Book Review - 'Circe' by Madeline Miller

This is Madeline Miller’s second book, and the first that I’ve read. Before we go any further, can we just take a moment to drink in this cover? The photo does it no justice at all – shiny and embossed, it’s more of a coppery colour. And it’s just as beautiful without the dust jacket.

'Circe' by Madeline Miller
'Circe' - dust jacket
'Circe'

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe has neither the look nor the voice of divinity, and is scorned and rejected by her kin. Increasingly isolated, she turns to mortals for companionship, leading her to discover a power forbidden to the gods: witchcraft.
When love drives Circe to cast a dark spell, vengeful Zeus banishes her to the remote island of Aiaia. There she learns to harness her occult craft, drawing strength from nature. But she will not always be alone; many are destined to pass through Circe’s place of exile, entwining their fates with hers. The messenger god, Hermes. The craftsman, Daedalus. A ship bearing a golden fleece. And wily Odysseus, on his epic voyage home.
There is danger for a solitary woman in this world, and Circe’s independence draws the wrath of men and gods alike. To protect what she holds dear, Circe must decide whether she belongs with the deities she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love.

Breathing life into the ancient world, Madeline Miller weaves an intoxicating tale of gods and heroes, magic and monsters, survival and transformation.

And what life she has breathed into this story. Having read ‘The Odyssey’ ages ago, I admit all I remembered of Circe was that she’d used her witchcraft to turn Odysseus’ men into swine and the speed with which she submitted to Odysseus when her magic didn’t work on him. I liked how she surrounded herself with wild animals but wasn’t impressed with how quickly she invited Odysseus to her bed and allowed him and his men to spend a year on her island.

When I came across this book, I was intrigued enough to buy the hardcover version, not something I tend to do. The story is told from Circe’s point of view, and Ms Miller has given her a compelling voice; I was ensnared from the first sentence.
When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.

I’m not usually a fan of stories told in first person, but this was, without doubt, the best way to tell this story. In ‘The Odyssey’, Circe is a minor character; she doesn’t stand out as such when compared to the trials and hardships that Odysseus has to face to reach his home in Ithaca.

But in ‘Circe’, Ms Miller has taken this minor character and given her a larger-than-life story. I think what makes this book such a riveting read is the total focus on Circe. There are no unnecessary side stories. We’re drawn into Circe’s life; we’re privy to her thoughts… nothing is hidden from us. She’s far from perfect; she can be unreasonable and gives in to her negative emotions, but I found her very easy to like. I felt for the young girl who was regularly scorned and made fun of by her family. I so wanted her to be lucky in love. I shook my fist at the gods who treated her like she was less than nothing yet still feared her.

Although the focus of the story is all on Circe, we’re still treated to an astounding cast of characters – Scylla; Daedalus; Circe’s sister, Pasiphae, mother of the Minotaur; Medea; not to mention the Titans, gods and goddesses. And, last but by no means least, Penelope – another well-written woman, she quickly became my second favourite character.

Although she uses straightforward, simple words, Ms Miller’s descriptions are lyrical and evocative. Like this description of Helios’ halls, which also conveys something of the sun god's nature…
My father’s halls were dark and silent. His palace was… buried in the earth’s rock, and its walls were made of polished obsidian. Why not? They could have been anything in the world, blood-red marble from Egypt or balsam from Araby, my father had only to wish it so. But he liked the way the obsidian reflected his light, the way its slick surfaces caught fire as he passed. Of course, he did not consider how black it would be when he was gone. My father has never been able to imagine the world without himself in it.

On Aiaia, where Circe is banished, once she gets over her terror at being left completely on her own, she realises she’s been living a half-life.
On the hilltop before me was a house, wide porched, its walls built from finely fitted stone… A little below stretched a hem of forests, and beyond that a glimpse of the sea.
It was the forest that drew my eye. It was old growth, gnarled with oaks and lindens and olive groves, shot through with spearing cypress… The trees shook themselves thickly in the sea-winds, and birds darted through the shadows. Even now I can remember the wonder I felt. All my life had been spent in the same dim halls, or walking the same stunted shore with its threadbare woods. I was not prepared for such profusion and I felt the sudden urge to throw myself in, like a frog into a pond.

