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OK, let’s start the episode.
Welcome to Easy Stories in English, the podcast that will take your English from OK to Good, and from Good to Great.
I am Ariel Goodbody, your host for this show. Today’s story is for intermediate learners. The name of the story is Golden Horses. You can find a transcript of the episode at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Golden. That’s EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Golden. This contains the full story, as well as my conversation before it.
Today’s story was written and sent in by a listener, Maxim Ostapenko. Thank you so much, Maxim. Maxim is from Ukraine, and he originally wrote this story in Ukrainian. It’s part of a book of short stories all about horses and mythology.
Uh, I have to admit, I’m scared of horses myself. My mum’s violently allergic to horses. I mean, if she goes near a horse she might end up in hospital, so as a child we were never allowed to go around horses, because if we went on a horse and then came home, you know, our mum could have an allergic reaction. So we really had to keep away from horses. And horses are one of those animals that, if you’re not used to them, they are very scary. They’re very big, they’re very muscular, they have big eyes, they have big mouths, they make loud noises, they smell—there’s just lots of things to not love about horses. I understand that a lot of people grow up with horses and they ride horses, so it’s kind of second nature, it’s natural, for them, but for me it’s really just, oof, the idea of being near a horse… The idea of being on a horse is terrifying! Really, really.
Um, but this is a lovely story from Maxim and it even comes with some beautiful illustrations from the book. So I’m gonna put one or two of the illustrations at the transcript at EasyStoriesInEnglish.com/Golden. They are these beautiful black-and-white ink, uh, paintings, and they’re really worth seeing, so do come over to the transcript and see them. So thanks again, Maxim. I really appreciate you sending in the story.
Today’s story is a legend from the Scythian people. So the Scythians were a nomadic group of people. So a nomadic group of people is people who don’t just live in one place, they move around throughout the year. The Scythians lived in Central Asia about 2000 years ago, in the time of the Greeks and the Romans. There’s also mentioned the Sarmatians, who were the enemies of the Scythians, and the River Danube. So the River Danube is a big river in Europe. So the Scythians lived to the east of the Danube on the steppes. And if you don’t know what steppes are, I will tell you in a bit.
So recently it’s been raining a lot. Uh, not so much today and yesterday, but the past few days before that it was just raining non-stop. Which, you know, we’ve had a few months of warm cloudy weather without any rain, and then we had a big rainstorm that broke it all up and that was quite exciting cause I got to hear thunder and stuff. Um, what was not so exciting was our gutter overflowing.
So the gutter is the plastic tube that goes around the top of a house, and when it rains it collects the water and stops the water from, you know, going into the house or damaging the house. Now the problem is, uh, you might remember a few months ago we had a problem with our gutter where it got blocked and, um, all of the water overflowed and poured down the side of the building and we had leaks inside, there was water dripping from the ceiling. Um, we had water coming through the light in the kitchen, that was awful.
In the end, they fixed it and they actually replaced the windows as well, cause the windows were part of what was letting all the water in, so that was fantastic, but apparently the gutter has got full up again. It wasn’t quite overflowing to the extent it was last time, but when it was raining hard it was pouring down the side of the building. I didn’t get any wet patches in my room, but my housemate did get loads, unfortunately, and like, the paint was peeling off the walls and we got quite a lot in the kitchen.
So, hopefully, we’ve told the letting agent and we sent them pictures, so hopefully they’ll send someone over next week. So as I’m recording this, it’s a Sunday, so hopefully they’ll send someone over in the week to, um, come and fix it because I’m really tired of the anxiety, because… I don’t know, for me, with this kind of thing I get big anxiety and I start imagining, like, “My God, what if the house collapses in? What if it starts leaking while I’m away and it, like, breaks my computer?” It’s like, all of these things which are not really very rational, especially because, you know, cause of coronavirus I’m in the house all the time, so it’s not likely that it will leak all over my belongings while I’m away, anyway! Um, but just very, very bad for my anxiety so, um, hopefully by the time you listen to this, they will have fixed the problem.
Since this is an intermediate episode, I would like to take the opportunity to remind you all about Elevenses with Ariel. So what is Elevenses with Ariel? Elevenses with Ariel is a 5-to-10 minute daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners. Basically, it’s something you can listen to while you wait for the bus, while you wash the dishes, or even if you’re in work in a really boring meeting and you want to secretly listen to something and hope that people don’t notice! Uh, I’m not saying that’s something one of my students said they did, but it might be, mightn’t it?
