannot bear the weight of facts and dates.” (do you see that writing like wow it would be cliche and fake sounding from anyone else but she genuinely and sincerely wrote that way)
Just because it’s not true to history doesn’t diminish it in any way, though. It’s a beautiful, magical story that follows the children of the Biblical hunter Nimrod, Hunor and Magyar, as they lead their people from Asia to Europe, trying to find a place to live in peace without any pesky, paranoid Europeans trying to kill them, led always by the white stag. It is not until the days when Hunor’s grandson Attila is leader of their people that they finally find a place of their own. Seredy doesn’t minimize the bloodshed or sugarcoat anything, she just weaves in threads of mythology and magic. It’s a wonderful book, and it’s not at all surprising that it won the Newbery medal in 1938.
Tune in next time for I can’t remember what, but not Charlemagne yet.