Her witch powers – ‘Pharmakeia, such arts are called, for they deal in pharmaka, those herbs with the power to work changes upon the world, both those sprung from the blood of gods, as well as those which grow common upon the earth’ – don’t appear to her in an instant; she has to put in the work and practice, practice, practice.
I learned to plait my hair back, so it would not catch on every twig, and how to tie my skirts at the knee to keep the burrs off. I learned to recognise the different blooming vines and gaudy roses, to spot the shining dragonflies and coiling snakes…
I looked at the blossoms lying on my table. They seemed shrunken, etiolated. I did not have the first idea of what I should do to them. Chop? Boil? Roast? There had been oil in my brother’s ointment, but I did not know what kind. Would olive from the kitchen work? Surely not…
Well, I said to myself, do not just stand there like a stone. Try something. Boil them. Why not?

Circe’s interactions with the other characters, especially Daedalus, Odysseus, her son, Telegonus, even Penelope and Telemachus are all richly told. In Ms Miller’s hands, they become real people, each one a distinct character, strong and memorable in their own way. The gods are portrayed as illogical and capricious, which is how the Ancient Greeks saw them, but they don’t come across as stereotypical or two-dimensional.

Although a minor deity, Circe isn’t portrayed as an unattainable goddess. We get to know this remarkable woman extremely well because we’re allowed to share her most personal thoughts. For me, that’s what makes this book – we’re shown Circe as a woman, with the same needs, hopes, desires and dreams as humans.

A scholar of the Classics, Madeline Miller knows her Greek mythology inside and out. She’s amassed all that’s out there about Circe and spun a very believable tale. I read this book slowly, not because it was difficult to read, but I was savouring every part of it; I did not want it to end. When I got to the ending, it made me cry; it was exactly how I’d wanted it to end.

At the talk I attended at the British Museum with Ms Miller, Bettany Hughes and Kamila Shamsie, Ms Miller said she’d wanted to reclaim Circe’s story; she wanted to bring the focus back to this very clever woman who had the wit to surpass Odysseus in their verbal sparring. I suppose one can say, if ‘The Odyssey’ was a man’s story then ‘Circe’ is the woman’s story of that same time including the ages before and after.

No hardship giving this 5* for a very satisfying read.

Art on Friday - NC Wyeth

Like most of my now-favourite artists, I was drawn to NC Wyeth’s art before I knew anything about the artist. I can’t remember the first time I saw his work – probably ‘Treasure Island’.

Newell Convers Wyeth was born 22nd October 1882 in Needham, Massachusetts. His ancestors fought in the French and Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the American Civil War. The family history and tradition that was passed down provided rich subject matter for Wyeth’s art.

NC Wyeth (circa 1920)

NC Wyeth (circa 1920)

The oldest of 4 boys, the childhood of Wyeth and his brothers were filled with outdoor pursuits, including hunting and fishing, along with farm chores. Having a naturally sharp sense of observation, he was already showing more than a passing interest in art. His artistic talent was encouraged by his mother, who knew Henry David Thoreau and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. By the time he was 12, Wyeth was already producing beautiful watercolour paintings.

As his father insisted on a more practical use of his talents, Wyeth was enrolled at Mechanics Arts School, where he learned drafting. Thanks to his mother’s support, he was able to move on to Massachusetts Normal Art School, with further study at the Eric Pape School of Art where he learned illustration.

In 1902, aged 20, Wyeth went to Wilmington, Delaware. A couple of his friends had been accepted to Howard Pyle’s School of Art and he was keen to join them. Known as the ‘father’ of American illustration, Pyle not only taught and inspired many, he also used his contacts with publishers and art directors to secure commissions and jobs for his students.

NC Wyeth (1903-04)

NC Wyeth (1903-04)

Howard Pyle’s methods struck a chord with the young Wyeth. Having been Pyle’s student for only a few months, Wyeth landed his first commission as an illustrator – the cover of the February 21st, 1903 edition of ‘The Saturday Evening Post’. What an accomplishment for the 20-year-old.

Cover of The Saturday Evening Post, featuring Wyeth's Bucking Bronco

When ‘The Post’ commissioned him to illustrate a Western story the following year, Pyle encouraged his young student to take himself out West. He always encouraged his students to “jump into their paintings to know the place” they were depicting; basically, to experience the places they intended to paint.

Wyeth headed out to Colorado where he worked as a cowboy alongside the professionals. No stranger to hard work, he also pitched in and helped with ranch chores. He moved on to Arizona where he learned Native American culture from the Navajo. Unfortunately, during his travels, his money was stolen. So, he took a job as a mail carrier to earn enough money to return home.

