Tough Traveling: Beloved Mounts

March 26, 2015 Tough Traveling 28

tough-travelingEach Thursday, inspired by ‘The Tough Guide to Fantasyland’ we have in hand, we shall tour the mystical countryside looking for adventure and fun (and tropes) from all over fantasy. (Hosted by Nathan at Fantasy Review Barn)

Beloved Mounts

Fantasy is full of “mounts” of various sorts – and full of close relationships between rider and mount. [Oh, get your minds out of the gutter! 😉  I’m talking about friendships! ]  I take this week’s topic to mean any “ride” much loved by its rider – which means I get to have a lot of fun with this one!


Ruth & Jaxom (Michael Whelan, cover art for The White Dragon)

Ruth, the white dragon ridden by Lord Holder Jaxom (The White Dragon and other Pern novels, by Anne McCaffrey).  I could, of course, have chosen any of the Pern dragons, but Ruth is unique, and his inner thoughts and relationship with his rather unorthodox rider are explored more deeply than those of most of the other dragonriders and their dragons (possibly excepting F’nor and Canth and F’lessan and Golanth.) Pernese “dragons” are genetically-engineered, intelligent beings who form a lifelong attachment to their rider at their Hatching. Both Jaxom and Ruth are unusual for their kind. As a young Lord Holder with no heir, Jaxom cannot leave his Hold to become a “proper” dragonrider. Ruth is a genetic sport, smaller than the typical dragon, white, and neuter, but also more intelligent than his fellow dragons (though they are hardly stupid!) The White Dragon is one of my favorite Pern books.


Temeraire & Laurence. Fan art by Daniel Govar (

Temeraire, the dragon Captained by Will Laurence (the Temeraire series, by Naomi Novik) I love what Novik does with dragons in this series – and Temeraire in particular. I put him after Ruth not because I like him less (in fact, I love him more), but to contrast Novik’s dragons with McCaffrey’s. Novik’s dragons come in more breeds or varieties than the Pern dragons, as well as more sizes – Temeraire is so big that he carries a whole crew of riders, though he’s only bonded to his Captain. Pernese dragons fight an inanimate danger (the acidic Thread), not each other; Novik’s dragons are the Air Forces of their alternate-history Europe, and are bred and trained to fight each other. Most of all, the bond between Captain and dragon is different; while there is often love or affection, most Captains (riders) see their dragon as less than equal to themselves, while dragons, being long-lived, often outlive their first Captain and perhaps several more as well. And Captains retire when they can no longer manage to ride, which means leaving the dragon to a new Captain. What makes Temeraire and Laurence different is that he wasn’t trained to become a dragon Captain, so he’s more open to recognizing Temeraire as an equal and a beloved friend. And the two of them prove, over and over, that they are willing to sacrificed their own needs and wants for the sake of the other. They push each other to grow, too, though not always by choice. It’s one of the best friendships in contemporary fantasy.



Talia and Rolan (cover art, Arrows’ Flight)

The Companions of Valdemar (Mercedes Lackey’s Valdemar books). I won’t single out a particular Companion to focus on, the way I could with Ruth, but all of them have a tight bond with their Chosen, who become Heralds by virtue of being Chosen. There are some parallels with Pernese dragons and their riders: Companions have human intelligence; Heralds and Companions are bound together by love as well as a psychic bond, and rarely survive each others’ death; they communicate mind-to-mind, usually but not always with MindSpeech (telepathy.) On the other hand, Companions have a much different background than dragons (which I’m not going to give away because spoilers.) Some of my favorite Herald-Companion relationships are Talia and Rolan, and Alberich and Kantor. (I particularly love Exile’s Honor, the first book about Alberich and Kantor; it’s one of the best explorations of the Herald-Companion relationship.)


Bree and Shasta. Illustration by Pauline Baynes (Image courtesy of

Bree, the Narnian Talking Horse who carries Shasta across Calormen and into Archenland and Narnia (The Horse and His Boy, by C. S. Lewis)  As a Talking Horse, Bree is quite human-like in intelligence, though still rather horselike in his opinions. He’s clearly the dominant partner in the relationship; he’s older and more experienced than the young, naive Shasta. He also has his flaws; he’s disinclined to believe in what he can’t see, for instance, and he tends to show off and to think he knows more than he does. Nonetheless, the pair form first an alliance and eventually a firm friendship.


Cloud, the pony ridden by Daine the Wildmage (the Immortals quartet by Tamora Pierce).  Because of Daine’s “wild magic”, the animals around her tend to change, becoming more and more intelligent in the human sense. Cloud is a prime example, since she has been with Daine for years. Daine can speak to all animals in their own “language”, but when Cloud speaks with Daine, she sounds human – in fact, she sounds rather like an aunt or mentor. She’s clearly the older and sometimes the wiser of the two, and she has a tart wit and sardonic sense of humor that I enjoy. (Try listening to Full Cast Audio’s audiobook recording; the woman who voices Cloud is perfect for the part.)


Sungold, aka Tsornin, Harry’s warhorse in The Blue Sword. He’s “only” a horse, but a highly-trained one with a highly-developed sense of loyalty to his rider, and Harry (Harimad-sol) loves him. Since much of the book revolves around the King’s Riders and Harry’s training in riding and weaponswork, Tsornin becomes a nonhuman character of sorts, rather than simply a means of transportation.


Peachblossom,  the warhorse ridden by Keladry of Mindelan (The Protector of the Small quartet, by Tamora Pierce).  Peachblossom is a grumpy, irascible horse who comes to love Kel (and vice versa) after she saves his life by being willing to take him on. Unlike the Pern dragons or Valdemaran Companions, Peachtree is very much a horse, but Kel’s fondness for him and reliance on him are evident, and he has more of a personality than most ordinary horses in fantasy novels.


