Update: The Taltos Horse in American folk music. Listen to John Gorka sing "The Flying Red Horse". Scroll to bottom of this page.
Driving the highways and the byways of New Jersey with my Dad was always an adventure. Whether it was to the Shore on a hot summer day, or to a Hungarian picnic on a cool autumn day, or to a highway strip mall on a snowy winter day, we always were sure to sight a Mobil gas station.
That is how I first heard stories of the Hungarian winged horse. the Taltos, who is at the heart of ancient Magyar mythology.
When I was in Hungary this year, I was surprised to meet the Taltos horse again as I told Hungarian folktales while visiting coach museums and the stud farms for Hungarian show horses. My dad never told the old folktales, but he had me imagining "riders in the sky" as we drove the highways and byways.
I imagined those blazing red horses with outstretched wings flying high above those little prosaic gas stations where we stopped now and then. My eyes were fixed on those Mobile gas station signs, spinning tales in my mind's eye, while my Dad turned to the attendant saying, "Fill it up." In my heart, I wished he had said, "Some golden hay for our magic horse.”
Here are two wonder-filled tales that I tell with the Taltos horse or the Taltos horseman in them: The 1001st Prince, and The Magic Horse Whip.
Update: John Gorka is from Edison, New Jersey, just a few miles from my childhood home in Garwood, New Jersey. He saw the same Mobil flying red horse that I saw along the endless Jersey highways with their oil refineries and gas stations. Perhaps, with his roots in Eastern Europe, someone told him about the Taltos horse. I don't know, but I love his song. Pure poetry. -- Robert Béla Wilhelm
The Flying Red Horse with John Gorka:
Storyteller Tony Toledo kindly shared the lyrics with me:
The flying red horse from the gasoline wars. Took off from her station in the sun. Turning her back on the pack at the pump. She jumped down from the sign to run.
Full serve attendants were spilling their hoses. Self-serve was doing the same. The manager dialed the emergency numbers. Insurance man won't take the claim.
The sight of a horse crossing highways is frightening. But not with the breed that can fly. She's risen up to the level of oak trees. Too low for the radar man's eye.
I am not much of a joiner she says. That's not where I draw my strength. Some of them go for the depth of field. While most of them go for the length.
Me I will go for the hard combination. 'Cause I have some need to belong. But I'm leaving this unkind of sign life behind me. I'll take what is mine and be gone.
If you see something red flash across the horizon. It's not that your eyes aren't right. She's taking her place with the red-tailed hawks. And the broadwinged birds in flight.
The flying red horse from the Ruby Red North. Took off from her station to the south. And I swear to you that this story is true. I heard it right from her mouth.
They think they can tame you, name you and frame you. Aim you where you don't belong. They know where you've been but not where you're going. And that is the source of the songs.
Your comments directly to me are most welcome: