A-Z of fantasy: H is for Horse

Seems I dropped the ball on my A-Z of Fantasy series… I made it to G and then got distracted. But I think I’ll continue with it at a leisurely pace, because it seems such a shame to leave it there.

So. We’re up to H.

Image from Free Clipart Graphics
Image from Free Clip Art Now


Today… H is for HORSE.

HORSE: A solid-hoofed plant-eating domesticated mammal with a flowing mane and tail, used for riding, racing, and to carry and pull loads.

I know. Horses are a well worn trope of fantasy. But I like them. Unashamedly. I still love fantasy novels with long epic journeys on horseback, and I’m not too demanding of the author when it comes to the finer points of equine management. (Although I make an effort to get such things close to accurate in my own writing.)

Pony on Bodmin Moor (from my recent trip)
Pony on Bodmin Moor (from my recent trip)

I love it when horses get named and have distinct personalities. But it’s not essential. A novel at the forefront of my mind right now (again) is Kate Elliott’s Jaran. It’s technically science fiction, I suppose, but Jaran is the first in a series of novels that explores the impact of technology on a pre-industrial society. As such, it has a distinct fantasy feel, and involves the main characters riding for weeks across an expanse of steppe-like plains. Love it.

But horses are everywhere in fantasy. They’re so prevalent they’ve almost become generic. Well, okay, in many novels they are generic. But they don’t have to be. They can be their own character. (Two years ago, as part of my research for writing about horses I spent the day with a horsey friend of mine. Here’s the post I wrote about that day.)

Other iconic H words in fantasy include:

HERO: a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

There can’t possibly be any genre with more heroes — archetypal or otherwise — than fantasy. There are far too many to list — although I will cite both Phedre and Joscelin from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series as two of my favourites. (I’m working my way through the audio recordings of these just at the moment.)

Look - a hero with a horse!
Look – a hero with a horse!

Then of course there is Aragorn!

HERBS: any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine, or perfume.

In many fantasy novels, herbs are used widely — and it’s great fun to make up new ones specific to one’s imaginary world. I’d suggest they are most often used for HEALING (or as a drug).

HEIR: a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death.

I cannot count the number of fantasy novels I’ve read involving a secret farm boy/kitchen boy/orphan who turns out to be a lost heir to a kingdom. This is a done-to-death trope, yet one still finds recent examples.

Finally some books and authors (and films):

  • The HOBBIT — The classic Tolkien novel hardly needs explanation, and I am excitedly awaiting the second movie installment out in a couple of weeks!
  • Robin HOBB — I know I bang on about Robin Hobb a lot, but she remains one of my favourite fantasy authors. And just in case you didn’t already know (heh), my favourite series of hers is the Liveship Traders trilogy.
  • HARRY Potter — Should Harry be listed under H or P? Somehow H makes more sense to me. And HERMIONE too. Much loved characters from the wonderful Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling.



That’s all I can think of today. If you can think of any fantasy H words — or books, authors and characters — that ring true for you, feel free to leave a comment! I’m sure there must heaps I haven’t listed.


11 thoughts on “A-Z of fantasy: H is for Horse

    1. I LOVE them too. Tantor audio recently had them all available for $5 as audio downloads – listening to Chosen in the car now! Haven’t read the Moirin ones… How do they sit against the Imriel trilogy, which I haven’t quite finished.


  1. Harry and Hermione – I think those are my favorite H words in your series. Three H words popped into my head just now: heavy (because the task at hand for the hero is usually a weighty thing for them to accomplish), hover (as in hovering on a Nimbus 2000 while looking for the Golden Snitch), and help (isn’t the hero always called to action to help someone or some group of people or, at the very least, themselves?).


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