The Cool Horse
is a mainstay in fantasy works everywhere. They may be normal, or of a different color
but you'd be hard pressed to find a fantasy world without it. They are proud and noble beasts, carrying their masters into battle, or off into the sunset
once their work is done. Many times they are a character in their own right, with as much praise and respect as their human (or non-human) rider.
However, some steeds are not content with just any master. These beasts, be they horses, dragons
, giant yellow birds
or what have you, decide for themselves who is worthy enough to ride them and who is not. They may be a Unicorn
a Hellish Horse
, a Sapient Steed
or just extremely proud. Whatever the reason, these horses simply CANNOT be broken by just anyone.
In short, the only ones who can ride such steeds are those that they choose themselves.
Not always a sign of The Chosen One
but it often is. If multiple people can in fact ride them, then it is only because the steed has decided that each of them are worthy. In most cases such steeds will allow others to ride them should their master wish it. However, in the most extreme cases, this steed's chosen rider really is the only one who can.
If they're a normal horse (or the equivalent
), they often have a reputation for being stubborn and difficult
. If they are a magical or mythical creature, expect their choosiness in riders to be a staple in the legends surrounding them.
Please note that this trope refers to a steed that specfically chooses, or at least seems to choose a rider of its own accord. Examples that would fall under this trope include:
- A single unique creature that only Alice can ride
- A group of such creatures exist but Alice can only ride the one that chose her
- Alice or Bob could ride the steed in question, but only because it finds both worthy to do so.
Examples such as a steed that is particularly stubborn but could be 'broken' by anyone, or the Proud Warrior Race
being the only ones who know the "secret" to taming the creatures would NOT fall under this trope. Please be mindful of this when adding examples.
Subtrope of Cool Horse
and sister trope to Only the Chosen May Wield
. Related to Sapient Steed
which often goes hand in hand with this trope. Compare Only I Can Make It Go
, which has to do with cars. Compare/Contrast Bond Creatures
for creatures with a similar bond that is created through more magical or psychic means.
Anime and Manga
- Pokémon. In the episode "The Flame Pokemon-athon!", it is stated that Ponyta's (and most probably also Rapidash's) fiery mane burns anyone who he/she does not trust. Ash (who's supposed to be riding Lara's Ponyta in a race) gets burned the first (and second) time he tries to touch Ponyta, but eventually the two learn to work together.
- In Dragon Ball, the kinto'un is a semi-sentient magic cloud that Only the Pure of Heart may ride. (That trope was originally called Nimbus Privileges, after a common dub name for the kinto'un.) Goku, Chi-chi, and Gohan are its most common riders.
- Avatar The Ikran are dragon-like creatures that the Na'vi use as mounts. Every Ikran chooses its own master, and only then if the one they choose can best them in combat and tame them.
- Worth special mention is Toruk Makto, who is said to be untameable by even the strongest of Na'vi. Jake manages to do so.
- An interesting take occurs in the first The Love Bug movie. Herbie, the titular vehicle is a living car that moves on its own, has emotions, and even speaks to some degree (Albeit only through use of his horn). He decides for himself who he'll let drive him, and anyone he doesn't like could just as easily be thrown out of the seat.
Mythology and Religion
- The Lord of the Rings has Shadowfax of the Mearas. Even the Rohirrim were not able to tame him. Gandalf however, was able to quite easily and he served as his steed from then on.
- The Companions of the Heralds of Valdemar series are magical horselike beings which bond to a particular human rider. The Companion always chooses the human, never vice versa. Being Chosen by a Companion makes someone one of the titular Heralds, who serve as a combination of Mounties, circuit judges, military scouts and Search and Rescue service, among other things. Heralds are considered to be intrinsically incorruptible, because the Companions don't Choose people who would take bribes or the like. It is also required that the ruler of the country be a Herald, and no one who has not been Chosen by a Companion is eligible to be ruler or heir.
- In Exile's Valor, Prince Karathanelan assumes the Companions are just distinctively-colored horses and heads off to Companions' Field to break one of them to saddle. The only reason he survives to the novel's final fight scene is because Caryo goes easy on him.
- Harry Potter. Hippogryphs choose who they will allow to ride them. As Malfoy finds out, insulting one is a good way to get sent to the hospital.
- Gib the Water Horse in the Arcia Chronicles is less of a horse and more of a sentient force of nature, so he is extremely picky about whom he allows to ride him. Specifically, the only human he has ever allowed close to him is Rene Arroy, who just happens to be an old seadog as well as an experienced horseman.
- The War Gods has the Sothoii Coursers, the descendants of magically altered horses. They are as intelligent as humans as well as being larger, stronger, faster and having more endurance than any natural horse. Some of them will enter into a psychic bond with a human (who are called Windriders). Like the Heralds and their Companions, the Windriders are respected by all Sothoii, and are guaranteed to be honorable (as the Sothoii see it anyway). Coursers won't associate with anyone who isn't.
- Early in the Gor series it is established that only natural tarnsmen are able to ride war tarns (giant birds used as cavalry), and even then if a tarn doesn't like a particular tarnsman it could just as easily rip him to shreds. In later stories the craft of tarn domestication is further advanced such that any trained rider can ride any tarn.
- Protector of the Small has a mundane example in Peachblossom. He's a gelding with a foul temper and generalized misanthropy after having been abused, and Daine has to persuade him to let Kel ride him. Kel is the only person who can do so (he'll kick or bite anyone else) until Tobe, who has horse magic and can communicate with him like Daine does.
- In The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Ranyhyn are horses with enhanced intelligence, speed and endurance. A person can go to the Plains of Ra where they live and offer himself to them. If a Ranyhyn considers that person to be worthy it will allow him to ride it.
- In Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Red Hare, a huge Cool Horse so named because "it can run fast as a hare and is colored red", only ever allowed Lu Bu and later—after the Lu Bu's disposal— Guan Yu to ride him, as no one else could tame him.
- The titular Dragonriders of Pern are chosen this way. The dragons form an empathic bond with a particular human, who is then shanghaied into the life of a dragonrider. The bond is so strong that riders of dragons who mate often wind up having sex as well whether they meant to or not.
- The Way Of Kings has the Ryshadium, a breed of horses that pick their riders. Dalinor and Andolin each have a Ryshadium mount, larger and smarter then other horses. Their antagonist, Sadeas is frustrated that he is unable to have a horse as fine, despite his great wealth.
- The Unicorn is a magical horse-like creature depicted in various mythologies. It is said that only a maiden is capable of capturing and taming it.
- Centaurs, horselike creatures but fully sentient, do not like being ridden on by people but will, when the situation requires it, carry a human on its back to safety or to alert others, etc.
- Dungeons & Dragons: Early editions had Warhorses which a Paladin could befriend. Each Warhorse/other mount (often they were some kind of Cool Steed) is specifically bonded to a particular Paladin, and won't respond to others without their master's order.
- Bucephalus was a stallion of excellent breeding, being sold for a rather exorbitant price despite being considered largely untamable. A young Alexander the Great was able to tame and ride him, but no one else ever could.