Pegasus - the winged horse

by jptanabe

The original horse with wings was Pegasus, a creature in Greek mythology that helped Bellerophon slay the fearsome Chimera.

Flying horses have appeared in many cultures in the past as well as in contemporary times. They have all inherited the name Pegasus, although that was actually the name of the legendary Greek flying horse. All later flying horses have his name, although they are not descended from him - it seems like he was one of a kind. Pegasus symbolizes strength and speed as well as beauty, and the ability to transcend the physical world of the horse and fly into the heavens.

Image of Pegasus from Wikimedia Commons.

Pegasus and Bellerophon
Pegasus, the Winged Horse

Greek Pegasus

The original flying horse named Pegasus is found in Greek mythology. The story goes that he was created from the blood spilled when Medusa, that evil Gorgon who turned people to stone by looking at them, was killed by Perseus. He cut off her head and the blood that spurted from her neck as it mingled with the sea foam gave birth to Pegasus (which explains how his father was Poseidon, god of the ocean).

Pegasus is particularly famous for helping the Greek hero Bellerophon to destroy the Chimera, a dangerous creature, a composite of a lion, a goat, and a serpent. It seems that the hero became rather arrogant after this feat, not surprising! Able to ride Pegasus both on land and in the air made him feel invincible and he tried to fly up to Mount Olympus, the home of the gods. Pegasus apparently would have none of this and threw Bellerophon from his back, for which he gained the favor of the gods. Zeus rewarded Pegasus with a stable in Mount Olympus and was given the task of collecting thunderbolts for the god - not a bad job! 

Pegasus was not immortal, though, and when he died he was turned into a constellation of stars in the sky, achieving a different kind of immortality. Also, Pegasus has lived on as the name of flying horses in mythologies since then, even to this day.

Bellerophon kills the chimera with the help of Pegasus
Bellerophon Riding Pegasus Fighting the Chimaera, 1635
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Pegasus Flying


Isn't it amazing to see a horse fly? Horses are already gorgeous creatures, so strong and beautifully proportioned for speed. But add wings and you have something truly glorious!

Is it any wonder that artists and writers alike have wanted to include a Pegasus in their portfolio.

I just love this Pegasus appearing from the clouds. He is so majestic, quite awe-inspiring. And those are really amazing wings!


The cutest flying Pegasus ever!


And as if the glory of the flying horses wasn't enough, some artists have taken this to a whole new level by including a Pegasus foal.

Now isn't this mother taking her foal for his first flight just the most adorable image of Pegasus ever? Even if their bodies are a bit dark (because it's night time!), see how the starlight highlights their manes and tails!


Flying Horse in Narnia

There is a flying horse in C.S. Lewis' "The Magician's Nephew" (kind of a prequel to "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe"). This one starts off as a regular horse called Strawberry whose job it is to pull a cab in London. It seems he had some noble ancestry, but became a working horse, a life he fulfills dutifully although he remembers a better time in the grass when he was young.

Strawberry and his master Frank get swept along into a different realm, kind of by mistake. But it ends well, as Frank and his wife (who gets brought later) become the first king and queen of Narnia, and Strawberry is given the ability to talk, then wings, and his name changed to Fledge. Fledge then becomes the father of all the flying horses in Narnia. Not bad for a working horse!

Flying Unicorns

Now I have to admit I'm not usually a fan of flying unicorns. Seems to me that unicorns and pegasi (or is it pegasuses?) are just fine the way they are. I mean, a horse with a magical spiral horn, or a horse with wings, these are both great creations!

But, just maybe if I were a unicorn I'd want to try flying too. So I guess the artists that added wings to their unicorns were just granting a secret desire of some unicorns.

In any case, flying unicorns do look pretty cool!

Gaudior the flying unicorn

So yes, I'm not usually a fan of combing pegasus and unicorns - no need to combine that spiral horn with the wings! But in the case of this book, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, by Madeleine L'Engle I can make an exception. 

This is part of her Time Quintet, that begins with A Wrinkle in Time, a book I absolutely loved when I first read it many years ago. Madeleine L'Engle writes a fascinating combination of science fiction (not only travel through space, as in other planets, but also time travel are key features) and fantasy (hence the flying unicorn). In this story fifteen-year-old Charles Wallace needs to go back in time to change events that led to the current crisis that threatens to destroy the world. Gaudior, the flying unicorn, arrives to help. And guess what, Gaudior doesn't fly through space he flies through time! So combining those wings with that magical horn made the perfect combination for this story - a horse that flies through time, I love it!



Updated: 10/20/2016, jptanabe
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Do you love Pegasus?

jptanabe on 04/11/2014


Telesto on 04/11/2014

Great article!

AbbyFitz on 12/12/2013

When I was small the Pegasus was my favorite creature. I have imagined myself to be one many times as a child!

DerdriuMarriner on 10/01/2013

Me, too, I find a flying horse sufficient unto him or herself! Narwhals and unicorns make me just a little bit nervous with the way that horn (tooth in the case of a narwhal) always shows up first! Thank you for the loving tribute to a horse whose adventures never ceased to amaze me as a child and whose presence in night sky I so enjoy.

jptanabe on 09/12/2013

Great idea! Pegasus would be a great ride.

Tolovaj on 09/12/2013

When first of my friends came to school in cars, I wished I had a horse to make real impression. Winged horse with such amazing stories behind would be even better. Thanks for such beautiful pictures!

jptanabe on 07/05/2013

Absolutely, go Pegasus!

WriterArtist on 07/05/2013

I wish there were flying horses - they look awesome in the pictures. Pegasus is no less than a hero, he conquered the monsters.

jptanabe on 07/02/2013

Yes, they are majestic. And you're right, a gold Pegasus would be outstanding!

cmoneyspinner on 07/02/2013

Oh my! Horses are majestic creatures. But a horse with wings! Just one question? Do they make them in gold? :) Love your article. Sharing ti via Pinterest.

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