Document Type



science fiction, St. Eustace, medieval literature


The St. Eustace Legend as Palimpsest in Hoban's Riddley Walker. In Riddley Walker (1980), Russell Hoban uses the medieval legend of St. Eustace as the basis for his fictional society. Used to project a folklore, a system of belief, for a future world, the legend (and its additions by Hoban) acts as a palimpsest, a text of many layers. It explains the origins and present circumstances of Riddley Walker's society, acts as a chemical formula providing the ironic renewal of technological capabilities, and illuminates the narrator's personal story. The legend of St. Eustace was one of the most popular stories of the Middle Ages. Originally known as Placidus and a captain of the Emperor Trajan, the future saint was out hunting when he saw a white stag between whose horns appeared a bright light that formed a cross on which was the figure of Christ. The Christ figure spoke: "Placidus, I am Christ whom you have hitherto served without knowing me. Do you not believe?" Placidus answered, "Lord, I believe." The vision then told him that he would suffer many tribulations, but that the Lord would not forsake him. Placidus, his wife, and two sons were baptized and Placidus took the new name Eustace.





Published in

Science Fiction Studies

Citation/Other Information

Warren, Martin L. "The St. Eustace Legend as Palimpsest in Hoban’s 'Riddley Walker.'" Science Fiction Studies, vol. 101, no. 34, 2007, pp. 158-168.