A to Z Challenge Folklore

Speedy Steeds #folklore #AtoZChallenge

S is for Steed

I’m doing folklore and book review posts to reach and please a larger audience. Previous years have shown select interest in both and to minimise blogging throughout the year, I’m focusing my efforts on April.

If you’d rather check out my book review for today, go here.

Learn more about the challenge here.

Just as with any medieval royalty, the fae need steeds, too. The best kind, of course, are the shape-shifting ones.

Faery on Corgi Steed. Image credit.


Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry by W. B. Yeats [1888]

Yes! unless it were merely an augh-ishka [each-uisgé], or Waterhorse. For these, we are told, were common once, and used to come out of the water to gallop on the sands and in the fields, and people would often go between them and the marge and bridle them, and they would make the finest of horses if only you could keep them away from sight of the water; but if once they saw a glimpse of the water, they would plunge in with their rider, and tear him to pieces at the bottom.

More English Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs [1894]

The Hedley Kow

THERE was once an old woman, who earned a poor living by going errands and suchlike, for the farmers’ wives round about the village where she lived. It wasn’t much she earned by it; but with a plate of meat at one house, and a cup of tea at another, she made shift to get on somehow, and always looked as cheerful as if she hadn’t a want in the world.

Well, one summer evening as she was trotting away homewards, she came upon a big black pot lying at the side of the road.

‘Now that,’ said she, stopping to look at it, ‘would be just the very thing for me if I had anything to put into it! But who can have left it here?’ and she looked round about, as if the person it belonged to must be not far off. But she could see no one.

‘Maybe it’ll have a hole in it,’ she said thoughtfully — ‘Ay, that’ll be how they’ve left it lying, hinny. But then it’d do fine to put a flower in for the window; I’m thinking I’ll just take it home, anyways.’ And she bent her stiff old back, and lifted the lid to look inside.

‘Mercy me!’ she cried, and jumped back to the other side of the road; ‘if it isn’t brim full o’ gold pieces!!’

For a while she could do nothing but walk round and round her treasure, admiring the yellow gold and wondering at her good luck, and saying to herself about every two minutes, ‘Well, I do be feeling rich and grand!’ But presently she began to think how she could best take it home with her; and she couldn’t see any other way than by fastening one end of her shawl to it, and so dragging it after her along the road.

‘It’ll certainly be soon dark,’ she said to herself, ‘and folk’ll not see what I’m bringing home with me, and so I’ll have all the night to myself to think what I’ll do with it. I could buy a grand house and all, and live like the Queen herself, and not do a stroke of work all day, but just sit by the fire with a cup of tea; or maybe I’ll give it to the priest to keep for me, and get a piece as I’m wanting; or maybe I’ll just bury it in a hole at the garden-foot, and put a bit on the chimney, between the chiney teapot and the spoons — for ornament like. Ah! I feel so grand, I don’t know myself rightly!’

And by this time being already rather tired with dragging such a heavy weight after her, she stopped to rest for a minute, turning to make sure that the treasure was safe.

But when she looked at it, it wasn’t a pot of gold at all, but a great lump of shining silver!

She stared at it, and rubbed her eyes and stared at it again; but she couldn’t make it look like anything but a great lump of silver. ‘I’d have sworn it was a pot of gold,’ she said at last, ‘but I reckon I must have been dreaming. Ay, now, that’s a change for the better; it’ll be far less trouble to look after, and none so easy stolen; yon gold pieces would have been a sight of bother to keep ’em safe. Ay, I’m well quit of them; and with my bonny lump I’m as rich as rich — !’

And she set off homewards again, cheerfully planning all the grand things she was going to do with her money. It wasn’t very long, however, before she got tired again and stopped once more to rest for a minute or two.

