I’m so happy to have Lari Don back on the blog for the release of the paperback edition of Horse of Fire. I have a guest post about the appeal of magical horses, I’ve read it and can confirm it’s awesome! I hope you enjoy reading it. Keep an eye out for my review, Lari and Bloomsbury Education sent a free review copy!
Magical and mythical horses
Why do we love magical horses so much?
I love all sorts of myths, legends and folktales, yet I keep being drawn back to stories about magical horses: wise horses, flying horses, fiery horses, and best of all the horses that are also people…
Why are these beautiful, powerful, fast beasts so compelling in stories? Why do we still tell stories about them even though horses are not part of most of our daily lives any more?
I’ve gathered my favourite horse legends into a collection – Horse of Fire, just out in paperback – so I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the power of magical horse images and tales:
Unicorns – certainly the most popular magical horse among the young readers I meet. However, gentle glittery rainbow-trailing unicorns are a modern invention. Originally unicorns were thought to be real animals, no more unlikely than giraffes or rhinos. And they were believed to be strong and aggressive, often portrayed fighting with lions. Not soft cuddly creatures at all! But beauty and purity has been part of their image for a long time: in medieval times, their horns were believed to combat poison.
Centaurs – my favourite mythical horses, because they have the power and strength of a horse’s hooves and muscles combined with the intelligence and speech of a human torso and head. However the centaurs in Greek myth were mostly rowdy party animals, with only one – Chiron – having any positive stories told about him at all.
Fiery horses – there are links between horses and fire in quite a few cultures: I retell fire horse stories from places as far apart as India and Finland. I wonder whether it’s because both horses and flame were essential for life in many parts of the world, both are beautiful, and both are also potentially dangerous (have you ever been kicked by a horse? ) that they were linked in early storytellers’ minds?
Wise and talking horses – lots of folktale heroes and heroines are saved from making terrible mistakes when they listen to advice from their horses. And in real life, quite a few lost riders have returned safely by letting their horse find their way home.
Flying horses – another brilliant invention by the Greeks, who really did know how to invent memorable and enduring mythical animals. I’ve always loved the image of a soaring horse with wide wings and a spear-wielding hero on his back, so as I researched Horse of Fire I was fascinated to discover Pegasus’s unusual birth (born from the blood of the dying Medusa) and how he was forced into fighting those monsters by heroes who weren’t particularly nice themselves.
Ghost horses – I’m too much of a feartie to enjoy many ghost stories, but ghost horses (often with headless riders) are such a common image in folklore that I really wanted to include one in Horse of Fire. So I was delighted to find an Australian story about a ghostly horse that didn’t actually contain any genuine ghosts…
Kelpies – one of the best-known Scottish folklore creatures and one of the few genuinely predatory horses in old tales. The kelpie is a shapeshifting monster who becomes a handsome human or elegant horse to lure its prey down to the water, in order to drown them then devour them. I’ve found stories about them in almost every loch in Scotland and most Scottish rivers north of the central belt. Kelpies are a perfect example of the combination of beauty and danger which makes the most compelling magical beings…
I love telling stories of all these magical horses, but I also love using these images and characters in my fiction. I’ve used the warrior power of centaurs in the Fabled Beasts Chronicles, and the predatory danger of kelpies in the Spellchasers trilogy.
So, that’s why I love magical horses! What are your favourite magical and mythical horses, and why?
About the author:
Lari Don is an award-winning author and storyteller, based in Edinburgh, who has written more than 30 books including fantasy novels for 8–12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales and a teen thriller.
Find Lari on Twitter as @LariDonWriter , on Instagram as @laridonwriter and on her website: http://www.laridon.co.uk/
Horse of Fire is published by Bloomsbury: https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/horse-of-fire-9781472920973/
The Spellchasers Trilogy and the Fabled Beast Chroniclesare published by Floris Books:https://discoverkelpies.co.uk/books/fantasy/beginners-guide-to-curses-2/