The Golden Horse by Silvia Hartmann
There once lived a beautiful wild, free golden horse. He was fast like the summer breeze, lived near sparkly lakes and blue hills, and slept under the silver moon beneath a dark blue sky filled with stars smiling at him from above.
As for any such beauty, there were jealous people. One such man, dark and of grim countenance, planned to trap him by setting up a snare offering flowers and sweet grass. The horse fell for it, and was instantly caught… and howled, and fought, but could not break free from the ropes, which were tied to a tree. He fought the entire day, and as he grew weaker, he still fought, all through the night, for if he stopped, the man would whip him and make him bleed. Even when children came by to beg the dark man to stop, he would not, so they went home.
As the second grew dark, the horse could no longer fight. He sank to his knees and touched his golden face to the ground. The dark man rained blows upon it, but the horse moved no more. The dark man then knelt before the horse and said, “Now you are mine to do as I please – forever.” So he tied the horse’s legs and put a piece of rusted steel in his mouth.
Suddenly, from the horse rose a white mist, the ghostly form of unicorn of pure light. It moved away from the horse’s still body, wondering and unsure of this strange birth, and rode away in a flash. The beaten horse remained still and slept a dreamless sleep.
The next morning the dark man came with other men to push and whip him to the road to lead him to grim stable. They nailed iron to his feet and his wounds healed. In time, he started to carry heavy loads to the market, wear a heavy plough and was even soon forgotten by the villagers, including the children who cried for him.
Except for one. The dark man remembered what the horse once was, and was filled with pleasure. The stable man never understood that pleasure.
Twenty years later, in a village far, far away, there lived a being of magic, nor man or woman. One day, while it was in the garden, he noticed a unicorn grazing among the flowers. “Who are you?” asked the being to the unicorn. The unicorn looked up, surprised but not afraid for it saw that the being was magic. “I do not know,” it answered.
“Why are you here?” asked the being. “I do not know," the unicorn replied. “What is your purpose?” asked the being of magic. “I can’t remember”, said the unicorn, crying softly.
The being of magic then knew: the unicorn is a lost soul, a sad one too, and wove a soft blanket of blue and green to ease its pain. It knew the unicorn needed to find its purpose, so it wove a whirlpool of whispering sounds to take it to…
On a bright summer’s day, two twin children were sad about living with a bitter old aunt who did not care for them because their parents had died. This day, they came to the brook they always visited and just sat there, until they saw the ghostly mist of a unicorn shape across the water. “Unicorn”, hushed one. “You can see me,” said the unicorn. “You are a unicorn,” said the girl. “I am lost,” said the unicorn. “Can you help me?” “We are lost too,” said the boy. “How could we be of help to you?”
Sad, the unicorn turned to walk away but the girl shouted, “Please don’t go! We do not have a home, but we may be able to help. You are magic; maybe you were sent to help us too.” They decided that the unicorn should live in the stable near the aunt’s house. They set out to the village and walked until they came across a horse, which dragged its feet and stumbled often, pulling a cart. The unicorn stayed in the middle of the road while the children moved to one side. The horse walked through the unicorn and left it shaking with terror. It had remembered.
“What is it?” asked the girl to the unicorn. A tear slipped down the unicorn’s cheek as it started to follow the cart. The children followed and they started to run until they arrived at the gate of the dark man’s house. One lantern lit the yard. The horse was still chained to the cart it had been pulling. The unicorn danced nervously around him and, as the children watched them both, they saw the familiarity between them.
Suddenly, the dark man stood and went to his window, feeling something odd. He picked up his whip and ran to the yard. Frightened, the unicorn and children huddled in a corner while the man approached, raising his whip in the air and shouting. The horse heard the children’s cry for help and raised his head. He felt the memory come back, then another… the memory of freedom…
Like a fire, his memory flooded back and he reared mightily and struck the dark man with flaying hooves. The man fell to the ground and the horse reared again, screaming. His iron shoes fell, and the unicorn joined him in a dance as they sang together, until the horse and unicorn became one again.
The dark man vanished, broken… dissolved until he became a mere shadow of himself. The children, having broken the dark man’s spell, left with the horse to go live in the mountains. They founded a city with statues of the children and the horse, built to remind us all that life is more than toil.
This is a resume of the story. To read it in full, click here.
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