In a letter home, he wrote, “The life is wonderful, strange – the fascination of it clutches at me like some unseen animal – it seems to whisper, ‘Come back, you belong here, this is your real home’.” (‘An American Vision: Three Generations of Wyeth Art’)

During his time in the West, he recorded his experiences in detailed drawings. The physical pursuits of his childhood and his astute sense of observation combined to add authenticity to his illustrations. “When I paint a figure on horseback, a man plowing, or a woman buffeted by the wind, I have an acute sense of muscle strain.” (‘An American Vision’)

Wyeth answered the siren call of the West and made another trip 2 years later. These trips inspired him to produce many images of cowboys and Native Americans. His depictions of the Native Americans tended to show them in harmony with their environment.

'In the Crystal Depths' (1906)

'In the Crystal Depths' (1906)

In 1908, Wyeth married Carolyn Bockius. They settled in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, near the historic site of the Battle of Brandywine, fought in 1777, during the American Revolution. No longer with Pyle, Wyeth was kept busy with a continuous flow of commissions. His initial plan had been to earn enough from his illustrations to enable him to afford to paint what he wanted. But he couldn’t turn away from illustration as, ironically, it was the very thing that was earning him comfortable sums. Also, he had a growing family to think of.

Wyeth and Caroline had 5 children, all talented in their own right. Their first child, Henriette, was born in 1907 and became an artist along with her sister, Carolyn, who was born 2 years later. Nathaniel followed in 1911 and became an engineer and inventor; he worked with the team that invented the plastic soda bottle. In 1915, Ann was born; although she, too, was an artist, she preferred music, composing her own. The youngest, Andrew, was born in 1917; he became one of America’s popular artists in the latter half of the 20th century.

Wyeth family photo (1922)

The children’s talents were encouraged in a stimulating home environment. Visitors included writers and actors, like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hugh Walpole and Lilian Gish. Although a strict parent, Wyeth was also patient and he didn’t talk down to his children, according to Andrew. The children were able to follow their own pursuits thanks to the financial freedom afforded by their father’s hard work.

By 1911, Wyeth had started illustrating classic literature, including ‘Treasure Island’ (1911); ‘Kidnapped’ (1913); ‘Robin Hood’ (1917); ‘The Last of the Mohicans’ (1919); ‘Robinson Crusoe’ (1920); ‘Rip Van Winkle’ (1921); ‘The White Company’ (1922); and ‘The Yearling’ (1939).

'Treasure Island' cover
Title page

Title page

Jim Hawkins

Jim Hawkins

Long John Silver

Long John Silver

Blind Pew

Blind Pew

'Kidnapped'

'Kidnapped'

'Kidnapped'

'Kidnapped'

'Robin Hood'

'Robin Hood'

'The Passing of Robin Hood'

'The Passing of Robin Hood'

'The Last of the Mohicans' cover
'The Last of the Mohicans'

'The Last of the Mohicans'

'The Last of the Mohicans'

'The Last of the Mohicans'

'The White Company' cover
'The White Company'

'The White Company'

'The White Company'

'The White Company'

'The Yearling' cover

His illustrations also graced magazines including ‘Harper’s Monthly’, ‘The Popular Magazine’, and ‘Scribner’s’.

'The Popular Magazine'
'The Popular Magazine'
'Imagination' (c.1921) - cover for 'Ladies Home Journal'

'Imagination' (c.1921) - cover for 'Ladies Home Journal'

Wyeth also produced images for posters, calendars and advertisements, including Lucky Strike and Coca-Cola. Interestingly, he also did paintings of Beethoven, Wagner and Liszt for Steinway and Sons.

Coca Cola ad
Beethoven

Beethoven

Mozart and Liszt

Mozart and Liszt

Not content with producing works for books and posters, he also painted murals for banks, schools and hotels, and the National Geographic Society. During both World Wars, he contributed patriotic images.

National Geographic Society mural

National Geographic Society mural

National Geographic Society mural

National Geographic Society mural

1942 poster

1942 poster

Even as he produced his popular, sought-after images, as early as 1914 Wyeth had already grown to abhor the commercialism on which he’d become dependent, and constantly waged an internal battle over his submission.

His self-loathing over commercialism didn’t prevent Wyeth continuing to experiment throughout his life. His style constantly changed, which was especially evident in his portrait and landscape paintings. He worked rapidly, and was able to conceive, sketch out and paint a large painting in as little as 3 hours!

