History Hoydens


Historical Romance Writers Dishing the Dirt on Research

29 September 2006

Handsome Steed or Just a Mount?

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 steed, 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 and mounts 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 and destrier. Mount 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---I’m there.

-Kathrynn Dennis


Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Kalen, you said you just participated in a discussion on medieval horses on the Risky Regencies blog? Do tell! What was context?


2:56 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Guilty pleasures, Lady Hawke, and someone's idea that the choice of a Friesian horse was ridiculous.

According to what I know that breed was a perfect choice. Maybe the only thing the whole movie that wasn't an anachronism.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very cool blog, Hoydens! I've been waiting for you to start and will check up on you often.

3:54 PM  
Blogger MissChievous said...

I agree with Sally.

Love your new blog, Kathrynn!

Anne :-)

4:34 PM  
Blogger Pam Rosenthal said...

I am soooo glad to be in such a horse-savvy group because I'm bound to have horse questions ;-}


6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great group! Love historical research. Love the true stranger-than-fiction-tidbits. I could get lost in research, and sometimes have. Best of luck with this new website, ladies.
Sonja Goedde

9:37 PM  
Blogger Karin Tabke said...

perfect timing for this particular blog post.
thanks, and keep the info coming.

10:49 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Thanks, Sonja. And I am sure there is a civil war blogger here (yep, I know what you write!). So, if you have a question, please post. We will help you find the answer.



12:27 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

First week and I've already got my first mea culpa: Mount. Damn. I totally used that in my book 9setting, 1788). I haven't done the copy edits yet, so there's time to fix it, but what a pain. I LIKE that word.

What does everyone think? Do I change it, or leave it? It's way further off than "lummox". Grrrrrrrrr.

9:45 PM  
Blogger Kathrynn Dennis said...

Kalen, leave your people on their mounts! I really like that word, too...it's so generic, I doubt anyone who doesn't read this blog will even notice...;-)...or care.

I left it in, all over my 13th story...


10:35 PM  

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