Thursday, February 6, 2020

Review of "The Superlative Horse," by Jean Merrill

Review of

The Superlative Horse, by Jean Merrill 

Four out of five stars

 The basic premise of this story was a tale in the “Book of Lieh Tzu,” which was published in China around 350 B. C. While it is an old tale, it is also timeless. For it deals with the selection of the highest quality horses and how people under the ruler can be disingenuous in pursuit of their aims.

 Duke Mu is the most powerful ruler in the Five Provinces and the horses in his stables were known as the best in the land. His Chief Groom is Po Lo and he is the person responsible for the greatness. Po Lo has been the one to go out into the land in search of the best horses, but he is getting old, so a replacement is being sought.

 Quite logically, Duke Mu consults Po Lo regarding his replacement and is astonished when he is told that the best person for the role is Han Kan, the son of a fuel hawker. Not quite convinced, Duke Mu sends Han Kan and his Chief Minister Wang Ho out into the land in a search for the best of all horses. This story describes their journey and Wang Ho’s efforts to discredit Han Kan. It is a fairly standard tale of the efforts of an unheralded and unlikely person to rise to a position of fame and fortune.

 The story is interesting, as are all ancient tales from other lands. In many ways it demonstrates a commonality among ancient cultures where the horse was the prime means of transportation and powerful labor. The common theme of competition between employees is also a human universal.

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