The Winged White Horse
By: Pari Mansouri
Translated from the Persian Book
Of Children's short stories,
"The Winged White Horse"

Once upon a time, not so long ago, in a small town, at the foot of some very high mountains, surrounded by green valleys and fresh fields, a little girl was born, whom her parents named " Shadi", meaning "Joy". Quite by chance, this name was very appropriate for the little girl, as she was never seen by anyone to be crying or bad-tempered. All her family and friends loved her very much. Well, it is hard not to love such a sweet and pleasant girl. She loved everyone too. You must be wandering what she looked like. I have to say that she was like a shining piece of crystal; like the blue sky and the calm sea; like sunshine and moonlight; like all the stars and every spring flower; like the joyful songs of birds on a bright morning; and above all, she was beautiful in everybody's eyes because of her sweet temper and good behaviour.

Her father, mother and her only brother loved her very much, and she grew up surrounded by their affection. Time passed, and she was now at an age when, in her imagination, she could step into the world of her mother's stories, and make friends with the fairies and the angels. In her mind, the stories told by her mother, were the most beautiful in the whole world, and her favourite, was that of the 'Winged White Horse'. Little Joy became especially fond of this story. From time to time, she asked her mother to buy the Winged-White-Horse for her, but her mother's answer was always the same, that it could not be bought.

There were times, when little Joy became frightened by the giants and ogres in the stories; that was when her brother, who was three or four years older than her, used to laugh and say that these were just fairy tales, and they were all untrue. So, if she was frightened by them, she was a coward, and no one loves a coward. She would then become ashamed of herself, and move her little hands away from her bright and fearful eyes and say: "No. I'm not frightened. I know that giants and ogres don't exist in this world; but I'm sure that the 'Winged White Horse' does, and I love it as much as the whole world."

Little Joy's father was a sailor, and every time he returned from one of his voyages, he brought back a gift for each of them, and tales of the different lands and the people he had seen. Whenever her father was due to set out for a new trip, little Joy would ask him to bring back the 'winged white horse', as that was the only gift she wanted; but, like her mother, he used to say that it cannot be bought in the same way as other things in this world. However, occasionally it would, of its own accord, come to visit a little boy or girl, and become friends with them. Then, it would put them on its back and fly on top of the clouds, and soar above the mountains. As time went by, little Joy realised that it was no use pleading for the 'winged white horse'. She consoled herself by asking her mother to tell the story every night, and before falling asleep she prayed that God would let her see the horse in the morning.

Little Joy's house was in the outskirts of the small town and very close to a hill. Every spring and summer, she walked with her mother up this hill, along a path with wild flowers on both sides, and eventually reached a refreshing spring by a huge rock. She then used to wash her face and hands in the clear, sparkling water; and sometimes, for fun she would bring soap and blow bubbles through her soapy fingers. She would then watch with great delight, as the large and small, shiny and transparent, bubbles were scattered through the air. By chance, one summer's day, when little Joy's mother was busy preparing for one of her father's trips, she gave her permission to go to the spring by herself, providing she looked where she was going and was careful not to fall down and hurt herself. So, she took her soap and walked happily to the spring. She then washed her face and hands as usual, and was blowing big and small bubbles with the soapy water... when, the strangest and the most beautiful thing in the world happened. While watching one of those bubbles, she noticed that it grew larger and larger, and began to shine brightly and mysteriously on one side, through which suddenly, the 'winged white horse' emerged. Little joy was so excited that she kept jumping up and down with delight, and clapping her hands saying to herself: "I knew it. I knew it. The 'winged white horse' does exist. I wished my brother was here to see it."

Then, the horse came closer and said: "Little Joy, I will be your friend for ever, and I will carry out your every wish." Little Joy thought to herself: "I'm sure that this is the very same 'winged white horse' in my mother's stories, and it can answer all my questions and do anything I ask." She then remembered that, when she was walking up the path towards the spring that morning, she had seen a single wild flower, which was small and white, and it seemed to her that it was very sad. She asked the horse why the little white flower was so sad. The horse answered: "It is sad because it is lonely. There is a big stone beside it, and it cannot see the sun every day. If you want to make it happy, carefully take it out of its place with all its roots, and plant it among the wild flowers on the other side of the path."

Little Joy did as the 'winged white horse' had suggested. When the flower saw that it was near its friends and could see the sun, its white petals began to shine so brightly that little Joy realised it must be thanking her. She then said to the horse: "I must go home now, or my mother will be worried. Please, please, promise me that I will be able to see you again." The horse replied: "Don't worry. Every time you are by this spring, I will appear to you and, as I said before, will fulfil your every wish."

