Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Kate Seredy explains in the foreword to The White Stag that she wrote the novel because she had felt dissatisfied with a book on Hungarian history that presented a dry “unending chain of facts, facts, facts” and argued that the Magyar (Hungarian) race was not descended from Attila the Hun. Her book, therefore, fictionalizes and romanticizes the westward drive of the Huns and Magyars and the life of Attila the Hun, using the rhythms and rhetoric of folklore as it establishes Attila as the founder of Hungary. Seredy’s black-and-white illustrations depict chiefly the warriors, who, like comic book superheroes, appear noble, mighty-thewed, and glorious. These drawings also hint at a slant to the eyes to reveal the Huns as an Asiatic race.

The book traces four generations of Huns. Nimrod, a great hunter, is the leader of a tribe suffering from hunger and illness. His two sons, Hunor and Magyar, have been gone for months, following a miraculous white stag. Nimrod asks their god, Hadur, for a sign that their fortunes will improve. Hadur sends first an eagle, which plunges into his sacrificial pyre; then two more, which depart northward and westward; then a fourth; and then a great red eagle, which flies away to the west. Nimrod interprets these signs: He is the first eagle, who is soon to die, while his two sons will lead their tribe nearer to their destined home. After they are gone, there will be another leader, and it will be his son, greatest...

(The entire section is 529 words.)