Theresa Odendaal on A Horse Named Majestic – A Journey of Self Discovery.
First and foremost, I guess I should say that unlike what the title may imply, it is not a children’s book. Yes, it can and has been read and enjoyed by readers as young as 12, as it has a good, easy-to-read story-line, but the real essence of the book is much, much deeper than the superficial story. The other assumption that can be made from the title is that it can only be read and enjoyed by people with an interest in horses – horsey people as we call them. Again, not so. I have had many, probably a good half of my readers, who have no interest in horses – non-horsey people as we call them – who have read and enjoyed the book.
Initially when I wrote and published the book, I simply named it A Horse Named Majestic, but when I saw the amount of confusion this caused (when the umpteenth mother wanted to buy it for her eight-year-old), I added – A Journey of Self Discovery to the title when I re-issued it. To me that brought what the book is all about home in a much more definite way.
I would classify A Horse Named Majestic – A Journey of Self Discovery as spiritual fiction. Although the surface story is about a horse, set in an equestrian environment, the central theme is universal. Majestic is each and every single one of us. Like all of us, he has flaws that lead him down the wrong path and eventually lead him to his own downfall, but, again like all of us, he is filled with greatness and in the end it is this greatness that triumphs. Jung suggested that we all have a shadow-self, which is constantly trying to trip us up. This shadow-self is nothing more than one’s own ego. It is only once one can overcome this ego that one can be truly freed to become great.
In the book, Majestic’s mother tells him that we all have a star within ourselves and that one should search for this star in order to become truly great. Majestic misunderstands this completely and presumes this to mean that this star-power, as he calls it, is what will make him a great race horse. As it turns out, this single-minded determination serves him well and he does become a great racehorse, but unfortunately, as is often the case, with great success, also came vanity, a sense of superiority and entitlement. He becomes critical of others, judges without foundation and extremely wrapped up in himself. He flies high on the wave of success, but like Icarus, he discovers that when one gets too close to the sun, one’s wings tend to melt.
It is only once everything is ripped away from him, even almost his life that he discovers what his mother had meant; that this star has nothing to do with earthly riches or success, but that it is one’s own spirituality, that little spark of God that resides in all of us. In the most terrible of circumstances, he meets up with his own personal saviour, a poor, starving donkey, who has nothing, but who has so much to give. For the first time he understands that only love and forgiveness are important. Without that, one is nothing, no matter how rich or successful one may be…
I used a horse as the main character for more than one reason. Firstly there is the obvious one: I absolutely love horses and live for them and my very own horse, the real Majestic was a great inspiration in the writing of this book. But secondly, and probably more importantly, I don’t think that anyone can deny that there is a certain spiritual quality associated with a horse. Even people who have never physically touched a horse in their lives, are somehow awed by the “mystery and majesty” of the horse. I think the donkey is also pretty obvious; few animals have been associated as much with humility as the poor donkey and to have him rise above this and stand out as the messenger of love, peace and goodwill, I think speaks for itself.
In one book review, A Horse Named Majestic – A Journey of Self Discovery was described as a modern-day Black Beauty. I was flattered and honoured and hope that Majestic will become as well-loved a character as Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. However, where Anna Sewell’s message was one pertaining mostly to her time – the awful plight of the working horse in the nineteenth century, my message is one that can pertain to any day and age – the search for one’s own spirituality.
I have had people say to me after reading the book that they will never look at their horses in the same way again and feel extremely bad about how they have treated them before, or now wonder about reactions and behaviours of their horses in the past that they had not understood a the time. I even had a mother telling me that while her daughter was reading the book, she suddenly noticed that she was starting to take better care of her own horse… I have had non-horsey people saying to me that they were scared they would not understand or enjoy the book, purely because it was about horses, but that it made not the slightest bit of difference and that they loved it.
These are all wonderful comments to hear. But I remember someone buying the book from me once, only to call me up a few days later, extremely surprised and excited, saying, “I thought I was getting a jolly good horsey read, but goodness me, you have made me review my whole life and I don’t think I will ever be the same again!” I don’t think any other comment about the book has made me feel quite as warm and fuzzy inside as that one, as that was exactly what I had intended!
One question I am always asked, is: “How long did it take you to write the book?” This is probably one of the most difficult questions to answer, as I am also an artist and no work of art according to the artist is ever complete. Whenever I showed some of my old paintings to people, there would inevitably be patches of wet paint, as when I took them out, I discovered things I wanted to “quickly” change… Every time I sit with the manuscript in front of me, I want to add or change something. At some point, I said now or never and had it published. But prior to re-releasing it, I think I added about another 5000 words and changed bits and pieces. So the short answer is, one can probably sit and write a book like this in about three to four weeks, if you have the plot secure in your mind, but then the chopping, changing, editing etc starts and this could take a lifetime… I believe that this is why many people never get around to publishing a book they have been working on their whole lifetime, simply because they never think that it is finished. I find it much easier to write magazine articles, as there is a deadline and at some stage, one just HAS to finish. It is probably the same way with authors who are commissioned to write a book by a publisher, but I haven’t been in that situation yet. I think if one planted me in front of a computer with the manuscript now, I would start chopping and changing again.