Book review: Bullheaded Black Remembers Alexander

by J. L. Taylor


This didn’t have the focus on ancient beliefs that I was anticipating, but it addresses runaway religion in a roundabout way. Alexander the Great’s loyal horse, Bullheaded Black, dies in the war against India, and from a winged vantage point up in heaven narrates his version of Alexander’s dreams and victories. We hear straight from the horse’s mouth what Alexander was thinking and what was behind his great drive for conquest.

Alexander’s personal tutor, Aristotle, teaches him an appreciation for natural sciences and inquisitive learning. Alexander loves the writings of Homer and its wonderful stories of heroes and gods, but Aristotle cautions against unwarranted belief. “The written word is valuable and it is ancient and it is powerful, but that doesn’t make a book completely true. Let no book and no person ever close your mind to reality, not even the epics, not even Homer.”

Yet Alexander was born a warrior. Horses are not real big on war, but B.B. reigns in his criticism, instead focusing on the positive side of world domination. Alexander becomes a proponent of religious tolerance, much to the frustration of his comrades. Much of the story centers around his personal quest to understand his anointed place among men and gods … and which gods. Is he really the son of Zeus? In Egypt, he seeks out the oracle of Siwah, and though he’s closed-mouthed about what he learned there, he returns from this personal pilgrimage even more confident of his destiny. It turns out he is not only the son of Zeus, but of Amon and of Ra. Says Alexander within earshot of his horse, “It seems the principal gods are one.God is one. It matters not the name.”

A cute story-book read, and I enjoyed it.

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