Mythical Horses: Crash Course World Mythology #37
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Mythical Horses: Crash Course World Mythology #37

October 22, 2019


Hi, I’m Mike Rugnetta and this is Crashcourse
Mythology. Today we’re moving on from the scary monsters
of the last episode to nice, mythical… horses. Well, some of them are nice. Some are terrible – shocking! I know. [Intro]
Horses are domestic animals that have been inextricable from human life in many cultures
for a loooong time. So it makes sense there are a ton of mythical
horses. If you’re Apollo, your mythical horses can
even fly! I’ll take that over a Tesla any day! But the beginning of our mythical horse history
doesn’t end at the Greeks and Romans, oh no! According to Plutarch, the Egyptian god Osiris
once asked his son Horus which animal would be most useful in battle. Horus chooses the hors-es. When Osiris asks why he doesn’t go for something
more fierce like the lion, Horus answers that a lion is good for saving a man in danger,
but a horse is best for “cutting off the flight of the enemy and annihilating him.”[1]
This answer convinces Osiris that Horus is ready to become a warrior. Svaldilfari is a famous mythical horse from
Norse mythology. Thats right – this horse is a Norse, of course,
of course. He’s a true power-horse (which means he’s
got lots of… horse power…I guess) and he helps a mysterious builder complete a wall
around Asgard…almost. v
Y’see, the wall is being built because if the builder completes it, he gets to marry
Freya, the goddess of love, and sex and beauty…and war and death. The Aesir don’t want some rando marrying
Freya, so they give this dude an impossible task: he has a single season to complete his
labor. When it looks like the builder is going to
complete his task with the help of Svadilfari, Loki transforms himself into a beautiful mare
and … distracts Svadilfari. Without his magic horse friend, the builder
fails and Freya escapes. Also, they kill the builder and horse-Loki
gives birth to an eight-legged baby. They name this horse Sleipnir, and Odin takes
it as his personal steed. There are myths about real, historical horses
as well, like Bucephalus, the 4th century BCE steed of Alexander the Great. Initially Bucephalus was untameable, but even
as a thirteen-year-old, Alexander figured it out. He realized that Bucephalus lost it when he
saw his shadow, so he turned the horse toward the sun, and his shadow… was behind him. Clever! Another famous equine is Al-Buraq, Muhammad’s
horse. According to a tale from the hadith, Al-Buraq
carried Muhammad on his journeyv from Mecca to Jerusalem and back in a single evening,
including a stop in the heavens. In Persian imagery, Al-Buraq is often pictured
with wings and a human face. And speaking of horses with human features,
let’s take our own mythical journey back to the Greco-Roman tradition and talk about
… centaurs! Centaurs have the body of a horse, and the
head and torso of a person. Most myths describe centaurs as more animal
than human; often they personify human lust, and their manimal hybridity puts them in the
same monstrous category as werewolves or fawns. [stage whisper] Or Thoth. Who is also monstrously handsome. God, just look at him. One of the most famous centaur stories revolves
around a lot of monstrous lust. It’s the wedding of King Perithoos of the
Lapiths to Hippodameia. (extra foreshadowing: Hippodemeia means “tamer
of horses.”) Perithoos and Hippodameia invite a number
of centaurs to come celebrate, and when they show up, they hit the open bar pretty hard. The centaurs get wasted, and one of them,
Eurythion tries to rape Hippodameia. A brawl ensues, which grows to a full scale
battle that becomes known as the Centauromachy. The whole story is immortalized in the metopes
of the Parthenon and also in a relief by Michelangelo… his final work. While we’re confident sayinging drunk centaurs
come from sober centaurs… this leaves unanswered the question: where do SOBER centaurs come
from? In one myth Apollo’s son, Centauros, mates
with a horse. Another myth claims that centaurs are the
offspring of Kronos and Philyra. Kronos and Philyra had been *ahem* horsing
around… for a while when Rhea, Kronos’s titan wife, burst in on them. Kronos gets so spooked that he transforms
into a horse and gallops out of bed. All’s well that end’s well except… nine
months later Philyra gives birth to Chiron who’s – you guessed it – a centaur. Chiron is less aggressive than other centaurs,
and becomes famous for his wisdom. He goes on to teach Achilles and Asclepius
the healer, and in one set of very important mythological stories… is the director of
activities at Camp Half-Blood. Centaurs have a rather ambivalent reputation,
but there’s one Greek horse who’s a real solid dude … horse [[[happy thumbs up gestures]]]. Our favorite winged steed: Pegasus. Pegasus is born when the hero Perseus decapitates
the Gorgon Medusa. He has a whole plan – mirrored shield, very
sharp sword, and it’s off with her head! As Perseus stuffs Medusa’s head into a magic
sack, blood pours from the monster’s neck, and creates a magnificent, winged white horse. In some versions of the story, Pegasus lets
Perseus jump right on, and the two escape the rest of the Gorgons. In other versions Pegasus behaves like a wild