So, the idea with Elevenses with Ariel is, I talk about pretty much anything. I’ve talked about, um… Goodness, I’ve talked about Japanese TV shows I like about card games, I’ve talked about my past hobbies: making YouTube videos, making video games, vocal synthesiser software; I’ve talked about what happens at Esperanto events, I’ve talked about my acting experience when I used to do theatre, and I’ve talked about my favourite TV shows, and I’m gonna talk about my favourite books, my favourite musicals, I’m gonna talk about the news, I talk about my feelings. Actually, yesterday I just recorded an episode where I just talked about my feelings.
So basically, it’s very, very personal, and I talk about things there that I normally don’t talk about on here. So if you want to know a bit more about my personal life, and if you want to hear some hot gossip from my past, it’s the perfect place for that! I was literally recording an episode and I was saying all this stuff, and I was like, ‘Ooh, can I talk about this?’ Because it was like, you know, people I knew 5 or 10 years ago who I don’t really talk to anymore, and then I was like, ‘You’re paying me $5 a month, I’ll tell you everything!’
So there are 28 episodes of Elevenses so far, and like I said, there’s a new episode every day. So, really, it’s a lot of content. That’s 30 episodes a month. That’s a way of practising your English in a short, fun way, every day. And there’s loads of new vocabulary that I introduce there, kind of more conversational vocabulary than, than on here, on the, the main podcast. So if you really wanna improve your conversational skills, I would say it’s a fantastic thing to do, and clearly, some of you agree with me, because 33 people are already supporting me and getting these episodes. It’s also very interactive—people are leaving comments, people are talking about the new words they learned, people are talking about what they thought about the topic.
If you want the real, unfiltered Ariel Goodbody, this is the place to go, and it can be yours for just $5 a month. So if you go to Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish, you can support me for $5 a month and you will get exercises for every episode of the podcast, as well as Elevenses with Ariel. So it’s a great deal, it’s really, really good. Everyone seems very happy with it.
So again, that’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. I look forward to reading your comments there!
OK, I’ll just explain some words that are in today’s story.
A steppe is a large area of flat grassland with no forests. You find steppes in south-eastern Europe or Siberia, part of Russia. Steppes are very flat and rarely have hills, so you can see for miles around. When I think of steppes, I think of Mongolian warriors riding on horses, or the Dothraki from Game of Thrones.
Mighty means big and strong. If a person is mighty, they probably are very tall and have lots of muscles. Or they might be a mighty king, who is not physically strong but still has lots of power.
Armour is a set of hard clothes, made of iron, steel or leather. Armour is there to protect you in battle. In the Middle Ages, knights and warriors wore very complicated metal armour and it took a long time to put it on and take it off. Nowadays, usually only the police and soldiers wear armour, and the armour is much lighter.
A feast is a very big meal that you have to celebrate something. You might have a feast at Christmas, although usually it is only kings who have feasts. It is also a verb, for example, I love to feast on chocolate and crisps, although it is not very healthy!
When we say “disaster strikes” or “disaster struck”, it means that something very bad suddenly happened and changed everything. For example, maybe it’s a beautiful sunny day and you go out for a picnic, but then disaster strikes! It pours down with rain and you get soaking wet.
Realm means a kingdom or a land. We don’t use it very often anymore, and it is usually used to mean a magical or metaphorical place. For example, many TV shows such as Lost take place in a realm of mystery, where you are not certain of many things. In this story, it is the Realm of Death that is mentioned, where people go when they die.
A magician is a man who uses magic. Usually, magicians are young, and they are not so experienced. Someone in the modern age who does magic tricks on a stage is a stage magician.
A wizard is a special kind of magician, a man who does magic. Some famous wizards are Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, Dumbledore from Harry Potter and Merlin from English legends. Wizards usually wear long purple clothes with stars on them, they have big white beards and pointy hats, and they are very old.
A coffin is the box that you go in when you die. A dead person is put into a coffin and buried underground. Often, people throw dirt on a coffin before it is buried. Before the burial, some people leave the coffin open so that people can see their loved one one last time.
A herd is a group of animals: a herd of sheep, a herd of pigs, a herd of cows and so on.
If you enjoy the podcast and want more, you can support us on Patreon. For just $2 a month you can get exercises with each episode, and for $5, you get Elevenses with Ariel, a daily conversational podcast for intermediate learners, as well as an extra story every month. You can support us at Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish.
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OK, so listen and enjoy!
Today I will tell you the tale of a time when the world lived in harmony and justice, when the gods rarely interfered in human affairs.
