By the time the sun comes up, we are at the edge of the camp where the Amazons have pitched their round tents. The Amazon horses are small and strong. They have blue circles painted on their necks and quarters and – yes, it’s true! – little stubby horns in the middle of their foreheads. They throw up their heads as I get closer, and one or two squeal challenges at me. I am feeling a bit better, so I squeal back. A woman with braided hair, and wearing leather, is washing the circles off them. She has a deep scar across her cheek. When she sees me coming, she picks up an axe that was lying nearby….
The Horsemaster stares in disbelief at the little horned horses with their blue circles. Then he raises his gaze to Amazon queen, taking in her braided hair, her axe and bow, and her leather clothes. Seeing the rest of her herd are all women too, he relaxes slightly. “Out of my way, woman!” he says. “I’m exercising these horses.”
observations: Further to earlier entries on Ancient Greece and Persia and Alexander the Great: this is the best version of his life aimed at young people (but good for anyone), it is the best book about his horse Bucephalas, and probably the best book ever narrated by a horse (it’s more exciting than Black Beauty). In the opening pages, the horse says:
Climb on my back, if you dare, and let ME carry you into the battles that changed the world!I find it hard to imagine a more entrancing start to a story - the book ends with his saying
The wind goes silent in my ears. Together, we fly….It is time for you to slip off my back now and return to your own world…
which some of us do with sadness that it is over and (spoiler) Alexander and his horse are both dead. It would be hard to overstate what a great book this is: anyone would love it, though also it would be highly recommended for boys who don’t read much.
The Amazons above help Alexander for a part of the story, and there is a splendid description of Queen Penthesilia ‘axing another Persian’.
The top picture is from the Walters Museum in Baltimore – the vase actually predates Alexander somewhat: the Amazons really were immortal. The marble horse’s head is slightly later, and is also Greek, and also from the Walters Museum. The Museum (which generously makes its collection available on a Creative Commons licence) has a lovely collection of Alexander-related artworks and manuscripts.
Links on the blog: Very different horse stories here and here.
For another Alexander.