The White Stag is a mythic history of the people of modern-day Hungary, written and illustrated by Kate Seredy. It won the 1938 Newbery Award, and rightly so --- this is a simply gorgeous little book, both the words and the pictures.

The story starts with the Biblical Nimrod, Mighty Hunter before the Lord, and the tribe of people he has led since the Tower of Babel fell. It follows Nimrod's sons, Hunor and Magyar, who go on to become the leaders of the nomadic Hun and Magyar peoples, who sweep west from Asia into Europe in search of a promised land, a place to call home. The title animal is the vision that leads them ever onward.

In her foreword to The White Stag, the Hungarian-born author writes about reading a modern history of Hungary that felt like walking

in a typical twentieth-century city, a city laid out in measured blocks, glaring with the merciless white light of knowledge, its streets smooth, hard concrete facts. One could not stumble on streets like that, nor could one ever get lost; every corner is so plainly marked with dates. (7)

The White Stag runs directly contrary to this vision of history --- it is a tangled, overgrown garden of story, one a reader can happily become lost in. The author describes writing it as a walk through such a "park of legends" with a ball of golden thread, unrolled like Ariadne's gift to Theseus in the Cretan labyrinth. She concludes her foreword with an invitation, almost a challenge, for her readers to do the same:

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.

I highly recommend reading The White Stag aloud. It's a great little book for letting yourself be carried away by the poetic language. Watch for the eagles and fire, just two of the recurring images skillfully repeated throughout. But most of all, enjoy.

Seredy, Kate. The White Stag. Puffin Books, 1937, 1965. ISBN 014 03.1258 7

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