I love medieval historicals. Immersed in the genre, I read so many I catch myself saying things like "Twasn’t a good idea . . ." and "What say you?" I don’t consider myself a historian, but I love the period feel in a good book, rich with historical detail that gets me to the place and time without me really noticing. That said, I am a horse veterinarian, and as an author, I sat down one day and researched all the synonyms I see used (sometimes interchangeably) for the word horse in historical romance.
, a charger
, or a destrier
---which would a knight ride to smite the villain? To hunt? Rescue a heroine? Or make a dangerous, but necessary, race across the countryside?
Well, that depends. To smite a villain, joust, or ride into battle in the 14th century, he would use a destrier
---also called a warhorse, usually a stout, well built stallion. He could rescue his heroine on his destrier, but only if the beast was accustomed to carrying people riding "double." But a palfrey
(any horse other than a warhorse) or a courser
would be better for a smoother, faster ride over a long distance. A palfrey or a courser could be of any sex and most of these horses, used commonly for basic transportation, would not object to a second rider on their back.
Interestingly, one finds knights in romances which are set in the Middle Ages riding a type of warhorse called a charger
. But according to the book English Through the Ages
, this word was not in common use until 1770. It doesn’t mean that 1770 was the birth date of charger---just that the word was in use by that date, though it might have been around for dozens, or even hundreds of years before its first use on paper. The same thing applies to the word mount
---the first time its use appears in print is around 1860. My take: Chargers
are relatively modern words.
On the other hand, I was surprised to learn that the word steed
is relatively old, in use by 900 AD. And the word horse
, predates steed by several hundred years (in use by 700AD).
That said, I’ve used mount
in my 13th century historical DARK RIDER, because I like the word, and I get tired of horse
has a certain air of romance, and a bit of historical flare.Steed
on the other hand, makes me chuckle. I don’t know why. Mayhap
(see, there I go) because it conjures up visions of Eddie Murphy and the donkey in Shrek.
Don’t get me wrong. If a DARK KNIGHT offers me a ride on his handsome steed