12/ 29/ 00
As an avid reader and lover of horse stories, I often peruse the antique
shops for out-of-print horse books, stud books of the various breeds...
anything that is 'horsey' that I don't already have. My most treasured
book was acquired in this way.
It was in a quaint New England town that one store drew my attention.
This building seemed out of place among colonial and saltbox homes
converted into a row of collectible shops along Main Street, fondly
called 'antique alley' in my area. The two boutiques flanking it were
pristine, almost startling; so bright were their new coat of white paint
and meticulously applied trim of slate blue. In contrast, this homely
structure was drab: weathered and brown paint was peeling in strips from
the siding. What little trim still framed the doors and windows had
rotted, leaving ugly black scars on the soul of this once family
dwelling. The 'antiques for sale' sign dangled precariously from the
front door and 'old books' was written in black marker on a shop-worn
cardboard placard that leaned off-center against the glass window.
Upon entering, the smell was musty and stifling. The proprietor, well
over retirement age, sat behind the counter. He was a short, dumpy man
with a ruddy complexion; engrossed in some sports magazine, he seemed
oblivious to my presence.
There did not appear to be any order or arrangement of the books by
category on the shelves. The old floorboards creaked as I moved from
shelf to shelf scanning the books. It was a book on the fourth shelf
that caught my eye. Obviously very old as the binding was tattered, the
leather jacket was mildewed and the size was unique. It was a small
book. Gently I slid it out from between two gigantic volumes. Such a
fragile book, the pages dry, discolored from age. There was no title,
just a black cover with an outline of a winged horse. Intrigued, I
opened the book. The language was totally foreign to me, but written
under each word a previous owner or someone from the past had translated
in English. My hands shook with excitement as I read, "The Wings of
Pegasus" dedicated to "Htaruma Giznad, my beloved stallion."
Upon examining the book further, random notations were written in the
margins by the unknown translator. Chronological dates with question
marks, some crossed out boldly when eliminated with surety from the
mystery of the author's identity and era. Two dates were double
underlined, one in 1241 and the other in 1225.
A brief exchange with the proprietor concluded the sale of the book. I
could barely contain my elation as I left the shop, the book tightly
clutched in my hand. There was no doubt in my mind that I would be
totally engrossed reading tonight.
The story was set somewhere in the Middle East. I do not know the
current name of the country as boundaries have changed over the
centuries. A young princess, the only daughter of the Caliph, had a
magnificent bay Arabian stallion. His name was Htaruma Giznad. They were
inseparable. The princess was often seen on Giznad, galloping over the
sands, her veil flowing behind her, laughing as they raced the wind.
Giznad, too, loved this, as his tail was held straight up, like a
banner, as he ran; his dark eyes intent on some distant finish line.
This familiar sight brought smiles to the Caliph's people, as the
princess was loved by all.
Than one day a messenger brought word to the Caliph's people that Giznad
had become ill and died. The princess had been by his side throughout
his brief illness and was now inconsolable. She wanted to know that life
was not over for Giznad and that Allah had a special place for horses.
Above all, she wanted to know that she would see him again.
The Caliph sent envoys to all the surrounding countries for someone who
could put the princess's mind at rest. Great wealth would be bestowed on
the one who could answer the question.
I do not know how much time passed, as those pages of the book were
brittle with age, and crumbled into ashes in my hand. But the book
continues when the princess is very ill. In her delirium, the princess
would call Giznad and relive their wonderful times together
One of her attendants was an ancient looking woman. Her skin dark and
wrinkled from age and weather. She was not from the Caliph's province
but from another remote country. It was she that was tending the
princess when she woke from a long period of unconsciousness.
"Tell me everything you felt when you were with Giznad when he died",
she said. "I felt a gentle breeze", said the princess.
"Tell me everything you heard when you were with Giznad when he died",
she said. "I heard the fluttering of wings as if a great bird was near",
said the princess.
The old woman smiled. "Can you not see that your question has been
answered? Pegasus was sent to Earth to bring Giznad home to the Creator
of all beings. The gentle breeze was Pegasus breathing Life into Giznad.
The "fluttering" was the wings of Pegasus taking him home."
This little known book has brought me peace and comfort as well. For I,
too, had the same question as the princess. May this story bring solace
to all that have loved and lost a special horse.