On 19th October 1945, NC Wyeth’s car stalled on a railroad crossing near his Chadds Ford home; his grandson, Newell (first child of Nathaniel Wyeth), was with him. Both were killed when the car was struck by a milk train.

At the time of his death, Wyeth had created over 3000 paintings and illustrated 112 books. Here are a few more of my favourites; wish I could include them all. Some aren't dated as I can't find the year they were painted.

'Legends of Charlemagne' cover
from 'Legends of Charlemagne'

from 'Legends of Charlemagne'

'The Boy's King Arthur' cover
'The Boy's King Arthur' title page

'The Boy's King Arthur' title page

'Merlin taking away the infant Arthur'

'Merlin taking away the infant Arthur'

'And when they came to the sword that the hand held, King Arthur took it up'

'And when they came to the sword that the hand held, King Arthur took it up'

'Lancelot defeats Sir Mador'

'Lancelot defeats Sir Mador'

'Lancelot and Guenever'

'Lancelot and Guenever'

'The Death of Arthur and Mordred'

'The Death of Arthur and Mordred'

'The Death of Guenever'

'The Death of Guenever'

'Indian Fishing'

'Indian Fishing'

(1914 - can't find the title)

(1914 - can't find the title)

Captain Nemo - 'Mysterious Island'

Captain Nemo - 'Mysterious Island'

'Captain John Paul Jones' - Naval commander in the American Revolutionary War

'Captain John Paul Jones' - Naval commander in the American Revolutionary War

'George Washington' (1932)

'George Washington' (1932)

'Paul Revere's Ride' (1922)

'Paul Revere's Ride' (1922)

'All Birds Shall Have Homes' (1928)

'All Birds Shall Have Homes' (1928)

'Winter Death'

'Winter Death'

Real Life Story - Charlie Brown and Franz Stigler: Compassion Amongst Enemies

A text-heavy image caught my eye on Pinterest the other day – it stood out amongst all the colourful images – and my interest was piqued. When I first read about this incident, I admit a part of me was sceptical, but when I nosed around on the internet, I was delighted to find it was all true.

'A Higher Call' ~ painting by John D Hall depicting the incident

'A Higher Call' ~ painting by John D Hall depicting the incident

This happened during WW2, on 20th December 1943 to be precise, and involved the pilot and crew of a B-17 Flying Fortress, and a Luftwaffe pilot.

The B-17 pilot – 21-year-old 2nd Lt Charles L. ‘Charlie’ Brown, in his own words, “a farm boy from Weston, West Virginia” – was with the US Army Air Force (USAAF) stationed at RAF Kimbolton, in Cambridgeshire, England.

The Luftwaffe pilot, 28-year-old Franz Stigler, already had 27 victory tallies to his name. If he achieved 30 victory tallies, he would be eligible for the highest award of Nazi Germany, the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross. If he shot down one bomber aircraft, he would achieve that 30; bombers were worth 3 points, whereas a fighter was worth 1.

Franz Stigler (L) and Charlie Brown

Franz Stigler (L) and Charlie Brown

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross

Back to Charlie Brown… His bomber had the quaint name of ‘Ye Olde Pub’, and the crew’s mission on that fateful day was their first. Apart from Charlie, who was the pilot, the crew was made up of the co-pilot, 2nd Lt Spencer Luke; the navigator, 2nd Lt Al Sadok; the bombardier, 2nd Lt Robert Andrews; top turret gunner and flight engineer, Sgt Bertrund Coulombe; the radio operator, Sgt Dick Pechout; the tail gunner, Sgt Hugh Eckenrode; the left waist gunner, Sgt Lloyd Jennings; the right waist gunner, Sgt Alex Yelesanko; and the ball turret gunner, Sgt Sam Blackford.

B-17E (Wikipedia)

B-17E (Wikipedia)

The mission was to target the Focke-Wulf 190 aircraft production facility in Bremen. They had been briefed that they would probably encounter large numbers of German fighters; also, Bremen was guarded by 250 anti-aircraft guns.

To give an idea of the setting… The cruising altitude of a B-17 is about 27,000 feet; the outside air temperature was -60 °C (-76 °F)! The crew not only had flight suits to keep them warm but heated shoes as well.

As ‘Ye Olde Pub’ approached Bremen, things started to go wrong. Before the bombs could be released, the aircraft’s Plexiglas nose was shattered by an anti-aircraft round exploding right in front of the plane, which also knocked out the number 2 engine and damaged engine number 4. The bomber was no longer able to keep up with the formation; it fell back, easy pickings for the enemy. The armour plating that protected the crew and vital parts of the plane also weighed it down, making B-17s too heavy to take evasive manoeuvres.