Little Joy said: "I'm very happy and grateful; only, could you please kneel down, so that I can say good-bye to you properly?" The 'winged white horse' went down on its knees, and she gently stroked its glistening white mane and buried her face among those soft, bright tresses. Then, delighted and jubilant she set out for home.

The next morning, little Joy woke up much earlier than usual and waited impatiently for daybreak, so that she could go to the spring again. Eventually, after two hours or so, which to her seemed like years, with its gentle sunshine, day finally came, and little Joy made her way to the spring. Once there, the 'winged white horse' appeared as promised and said: "Well, you can see that I kept my promise and I am here. Now, let me know what I can do for you today."

Little Joy said: "When I woke up early this morning, it was still fairly dark. I looked at the garden and noticed that the grass and the flowers were full of stars. It was very pretty. I wanted to bring you a few of those stars. When day finally came, I went in to the garden; but I was very disappointed to find that all the stars had gone. Do you know what happened to them? Where have they gone?"

The horse replied: "The stars that you saw are the gifts of the night fairies, who throw them on the ground for the dawn as it opens the gates for the coming of the sun."

After some thought, little Joy said: "Well, if the stars are the gifts of the fairies for the coming of the sun, I'm happy and can't complain, because I love the sun; but I love you too, and I want to be able to give you a few of those stars. So, what shall I do?"

The horse answered: "Don't worry. This winter, every time you eat an orange, keep its pips. When Spring comes, bring them here, and plant them around this spring. You will see them grow into trees. After two or three years, they will be full of white, fragrant blossoms for you and me, and every one who comes to this spring. When we look at those blossoms, it will be as if all the stars have come down from the sky. What can be more beautiful than such a present?"

Little Joy agreed happily and said: "Well, now I would like to ask another favour of you. I would like you to take me up in the sky on your back, up very high, above those mountains. I want to see everything below.
The 'winged white horse' accepted readily and went down on its knees so that little Joy could sit on its back. Then, they flew up in the sky. Oh, it really is not possible to imagine how excited and thrilled she was.

While flying, little Joy noticed a river in the middle of a green field, and she said to the horse: "Can you see the river below? Why is it dancing so joyfully? Has something wonderful happened?"

The horse replied: "The river dances and is happy because, as you can see, the farmers have planted fields of wheat on both its sides this year. The river knows that one of these days the wheat will shine like gold, and with all that golden wheat, it will no longer be lonely and dull."

Having flown a little further in the sky, little Joy saw a green and beautiful village. Its trees and flowers were full of colourful birds, singing joyfully. She asked the horse: "What has happened? Why have all the birds gathered there?"

The horse replied: "Yes, it does seem as though all the birds have gathered in this place. But, there is a good reason. An old woman lives in this village who was sad for a very long time, and all the people have stopped smiling because of her sorrow. The old woman has a young son, who has been ill for many months; but only today his fever has finally broken. Now, everyone has decided to visit the old woman and celebrate because of her happiness. The birds have also told their friends to come here, so that they can all sing and join in this joyous occasion."

Well, having flown for sometime, that day, above the mountains and the clouds, the 'winged white horse' brought little Joy gently back to the ground by the same spring, and then asked: "Now, you must tell me what you would like for yourself."

Little Joy said with great surprise: "Me? For myself? I have you now, so what else could I possibly want? I have always wanted you to be mine... But, I guess, come to think of it, I would like you to always be with me and never leave me."

The horse replied: "I would like that; but each year as you grow older, you will also become wiser, and you will be able to find the answers to your questions all by yourself. Then you will need me less and less, and eventually you will forget me."

Little Joy's bright eyes filled with tears and she said: "If this is how it will be, I will pray never to grow up; because I never want to stop seeing you."
The horse said: "Don't be sad. I will always be in your heart and if you don't forget me, I may even appear when you need me."

Little Joy said: "I will never forget you. I will remember you as long as I live. I promise. I also wish that one day, all the children and all the grown-ups in the world will be able to see you just like me."

So, that summer, and many summers after, passed by in the same way, and little Joy grew older and wiser. She found many friends and learned many things, and years later, she became a mother, and then a grandmother. She always loved everyone in the same way as she did when she was a child, specially her grandchildren. It was interesting that, like herself, her children and grandchildren enjoyed the story of the Winged White Horse most of all, and often asked to hear it again.

Now, if it happens that you come across that small town, at the foot of those high mountains, and walk up the path that leads from Joy's house to the spring and the nearby hills, you will see on both sides, the large and thriving orange trees which every spring, beckon all the people to their magical embrace with thousands of white and fragrant blossoms. So, do not hurry; sit by the spring and gaze at the mountains towering above in the sky and watch the clear water of the spring, and the valley which with all its freshness, seems to be smiling at the sun. You never know; perhaps, you will also see the 'winged white horse.'