In the faraway, endless steppe to the east of the Danube lived many warring tribes. Among these, the most powerful was the royal family of Scythia. All other nations feared and respected them, as they were undefeated in battle. It was thought that everything they touched turned to gold, and that they even gave golden tools to their farmers.
Once a year, the Scythian royals gathered together. The mighty summer sun shone over their party, sending light dancing over their golden weapons and armour. Everything they owned was decorated with gold, even the fine clothes and armour of their horses.
It is said that, as a reward for the courage and character of the Scythian royals, the gods gave them a golden horse, from which all Scythian horses descended. No other animal could run as fast or for as long as these creatures. Their children were born white, but instead of the blue eyes that white horses usually had, they had a dark yellow colour. Gradually, the light in their eyes turned dark and melted into a pure gold.
‘If you look closely into the eyes of such a horse, you can see the world before its creation,’ said the ancient wise men of these horses.
The gods gave these animals incredible beauty and speed. When a man rode on such a horse, it seemed that the creature’s feet flew over the ground without touching it. It could walk effortlessly in a circle, as if drawing a planet in the night sky. When it ran, the horse bent its neck so smoothly that it seemed as if the new moon was shining from it. The royals bred a powerful herd of these golden horses, and nobody could defeat them.
One year, the King of Scythia, to show the strength of his family, called for a great feast with the leaders of the neighbouring tribes. Many guests came with wonderful gifts to show their respect. After several days of feasting and drinking, everyone was invited to the hunt. On that day, many animals of various kinds were killed for sport in the surrounding steppes and forests. The eldest Prince, who wanted to show off his skills, chased after a powerful bull. But disaster struck: the angry animal knocked the rider off his horse and stabbed him with its huge horns.
The grief of the Prince’s father was without end. He promised that whoever brought his son back from the Realm of the Dead would receive whatever prize they desired. Priests and magicians came from all over to help the King, but none of their magic worked. Just when it seemed like it was all for nothing, an old wizard arrived from the far north.
‘Only you can bring back your son from the Realm of the Dead and hear his voice again,’ said the magician.
‘But how? I don’t know any magic that would work,’ the King whispered in despair.
‘Your servants must kill the forty most handsome boys and just as many of your finest horses. Once their bodies are placed around the coffin, the Prince will return to life.’
‘What must I pay for this?’ the Scythian King asked in fear.
‘Your son himself will tell you,’ said the old magician, lowering his head before the mighty ruler.
So, by order of the King, the forty most handsome boys of the tribe and the forty finest horses of the royal herd were killed. At sunset, the horses and boys, shining in their gold armour, were placed in a circle around the Prince’s coffin. The King stood and waited in silence. At first, not a soul moved, but then, in the last flashes of the evening sun, his son’s eyes began to open! The King ran forward, lifted him by his shoulders and pulled him into a hug.
‘Oh, my son!’ he cried. ‘I am so happy you are back! But how must I pay for your life?’
The Prince’s cold hands reached out and grabbed his father with incredible force. From the lips of his dead son, Death himself spoke to the King.
‘I have been around since before you were born, but you have not mentioned me once! Your guests of honour killed animals on the hunt, and you did not appreciate my work! Throughout your celebrations you feasted and drank, wishing each other rich and happy lives, but not once did you respect me! Thus, as was my right, I took your darling son from you.’
‘What do you want in return for my son?!’ shouted the King.
‘Your life!’ screamed the Prince, and those were the last words the King ever heard.
In the morning, the servants found the dead bodies of their masters. They buried them together on a high hill among the endless fields of the steppe. Forty guards riding forty golden horses accompanied the King and Prince in their coffins to the Realm of the Dead.
When the gods heard that the King had given the golden horses up to Death, the mighty Scythians lost their favour forever. Horror and suffering gripped the land, and the Sarmatians, once considered the slaves of the Scythians, invaded from the east and destroyed the rich and powerful nation. Along with its incredible jewels, the Sarmatians took their huge herds of horses.
But the golden horses were gone! All that was left were their children, whose eyes had not yet turned to gold. No matter how hard they tried to raise and breed the animals, not a single golden horse came of them.
Legend has it that the golden horses did not disappear completely. It is said that during the final battle between the Scythians and Sarmatians, the last few golden horses ran away to an island surrounded by the rough waters of the river Dana. Since then, the horses have stayed hidden and live in peace, feasting on the green grasses for many centuries.
If you enjoyed the story, please consider supporting us on Patreon. Go to Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. That’s Patreon.com/EasyStoriesInEnglish. For just a few dollars a month you can get extra episodes, conversational podcasts, exercises, and much more. Thank you for listening, and until next week.