The White Stag Critical Context - Essay

Kate Seredy

Critical Context

In 1920, Hungary underwent a loss of more than two-thirds of its territory as a result of the Treaty of Trianon at the conclusion of World War I. All Europe had once feared the Huns, but their putative descendants believed that their glory had been diminished. Furthermore, at the time that this book was written, historians were arguing that the Magyar race was not connected with the Huns after all. Kate Seredy desired to retell the ancient legend that traces a descent from Attila to the Magyars and thus to recapture the lost glory of Hungary’s legendary heritage.

Seredy calls upon biblical authority by choosing Nimrod, the biblical hunter, as the forefather of the Hun and Magyar races, which historians argue both came out of Scythia. The tale of the White Stag is ultimately an explanation of national identity, much like the myth of Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, or the twelfth century Germanic Nibelungenlied. For Seredy and all Hungarians, the legend was a matter of roots. Young readers, Hungarian or not, understand that much personal strength comes from pride in one’s racial and national identity.

The White Stag won the Newbery Medal and continues to be included in bibliographies for children’s literature in library collections. It is unquestionably the most famous of the retellings of the legend of the White Stag.