“Greatheart, I thought. I will go visit him. that will calm me down, to stroke his warm cheek and have him rest his heavy head on my shoulder.” (from Beauty, by Robin McKinley. Image by unknown artist.)

Greatheart, Beauty’s Great Horse (Beauty, by Robin McKinley). Greatheart is definitely “just” a horse, but I love the relationship he and Beauty have. It’s quite realistic in most ways, which helps make the fantasy parts of the book more believable.


Harry receives the Firebolt (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004)

Harry’s Firebolt (the Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling) OK, this is really stretching a point, since the broomstick is not alive – but Harry does love flying, and he loves his broomstick! I guess I could have included his first broom, the Nimbus 2000, as well.

*     *     *

It’s funny; I thought I would end up with more non-equine mounts than I did. I almost included Avatre, Vetch’s dragon in Mercedes Lackey’s “Joust” series, but I haven’t read those books in so long, I wasn’t sure what to say about Avatre. I’ve read plenty of books with unicorns in them, but it’s rare that a unicorn agrees to be ridden, so I couldn’t come up with anything that fit the “beloved mount” concept. And while Mercedes Lackey does have some of her characters riding dyheli (a sort of deer-like creature), they are more like fellow members of the team than beloved mounts.

What about you? Any favorite “beloved mounts” from fantasy to share?

28 Responses to “Tough Traveling: Beloved Mounts”

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      I missed a few biggies, including Buckbeak (Harry Potter), Shadowfax and Bill the Pony (Tolkien), Blackjack (Percy Jackson), and Saphira (Eragon). It’s been really fun to visit the other posts in the meme this week.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      The Temeraire books are awesome! Alternate-history Napoleonic Wars, with dragons for the Air Force. And she really delves into the position of dragons and their riders and the social implications, not only in British and French society, but in China and Russia as well. It’s like… Master and Commander meets Jane Austen meets Pern.

  1. Wendell

    Great list. I love all the different types of mounts you’ve listed. After seeing so many references to The Temeraire books this week, I’m going to go out and find the first novel in the series and give it a go. 🙂

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Yeah, I know it’s stretching it, but it was a fun pick! Though I missed a more obvious one from that series – Buckbeak.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Well. . . the theme was “beloved mounts” which sort of implied living. I actually couldn’t think of any other nonliving “rides” that were that well-loved. (My daughter Robin points out that Harry actually loved his Nimbus 2000 more than the Firebolt, but hey.)

  2. Danya @ Fine Print

    Wow, this is a seriously impressive list! Bree is a great choice, but Peachblossom and Cloud are the best (because Tamora Pierce). I’ve never listened to any of her stuff on audio, but it sounds like they’re really well done. I’ve also never read Beauty; did you like it?
    Danya @ Fine Print recently posted…Tough Traveling: Beloved MountsMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Tamora Pierce rocks! My daughter ‘Robin’ got to attend the Alpha workshop for teen writers of SF, fantasy, and horror – twice. Tammy is one of the teachers each time, and apparently she was just awesome! Not all her audiobooks are by Full Cast Audio, but the ones that are are really well done.

      I love Beauty. The writing is a bit more down-to-earth and less lyrical than, say, Spindle’s End or Rose Daughter, but it’s absolutely charming and delightful. I goofed, though – it’s by Robin McKinley, not Tamora Pierce.

  3. Stephanie

    This is second list I’ve seen Peachblossom on and I definitely can’t wait to get to that series – I love the recalcitrant steeds who need rescuing! I’m glad you brought out Bree as well – I love that book and he’s really an interesting character and the dynamic between he and Shasta is so unique. One of my favorite Narnia books! Finally, I REALLY need to read the Pern books – their bend of fantasy and sci-fi sounds so unique and they are classics. Kind of horrified I haven’t read them!
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    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      The Protector of the Small series is awesome. It starts out MG and ends up YA, but all three of us enjoyed it, including my husband, who has listened to the audiobooks twice! And The Horse and His Boy is one of my favorite Narnia books too; I just wish it wasn’t quite so anti-Muslim (something I didn’t realize until I re-read it as an adult.) And yes, you should totally read the Pern books!

      Re your Tough Travels: Yay for Temeraire & Bree! And I really need to read The Goose Girl; Robin has been telling me that for years! I’ll read it if you’ll read the first Kel book – deal?

  4. Elizabeth

    Oooh so many on this list that I love!! I’ve never read (or even heard of) the Termeraire series, but that description really makes me want to! Oh another addition to my never ending pile…

    And you’re so spot on about Cloud! (And Bree) I love both of those relationships because we usually think of humans as the dominant in a horse/human pair so it’s really interesting to see the human as the younger/rasher one in the relationship.

    And I’m loving the McKinley choices – I had COMPLETELY forgotten Greatheart. (In my defense, her Beauty books are one of the only books by her that I don’t consistently reread)
    Elizabeth recently posted…Tough Traveling: Beloved MountsMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      After Thursday’s Tough Traveling, I think you probably heard a lot about Temeraire – he certainly got the love this week! I’m glad you enjoyed my picks!

  5. Miriam @ Inky Realms

    Wow what I list! I love the images you’ve picked & the detail you described everyone by, especially Peachblossom. I have so much fondness for Kel & how hard Tammy strived to make everything super normal for her – bet she found it hard, haha. Also, love the Firebolt!

  6. Windsprite

    A Firebolt? For me it was always kind of… well, a Firebolt wouldn’t work for me, since it doesn’t really have a sould or something… yet a cool pick 🙂

    I thought about Bree too, but I didn’t like most of the Narnia books, so I left him away.
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