Teaching the horse to fly

By Paulo Coelho

Let us divide the word ‘preoccupation’ into two parts – pre-occupation, that is, occupying your mind with something before it actually happens. This is what worrying is: trying to resolve problems that have not even had time to appear; imagining that things, when they do happen, will always turn out for the worst.

Naturally there are exceptions. One of them is the hero of this little story.

An old king of India condemned a man to the gallows. When the king had finished reading the sentence, the condemned man said:

‘You are a wise man, Your Majesty, and curious about everything that your subjects do. You respect gurus, sages, snake-charmers and fakirs. Well, when I was a child, my grandfather taught me how to make a white horse fly. Since there is no one else in the whole kingdom who knows how to do this, my life should be spared.’

The king immediately ordered a white horse to be brought.

‘I need to spend two years with this animal,’ said the condemned man.

‘All right, you will have two years,’ replied the king, already somewhat suspicious. ‘But if this horse does not learn to fly, you will be hanged.’

Overjoyed, the man left with the horse. When he reached his house, he found his whole family in tears.

‘Are you mad?’ they all cried. ‘Since when has anyone in this house known how to make a horse fly?’

‘Don’t worry,’ he said. ‘First of all, no one has ever tried to teach a horse to fly, and the horse might well learn. Secondly, the king is already very old and he might die in the next two years. Thirdly, the horse might die and then I’ll be given another two years to teach the new horse – not to mention the possibility of revolutions, coups d’état and general amnesties. And even if everything remains exactly as it is, I will still have gained two years of life with which I can do anything I like. Does that seem little to you?’

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  1. the bridge maker says:

    … Yes, I believe it is possible… considering the horse already had wings…

    … I don’t know about Indian horses, but those originating from the land of ancient Scythia (Scythia minor) and Thracia, “the homeland of the winged horses” (Pliny the Younger), where from the legendary Pegasos, fathered by Poseidon Hippios – the creator of the first horse, must have been brought to Hellada, to Olympos, to Helicon, and, eventually, to the Parnasos, as a companion, in their eternal celebrations of beauty, of the Musae, and of Appolon the Hyperborean… those could fly and did fly… once upon a time…

    … as for that old, old king, he was far wiser than his young subject could ever imagine, and knew well to spare and invest in two years of this arrogant young life… after all, if one does not risk disappointment, and does not experiment with the unknown, one might loose a precious gift of going beyond the limits… any limits and limitations… and of rewriting the whole myth of the destruction of yet another Chimaira… no matter how vain prophecy or pre-occupation this may well be…

    ¿No has sentido alguna vez
    el galopar de unos caballos
    en el pecho?
    ¿Qué extraño poderí­o
    levantó su aparición?

  2. Ellinor Aspeflo says:

    Well, the story sure has a point. To be given two years of life, where you can do anyting you like should be one of the greatest gift there is. But the problem is, and I think a lot of people agree with me, is that most of us think more of the future than right here, right now. When I read the story, it felt so right, enjoy life, live all you can. Isn´t that what we all should do all the time, every day and every minuite? But, is that what we are doing? Well, I can´t answer for everyone, only for me, and I know, I´m not. And why not? Because I have so many things I have to do, that sometimes I forget to live. At least that is what I tell myself. To be honest, I´m not sure that is the truth. For I have not tried to take away all the things I tell my self I have to do. And therefor, I can not say that I really have to do all of theese things. Life will surley go on anyway, maybe the fear I feel of not beeing needed is bigger than the feeling and longing I have to really live my life the way I want to?

  3. fLUXman says:

    bo0om paulo,
    how precious the moment,
    you read paulos flow, then you flow,
    how well you handle dying,
    sure the condemned man, really lived every moment,
    we should make this a fashion icon, ;-),

  4. Leaf says:

    Dearest Author,
    I’m afraid I smiled at an inappropriate moment and ended your beautiful tale prematurely….in England we see horse flies, they come from the fields of long ago, perhaps, and are usually black….by grandfather, being a bit of a fisherman…at least, so called for the tales which he told…showed me how to make fishing-flies, for the bait-hook, yes? As a result of my day’s hard work, as enjoyable as ever, my mind at the point in your story when I laughed, had produced for the king, almost instantly, if not a little tricky for unpractised fingers…one beautiful little white fly, and walked free…or flew like a horse back to Ireland, where the tricksters are still well known, and as far as I’ve heard, enjoy a spot of mountain-side fishing now and again…ah, well, I say…an holiday in the mind is as good as …enjoying working for it?
    Thank you
    With Love
    pS; Brer Rabbit, fishing for the moon, wet fools for bait, the bigger the better, only possible on the lake, of course, midnight, etc etc. As told by Uncle Remus (or was that Seamus?!!)