Review #16: Saving the Gleeful Horse by K.J. Bishop

Posted by Nicky Drayden on Mar 27, 2010 in Reviews

Published by: Fantasy Magazine, March 22, 2010

PiñataPhoto by Peasap Creative Commons

The Story:

Molimus, a great giant so broad it takes four men’s shirts stitched together to clothe him, lives under a bridge collecting flotsam for trade. From his vantage, he witnesses the assassinations of marvelous, colorful animals, beaten to death by the sticks and swords of children. Molimus can’t believe how cruel these children are, taking pleasure in the kill, then plundering the prizes that tumble out of the animals’ carcasses — prizes like caramels and toy rings.

When Molimus finds a vibrant little horse that had somehow lived through a savage beating, he decides to nurture it back to health. Though it’s full of holes, the horse remains in good cheer, but beyond bandaging up the wounds, Molimus knows nothing of how to give life back to the horse. So he sets out to see the White Ma’at, an old, old woman who knows all and sees most.

The Craft: Character Arcs

SPOILERS

In the first part of the story, Molimus’s character comes off as gentle and compassionate, yet spiteful. Despite his size and strength, his occupation is one of quiet and patience, sifting through the flotsam passing under his bridge for objects of value to barter. Molimus has a strong sense of morality, and feels strongly about the atrocities the children bring upon such magnificent creatures. He opens his heart up to one such creature, a horse struggling for survival, and takes it upon himself to nurse his Gleeful Horse back to health.

Molimus’s compassion and spite are shown again later in the story when he visits the White Ma’at. Even though she tells Molimus that the children are not to blame, for they do not see the animals as living as they do, Molimus hangs on to his hatred of the children for their vile acts. However, he’s sensitive enough to realize that something is troubling the White Ma’at, and he knows that she must be tired of the prison she finds herself in, trapped in her home by Prince November. Molimus feels for her, and he wants to save the Gleeful Horse, so he makes a deal with the White Ma’at that will help them both.

Molimus is tasked with filling the Gleeful Horse with treasure to restore its life, but the White Ma’at tells him that it’s not the trinkets that spill from the treasure animals’ wounds that he must find. He needs to collect starlike pieces, which are only found in living things, most abundantly in children. Molimus, who’s been full of compassion and virtue up until now, starts to feel something else — shame. The shame, now tangible in Molimus’s throat, gets coughed up, and once he’s rid of it, he’s able to go on his journey. He steals life from children and splits it between the White Ma’at so she can build power to escape Prince November, and his Gleeful Horse which devours the life quickly, requiring Molimus to harvest more and more.

While Molimus’s intentions are good, he goes from a gentle giant to a monster, and in the grand pursuit of saving one life, he’s forced to take the lives of countless others. Maybe Molimus beleived deep down that the children were innocent of their cruelty. Maybe that’s why he had felt qualms about the deal he made with the White Ma’at. The possiblities are fun to think about, and I like that the truth is not explicity spelled out. I enjoyed sharing Molimus’s journey with him, though I’m grateful I could do so without sharing his fate.

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