Falling further back, the stricken B-17 came under sustained attack from enemy fighters. This time, the number 3 engine was damaged, along with the internal oxygen, hydraulic and electrical systems. Half of its rudder was lost along with its nose cone. Many of the gunners’ weapons jammed; the bomber’s defence was down to 2 dorsal turret guns and 1 of 3 forward-firing nose guns (instead of the 11 available). The exterior was heavily damaged.

Most of the crew were wounded. Sgt Hugh Eckenrode, the tail gunner, had been decapitated by a direct hit from a cannon shell. Sgt Alex Yelesanko, the right waist gunner, was wounded in the leg by shrapnel. The feet of the ball turret gunner, Sgt Sam Blackford, were frozen – the heating wires in his uniform had shorted out. The radio operator, Sgt Dick Pechout, had been hit in the eye by a cannon shell, and the radio was destroyed. And Brown himself was wounded in his right shoulder. What first aid the crew were attempting in those horrendous conditions was made even more difficult as the morphine syrettes had frozen.

Loss of blood and oxygen probably caused Brown to lose consciousness. Although his memory was hazy about the details, this is what he remembered – “I either spiralled or spun and came out of the spin just above the ground. My only conscious memory was of dodging trees but I had nightmares for years and years about dodging buildings and then trees. I think the Germans thought that we had spun in and crashed.

Although partially dazed, Brown and his co-pilot, 2nd Lt Spencer Luke, managed to coax the bomber into a slow climb with only 1 engine on full power. To either bail out or attempt a crash landing were not viable options for Brown because of his injured crewmen. With single-minded determination, he decided to nurse the battered bomber back towards England.

Unfortunately, the crippled bomber flew directly over a German airfield, most likely the same base where Franz Stigler was. It’s assumed that Stigler was ordered to shoot the B-17 down. Stigler took off in his Messerschmitt Bf 109 and was soon alongside the bomber. As he recalled in an interview many years later, he could hardly believe what he was seeing; a bomber this badly damaged should not still be in the air. He could see the injured crew, some trying to give first aid to the more seriously wounded.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 ( German War Machine )

Messerschmitt Bf 109 (German War Machine)

Stigler could not open fire on the crippled bomber. He remembered something Gustav Rödel, one of his commanding officers from his time in Africa, had told him – “If I ever see or hear of you shooting at a man in a parachute, I will shoot you myself.” As Stigler later said of ‘Ye Olde Pub’, “To me, it was just like they were in a parachute. I saw them and I couldn’t shoot them down.

2nd Lt Charles L. ‘Charlie’ Brown glanced out his window to see a Bf 109 on his wing. And, not for the first time on that mission, he thought his time was up. His terror turned to bewilderment; instead of opening fire, the German pilot was gesturing at him.

Keeping his distance, Stigler was trying to get his message across to Brown using hand signals – land and surrender, or fly to Sweden. He was convinced they would never reach England.

Brown refused to land – as he himself said, “It wasn’t chivalry, it wasn’t bravery, it was probably stupidity.” To his surprise, the German pilot stayed with him, flying his Bf 109 in such a way that German anti-aircraft guns would not target the bomber. Once they reached the North Sea, Stigler saluted and flew back to his base.

Ye Olde Pub’ made it back to England, landing at RAF Seething, near Norwich in Norfolk, its crew exhausted, the bomber itself a shattered mess. Unbelievably, the only casualty was Sgt Hugh Eckenrode; the rest of the crew had survived.

But no one would hear of the incredible story – the details of that mission were classified ‘Secret’; it was decided that such a story might well prove dangerous as it might lead other flight crew to let their guard down, thinking that all German pilots would be as chivalrous.

As for Franz Stigler, he never spoke of his actions for he knew he would have faced a court martial for allowing an enemy to escape in a combat situation and would, most likely, have been executed.

Charlie Brown retired from the Air Force in 1972 and settled in Miami. But he never forgot the German pilot who spared him and his crew that day in 1943.

It wasn’t until 1986, while speaking at a combat pilot reunion where he was asked if he’d had any memorable missions, did Brown decide to look for that German pilot. Even though he didn’t have much to go on, he kept searching. Finally, in 1989, he got a response from a notice he’d placed in a newsletter for former Luftwaffe pilots.

