The Three Little Horses

Written and illustrated by Piet Worm (1957)

Every household has an odd children’s book that no one can recall purchasing or receiving as a gift. No one takes ownership of it; it simply exists. Ours was The Three Little Horses, and what a strange and unnerving book it was. The author’s name didn’t help one bit either.

It’s about three horses that dress utterly unconvincingly as women and venture into the human world. Which is as awkward as it sounds. Clearly whoever bought the book for us saw the title and the three horses on the cover and thought it would be a nice story for the youngsters. And just as clearly, that person never looked inside. Where there’s a black-and-white scene of the three horses in jail, huddled together in a pool of their own tears, their empty-eyed woman masks lying on the stone floor. It looks like a still from an experimental film called Life Is Dismal.

But we didn’t put the book aside. We almost never put books aside. Instead, we acted like those cats freaked out by zucchinis you see in online videos: we would approach hesitantly, back off, and then return for another peek. It was horribly fascinating, like a weird rubbery mushroom you find in the woods and are compelled to poke at with a stick.

In spite of such reader reactions, The Three Little Horses must have enjoyed some popularity in its day, because there’s a sequel. I’ve never seen inside it, and I think that’s for the best.

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