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Conference Proceeding

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Russian princesses were once buried with them. Royalty ride only white ones. They are often regarded as the only panacea for handicapped children. Richard III would have given his entire kingdom for just one of them. Their ownership can radically define one‟s position in the social hierarchy of Saudi Arabia. The road to great human civilization and imagination has always been carved by the hoof prints of a horse. No matter what section of the globe is studied, Japan with its samurai tradition, the Mediterranean with conquerors like Alexander, the Bedouin, the American West, the Crusades, and certainly the sagas of ancient Iceland, horses figure predominantly and with gravitas. What is the contract between man and equine that allows a beast ten times our size and one hundred times our strength to willingly serve in our ambitions? What magnetism (and who placed it) is it that draws humanity and horses together? Pegasus, Epona, The Houyhnhnms, Bucephalus, Black Beauty, Mr. Ed!! Horses have equal pride of place in art and mythology. J.R.R. Tolkien, in his epochal books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, utilizes horses as a representation of the human soul and a direct mirroring of a divine will. Horses in Tolkien‟s books function as both masculine and feminine symbols of sexuality. Ever the great narrative balancer, Tolkien features ponies of rambunctious, pudgy resolve in The Hobbit and counterpoises them with valiant, magisterial warhorses in The Lord of the Rings. For every Shadowfax the reader receives a Bumpkin, just as for every Frodo there must be a Gollum—this equality representing one more connection amongst man and horse in Tolkien‟s world. All of the horses in Tolkien evoke visages of hope, glory, nobility, or power—and all of the qualities on that same list could be said to be running themes in the books. What contract is thus in place between Tolkien and the image and power of the horse in his fictional works? Tolkien‟s horses epitomize more than simply personified warriors/characters, but elemental forces that belong to something even beyond Mother Nature. Their magic, unlike that of all other fantastical creatures in The Lord of the Rings, is never explained away. In this sense, horses come to represent the mystery of the natural world and perhaps even the unknown face of God in Tolkien‟s Middle Earth.


Presented at Graduate English Association New Voices Conference 2007, pp. 1-21.