Franz Stigler, who’d moved to Canada in 1953, wrote to Brown, confirming that he was the one. The 2 men spoke on the phone and Stigler described everything that he remembered about their ‘meeting’, right down to the salute at the end. That proved to Brown that he had found the right German pilot.

The men became firm friends, visiting each other frequently and appearing together before Canadian and American military audiences.

Franz Stigler died on 22 March 2008; Charles ‘Charlie’ Brown died a few months later, on 25 November 2008.

I’ll finish this incredible story with Franz Stigler’s own words, when asked why he hadn’t destroyed his enemy that day – “I didn’t have the heart to finish off those brave men… I flew beside them for a long time. They were trying desperately to get home and I was going to let them do it…

Favourites on Friday - The American Indian Horse - Medicine Hat and War Paint

The ‘medicine hat’ horse is a predominantly white horse with colour on the ears and top of the head; the colour can be brown, black or roan, which gives the horse the appearance of wearing a hat.  Sometimes the horse may have a few other coloured patches on the body, but is usually white, with pink muzzles and pink skin around the eyes.

'The Medicine Hat' ~ John Phelps

Native American tribes, especially the Plains Indians, referred to the pattern as a ‘medicine hat’ or a ‘war bonnet’.  They believed a horse with this pattern to be a superior one.  Some tribes believed that the rider of a ‘medicine hat’ horse would never be hurt; that the horse would warn its master of danger; that it would be able to find game regardless of the terrain.

If the ‘medicine hat’ horse had blue eyes, it was even more highly prized, the blue eyes giving the horse a ghostly, otherworldly appearance.  Their white hides were perfect for displaying the magic or power symbols that were often painted on.  Because a ‘medicine hat’ was considered to be especially lucky, by having it wear a magic symbol, the horse embodied the magical qualities of the tribe.

‘Medicine hats’ were closely guarded, for losing a ‘medicine hat’ was considered to be an ill omen, which would affect the whole tribe; the good magic would go wherever the horse goes.  Because of this, tribes would try and steal a ‘medicine hat’ of another tribe to obtain the horse’s good luck, and to deprive that tribe of said good luck.

Every tribe had war horses, and each war horse was held in high regard by its owner.  To honour and protect his horse, the Indian would paint tribal symbols on the animal’s body. 

'Crooked Lance' ~ Martin Grelle

Each power symbol had its own specific meaning and purpose, determined by the nature of the perilous task the war horse was asked to do.  The war or power symbols were carefully chosen to give the horse protection; to indicate the troubles which lay ahead … some spoke of the horse’s courageous heart; of the horse’s affection for the warrior …

While preparing for battle, the warrior would apply his personal honours on his war horse.  The symbols he painted depicted enemies killed and ponies stolen.  He would weave a Medicine Bag into the bridle, and braid Coup Feathers into the war horse’s forelock and tail.  He would then knot up the horse’s tail to prevent the enemy from taking hold of it and using it to pull him from his horse.  He would also gather the mane into clusters and tie it, to prevent entanglement in his bow and arrow during combat.

Each tribe had its own interpretation of the symbols used and the meanings behind them, but there were some symbols that were common to most tribes. 

A circle around the horse’s eye and nostrils was for alert vision and a keen sense of smell.

Arrow in a line brought victory.

Thunder stripes on the horse’s front legs were to please the god of war.

Arrowheads on all four hooves made the horse swift and nimble-footed.

Fire Arrows to cause trouble for the enemy, which would add strength to the warrior.

Right/left hand prints outlined on the horse's chest to show he had knocked down an enemy.

Hailstones were a prayer for hail to fall on the warrior's enemy.

Two crossing bars meant that the horse and his rider had escaped ambush.

Hoofprints drawn on the horse stood for the number of horses captured in raids.

For the warrior going on a 'do-or-die' mission, the Upside-down Handprint was used; the most prized symbol a warrior could place on his horse.

The Pat Hand Print (left hand drawn on the horse’s right hip) and the horse’s battle scars (always in red) were the highest honours. The Pat Hand Print was reserved solely for the horse that had brought his master home, unharmed, from a dangerous mission.  The legends about this handprint come from the Apache and Comanche tribes.  They tell of a furious battle in which a warrior was fatally wounded.  Before he died, he patted his horse on the right shoulder, leaving his bloody handprint on his horse.  When the horse returned to camp, the handprint served as his ‘message of death’ to his people.

'Painted for Battle' ~ Kate Bolia