Galloping through the Middle Ages: The Horse in Life and in Middle English Literature

Erol B.

NALANS: Journal of Narrative and Language Studies, vol.10, no.19, pp.1-13, 2022 (Scopus) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 10 Issue: 19
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Journal Name: NALANS: Journal of Narrative and Language Studies
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus, MLA - Modern Language Association Database, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-13
  • Keywords: gender, horse in literature, Medieval English Literature, Medieval horses, status
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


© 2022 Karadeniz Technical University. All rights reserved.The horse was an undisputed part and parcel of medieval life. It was an indispensable component of feudal chivalry and warfare, equally important as a means of transportation both for people and goods, for travel, agriculture and entertainment in forms such as hunting and tournaments as the only vehicle for mobility. All classes and genders made extensive use of it. Chivalry which was the most important institution of the Middle Ages, and the political and administrative system of feudalism was possible only with the mounted knight. Knighthood, the vestiges of which extend to the present day was one of the defining force of the Middle Ages. The knight and the horse hence become one. Just as the knight was protected by his armour, the horse was also protected by various forms of armour. The literal and idealistic depiction of the knight and his horse found its depiction in the literature of the Middle Ages. The horses acquired individualising names and symbolic significances in addition to fighting and other skills. In various literary works the horses were depicted so as to shed light and bestow extra significance to the qualities of their riders. Following the symbolism established in Phaedrus employing the body and reason dichotomy, the horse and rider figure gained significance in addition to reflecting the social, economic qualities and aspirations of its rider. Furthermore, the horse was accepted to symbolise woman, and hence it pointed to the necessity of males bridling and controlling the weaker sex. The reversal of this power relation found its expression in the woman becoming the rider controlling /riding the male. The horse also found its symbolic function in the allegorical works especially related to the depiction of the seven deadly sins.