horse and flies away. Perseus has to chase after him with his winged
sandals. Eventually, Athena catches and tames Pegasus
then lends him back to Perseus. The two go rescue princess Andromeda, who’s
been stripped naked, chained to a rock, and molested by a sea monster. All because her mother boasted about how beautiful
she is. Don’t boast when there are gods around,
they always take it SUPER personal. After the rescue, Perseus gives Pegasus back
to Athena and the horse becomes a friend of the Muses. But, to be fair, Pegasus isn’t always so
helpful. Thoughtbubble, take us to the dark side of
the… horse. The warrior Bellerophon decides that he wants
to tame Pegasus. He spends the night at Athena’s temple,
receives a golden bridle, and some instruction and … everything goes according to plan. Pegasus tamed! Huh – that was easy. Thanks Thoughtbub–NAWWWW JK because things
get real for real when Bellerophon, who has been falsely accused of adultery, is sent
on a quest to kill the Chimaera, a fire-breathing monster with a lion’s body, a goat’s head,
and a serpent’s tail. Bellerophon and Pegasus fly off to fight the
Chimaera. With Pegasus’ help, Bellerophon stabs the
chimaera in the mouth. The fire breath melts his sword and the monster
chokes on the molten metal. After the Chimaera, Pegasus and Bellerophon
manage a couple other heroic buddy victories. Iobates, the king who sent him on his quest,
realizes that this guy is probably innocent and awards Bellerophon his daughter Philonoe’s
hand in marriage. Then stuff starts to get real, for real, FOR
REAL. Instead of enjoying domestic bliss, Bellerophon
decides that he deserves to be on Olympus alongside other heroes like Herakles. And now that he’s tamed Pegasus, he’s
just going to hop on and fly up to Olympus to take what he feels is his rightful place. I’m sure, out of all the ambitious dudes
in all of mythology, Bellerophon’ll be the ONE this works out for, right? WRONG Zeus overhears Bellerophon bragging
about his plan. WHAT’D I JUST SAY ABOUT BOASTING? The god sends a gadfly to bite Pegasus on
the butt. The horse rears up and throws Bellerophon. The arrogant hero falls to his death, while
Pegasus flies on to Olympus alone. There, Zeus makes him his pack horse, where
he carries Zeus’ thunderbolts around – The horse will be with Zeus … always. Thanks, Thoughtbubble. And, finally: we can’t do an episode on
mythical horses without talking about unicorns. The Greeks and Romans thought unicorns were
real — animals with a horse’s body, a stag’s head, elephant’s feet, a boar’s tail,
and a three-and-a-half-foot horn. Elephant feet? Really. What a mess! In Medieval Europe, unicorns became an important
symbol in art and allegory. By this point, unicorns had lost many of their
features, and were represented mostly as majestic horses with a single horn protruding from
their foreheads. It’s easy to see the phallic symbolism of
such horns, but unicorns were also symbols of chastity. It was believed that they couldn’t be captured
through force, but would willingly lay their heads in the lap of a young virgin. So when unicorns appear alongside virgins
in medieval art, like the famous unicorn tapestries, the virgin is meant to symbolize Mary. This is how the unicorn became a symbol of
Jesus, as well… with images of unicorn killing acting as an allegory for the crucifixion.[2]
There are unicorns in east Asian mythology too. Qilin, the Chinese unicorn, has the body of
an antelope, an ox’s tail, and a twelve-foot long horn. Its appearance portends momentous changes
— like the birth or death of a king. According to one myth, Qilin appeared on the
banks of a river to give legendary emperor Fu Hsi magical signs that would inspire Chinese
writing.[3] Horses and their mythical relatives have a
complicated relationship to humans. They can represent our worst impulses, as
centaurs do, or a boon companion like the monster-fighting Pegasus. The wide range of their symbolism makes sense
– given the wide range of their place in human life. Horses have been important human companions
for a long, long time: they’ve been transportation, pack animals, laborers, and even… friends? Horses helped so many cultures experience,
and understand, their landscape. So it makes sense we’d want to tell stories
about them – sorta, actually, how we do with cars today… when you think about it. I’m fine with calling The Fast and the Furious
franchise a modern epic. Thanks for watching. See you next time, when we continue our survey
of mythical monsters with that rowdy lot you should NEVER make a deal with: Dragons. Crash Course Mythology
is filmed in the Chad and Stacey Emigholz studio in Indianapolis, IN, and is produced
with the help of all these nice people. Our animation team is Thought Café. Crash Course exists thanks to the generous
support of our patrons at Patreon. Patreon is a voluntary subscription service
where you can support the content you love through a monthly donation, and help keep
Crash Course free, for everyone, forever. Thanks for watching, and for putting up with
all our horse puns. WE’RE JUST HORSIN’ AROUND. Neigh, BUT SERIOUSLY hope you got a kick out
of this episode. ________________
[1] Quoted in Sax, B. The Mythical Zoo. p 198
[2] Sax, B. p. 202 [3] Rosen, p. 73

