Tolstoi’s Pio Horse

The novel by Leon Tolstoy entitled Холстомер, was originally published in 1885, before being translated into French in 1887 under the title « Story of a Horse ». The author of War and Peace (1869) gives voice to an old horse in the decline of his life. A beautiful trotting specimen of good origins, this animal called Kholstomer, which translates as Land Surveyor by reference to the breadth of its steps, is quickly despised by the deterioration of its appearance. At one point, his protruding genitals lead him to be castrated. He passes through several owners, from splendor to misery and ends skinny and mangy, treated to thrusts within a herd of young mares. An old mare recognizes him and forms a circle with other mares to hear him narrate his life. The animal waste manager puts an end to the animal’s life. However, the life cycle is renewed again: a wolf and her litter come to feed the old horses remains that have been scattered across the floor.

It is not a surprise to those who are fans of Russian literature that this story is not as simple as it seems. Adopting a horse’s point of view allows Tolstoi to expose many of the irrationalities of human conventions. It is also, for horse lovers, a striking testimony of the way horses were treated in the Tsarist era.

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