fantasy / writing

Horses: Fresh Takes on Old Standards

So last month I wrote a blog which complained that 90% of fantasy worlds use horses. But I repent. A little. There are some fresh takes. Here are some unusual versions of horses or equine creatures in fantasy:

Unhitched carousel horses in Mary Poppins. Hop into a chalk drawing, join a fox hunt, win a derby, and why, all I can say is, it’s supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

Image courtesy of Simon Howden at

Maximus in Tangled. This horse is smarter than the palace guards, and more dedicated to hunting criminals. Also thinks he’s a bloodhound.

Centaurs. They have ancient roots in Greek mythology. Which half prevails – wise human or dumb beast? I enjoy the arcane dignity in Rowling’s depiction in Harry Potter. I also enjoy the simple-minded centaurs in Gail Garson Levine’s Ella Enchanted.

Hippogriffs in Harry Potter. Rowling’s creation blends eagle and horse. They escape death sentences! Assist in rescue missions! And bite Draco Malfoy! What’s not to love?

image by Tina Phillips

image by Tina Phillips

My Little Ponies. A friend and I watched the original 1980s TV show recently. Only as an adult do I appreciate how unbalanced this series is. It covers everything from human trafficking (well, pony trafficking) to adopting puppies. But what a marketing coup! You can pick regular ponies, princess ponies, seaponies, baby ponies, flutterponies, ponies with gems for eyeballs…

image by sattva at

image by sattva at

Mercades Lackey’s Valdemar books. A whole series based on humans who bond with magical horses.

The Last Unicorn. This odd little animated movie from the ‘80s is a cult classic. Our heroine makes a great unicorn and a lousy human. I like the angle—not everyone thinks becoming human is an upgrade.

Bree (full name: Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah) in C. S. Lewis’s The Horse and His Boy. This is my personal favorite of the Narnia books. Bree doesn’t belong to a human – the human belongs to him. Get it straight.

image by Maggie Smith at

image by Maggie Smith at

THE ENTIRE NATION OF ROHAN in Lord of the Rings. An entire culture centered around horses: their military, their banners, their names. Eat your heart out, equestrians.

image by prozac1 at

image by prozac1 at

What are your favorite examples of horses in fantasy? Leave a comment.

4 thoughts on “Horses: Fresh Takes on Old Standards

  1. Have you read the Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater? I love her take on water horses. It’s a bit more savage than you generally come across, and all the more real because of it, in my opinion! Truly in love with that book.


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