Only registered users can comment.

  1. there was a new discovery of a fossil that's called the Siberian unicorn that kinda looks like that picture of a unicorn. Maybe it's more realistic than our modern day "majestic beasts"

  2. I Am the Great Horse by Katherine Roberts is an awesome book from the view of Bucephalus… Step aside Percy Jackson.

  3. Ok so, in social studies at school, we’ve been watching this one guy named John green, and I can’t seem to find him anywhere. How do u find him?

  4. "Nothing feminine about horses. Nothing feminine about horns. You put them together you got unicorns."

    Argument from Ted Mosby regarding femininity of brunch.

  5. Lovely. I really enjoy all the paintings as well as the animations. But yeah – names of characters written down as they are introduced would be very useful…

  6. i saw on the news that people killed about 102 horses because no one could take care of them . about 20 were adopted or bought

  7. Ironic that one of the biggest, most glorious things close to us in our corner of the universe is the Andromeda galaxy. This very minor Greek princess got to be chosen to name a WHOLE GALAXY. That's way better than Zeus/Jupiter, who only got one planet named after him, or all the other gods and goddesses, like Mars, Mercury, Venus, Neptune and Saturn.

  8. If BlackJack isn't here, I swear to Hades..

    (Edit) I love you now, you just mentioned my Camp.

  9. Loki was so mischievous, he got pregnant with a male horse and gave birth to a horse. Then Odin got that horse as his steed.
    GG WP

  10. Love the subjects covered, but damn, this guy is corny! I prefer the other announcer; maybe the writers like him more too, and give him better scripts! Hate to think that this writes his own stuff! He sucks!

  11. The story of Bellerophon I heard had him as a son of Poseidon, god of horses, and being a natural at horse riding.

  12. When you're an agricultural folk, the first time you encounter cavalry is a traumatic experience. These half-man, half-horse creatures, often in armor, were a bugaboo to the folks from which this tale emerges. Once you're used to them, they become nothing more than highly mobile troops. Before that, though . . . "they were half man, half horse, fierce as beasts . . ."
    Cue the Mongolian segue.

