The White Stag

This book, which won the Newbery Award in 1938, might loosely be considered quasi-historical fiction, with emphasis on the fiction. It is the epic story of the migration of the Huns and Magyars from Asia to Europe. The author wrote that it was inspired by leafing through a very modern book on Hungarian history which said that the early history of the Hungarian or Magyar people is a matter of dispute in that their own traditions declare them to be descendants of the Huns but present knowledge tends to disprove this theory. The book is based on the old Hun-Magyar legends, which, she said, “cannot bear the weight of facts and dates.” The story begins with Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter before the Lord, son of Cush the Great Leader (cf. Genesis 10:8-14). This supposed leader of the Huns had followed a white stag and brought his people from their original homeland to the wild mountains of Altain-Ula. He learns that his sons, Hunor and Magyar, must follow the stag and lead them from Altain-Ula to the gentle hills by the misty blue lake. Then by the oracles of Damos, their blind prophet, Hunor’s son Bendeguz again follows the stag and led them from Asia to Europe where they dwelt on the land between the Don and Volga rivers. The descendants of Magyar choose to remain there, although the legend is that they apparently joined them later, but the descendants of Hunor follow Bendeguz’s son, Attila who fights against the Europeans under the Western and Eastern Roman emperors and finally, still chasing the stag, leds them to their new homeland in modern Hungary. Of course, Attila the Hun was a real historical character (c. A.D. 480-453). The short book is well written from a literary standpoint and quite exciting to read. If considered solely in the realm of pure legend, as Greek myths, it is not too bad, and would make an interesting adjunct to the study of ancient European history.

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