  13. My favorite mythical horse's are the Qilin and the kelpie i love there history also now wonder im a fan of my little pony new serie because they have many mithical creatures like dragons,centaurs,unicorns,pegasus even the Japanese Qilin the windigos Changelings munotaurs ext. but i wonder ¿why the serie never make a Kelpie? Also i love your other videos of mithology 😊

  14. Centaurs are horse culture, it means the men and women valued themselves by their horses, and they became represented in artwork as both man and horse. They are just another creation that came from the Titans, there can be no other source, for being a merging of a particular aspect of nature and man (meaning, this is not the work of Zeus that is the king of the gods of human ideals).

  15. Horse culture expanded the rule of man and ability to rule and gather food: It is because of horses we are able to leave nomadic tribes and enter kingdoms and agriculture, because they did much to expand the conquest of man to much greater reaches. Until the age of the automobile, and we are not talking about the American frontier where the land was free, a man's life could be measured within 25-miles of where he was born, where your entire lives are within one community, with the exception being the nobility and their armies that traveled far and wide to rule their kingdoms.

  16. so no one talking about loki being raped by a horse and ya odin raped him few times too and fun fack Al barak was actually a donkey so ya guys got that wrong

  17. I, for one, think this episode should have devoted some more time to Sleipnir, my favorite mythical horse of all time.

  18. My understanding is that "unicorns can only be tamed by a virgin" was an historical in-joke, because it takes a mythical creature to catch a mythical creature. 😛

  19. 2:44 hahahaha. From where are you bringing these information? or you are just creating. Check from a reliable source before you publish something.

  20. The idea of the historical Muhammed riding around on a horse with a human face and everyone just playing it cool around it is pretty funny.

  21. 4:09 Uh, the Battle of the Centaurs was definitely not Michelangelo's final work. It was actually one of his earliest works- it was a practice piece meant to show his ability to potential commissioners.

  22. Never heard the buraq being a horse, only as some magical vehicle that took Muhammad during the Isra Mi'raj (the event of god's command for shalat being passed on), but I did search for it on google and it is depicted in pictures as a winged horse much like pegasus. and by the way the Indonesians has a legend resembling the Freya and the Builder story, Freya being a beautiful princess called Roro Jonggrang, and the builder being a prince from another kingdom called Bandung Bondowoso. Roro Jonggrang's father, Prabu Boko, is a crueld man-eating giant, wage war to Bandung's kingdom, short story Bandung defeated and killed Prabu Boko and then lay a siege on his palace. Prince Bandung was so mesmerized by the princess' beauty that he proposed to her only to be swiftly rejected. The prince insisted on his proposal and finally the princess agrees on two condition: first, the prince must build a well named Jalatunda, and second, he must build a thousand temples in one night. Eager to marry the princess, Bandung agree to the conditions and immediately work on the well using his supernatural power summoning all manner of jinns (some interpret as demons) to help him. He proudly displayed his work to the princess only to be tricked and buried alive in the well. With great effort, Bandung escaped and still madly in love with Roro Jonggrang that he forgave her trickery. To fulfill his second task, he again uses his supernatural power and used the jinns to help him build the temples. Upon finishing the very last one, Roro Jonggrang tries one last effort to trick Bandung. She and her maids lit fires in the east and begin pounding rice padi, a traditional dawn activity, to which the roosters are fooled thinking that the sun was about to rise, the jinns fled back into the darkness and leaving Bandung and the last temple unfinished. Bandung was furious when he learned of this deception and did not want to pay the blood price for sorcery alone. And thus the prince cursed Roro Jonggrang, turning her into stone becoming a feature in the last temple. The temple exist today in Central Java, Indonesia and is named Candi Sewu = A Thousand Temples, but in reality it consist of 249 temples. Or is it? ; )

  23. You forgot the Mares of Diomedes from Greek mythology
    (The Mares of Diomedes, also called the Mares of Thrace, were a herd of man-eating horses in Greek mythology. Magnificent, wild, and uncontrollable, they belonged to Diomedes, king of Thrace, son of Ares and Cyrene who lived on the shores of the Black Sea )

  24. And one of those centaurs, we know today as Jeff Goldblum. The Fly is actually autobiographical you know, it's true.

  25. Another very important fact about unicorns: contrary to the belief of some residents in the northwestern United States, unicorns can't use their horns to determine if a maiden is pure of heart. Their horns can only glow and play rave music.

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