Again she turned to look at her treasure, and as soon as she set eyes on it she cried out in astonishment. ‘Oh, my!’ said she; ‘now it’s a lump o’ iron! Well, that beats all; and it’s just real convenient! I can sell it as easy as easy, and get a lot o’ penny pieces for it. Ay, hinny, an’ it’s much handier than a lot o’ yer gold and silver as’d have kept me from sleeping o’ nights thinking the neighbours were robbing me — an’ it’s a real good thing to have by you in a house, ye niver can tell what ye mightn’t use it for, an’ it’ll sell — aye, for a real lot. Rich? I’ll be just rolling!’

And on she trotted again chuckling to herself on her good luck, till presently she glanced over her shoulder, ‘just to make sure it was there still’, as she said to herself.

‘Eh, my!’ she cried as soon as she saw it; ‘if it hasn’t gone and turned itself into a great stone this time! Now, how could it have known that I was just terrible wanting something to hold my door open with? Ay, if that isn’t a good change! Hinny, it’s a fine thing to have such good luck.’

And, all in a hurry to see how the stone would look in its corner by her door, she trotted off down the hill, and stopped at the foot, beside her own little gate.

When she had unlatched it, she turned to unfasten her shawl from the stone, which this time seemed to lie unchanged and peaceably on the path beside her. There was still plenty of light, and she could see the stone quite plainly as she bent her stiff back over it, to untie the shawl end; when, all of a sudden, it seemed to give a jump and a squeal, and grew in a moment as big as a great horse; then it threw down four lanky legs, and shook out two long ears, flourished a tail, and went off kicking its feet into the air and laughing like a naughty mocking boy.

The old woman stared after it, till it was fairly out of sight.

‘Well!’ she said at last, ‘I do be the luckiest body hereabouts! Fancy me seeing the Hedley Kow all to myself, and making so free with it, too! I can tell you, I do feel that GRAND –‘

And she went into her cottage, and sat down by the fire to think over her good luck.

Faery Knight on Steed. Image credit.

The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley [1870]

There was a Barguest named the Pick-tree Brag, whose usual form was that of a little galloway, “in which shape a farmer, still or lately living thereabouts, reported that it had come to him one night as he was going home; that he got upon it and rode very quietly till it came to a great pond, to which it ran and threw him in, and went laughing away.

Shifting Steeds. Image credit

The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies by Lucy Cooper


Described in folk tales from Northumberland and northern Britain, the brag is an irksome goblin taking on the appearance of a horse, a calf, or a headless man among others.

An old tale relates the misfortune that befell the wearer of an ill-fated white suit: meeting the brag in the form of a horse, the white-suited man unwisely leaped onto its back for a ride home and was promptly tossed into a pond, the horse laughing and neighing noisily as it galloped away.

Each Uisge

(pronounced ech-ooshkya) The water horse of the Scottish Highlands, a malevolent and treacherous shapeshifter dwelling in the sea and lochs. Appearing as a noble horse, it would wait beside a loch for an unwary rider, who would find themselves held firmly to its sticky skin, unable to dismount as the horse galloped full pelt into deep water in order to drown its victim. It would then voraciously consume the body, leaving only the liver, which would later appear on the shores of the loch, the only evidence of another victim claimed by the each uisge.

*More can be read in the book.

A Wizard’s Bestiary by Oberon Zell-Ravenheart & Ash DeKirk


Appearing as a misshapen black horse, this spectral steed might be seen on lonely moors and roads of England’s Northern Counties, where it lures wanderers to their death.

*Read more in the book.

Steed. Image credit

Encyclopedia of Fairies in World Folklore and Mythology by Theresa Bane

Picktree Brag

A shape-shifting barguest or goblin haunting the roads of North England, Picktree Brag would, like the Phooka of Ireland, appear as a horse enticing travellers to mount up upon its back. When it had its victim it would bolt off taking them on a wild chase across the countryside and ultimately dumping its rider off in a pond. Picktree Brag is also known to appear as a calf… a donkey…


Unlike the beautiful lake-dwelling horse known as Cúchulainn, the aughisky could not be permanently tamed. If a halter was placed on one, the aughisky would be a faithful mount so long as it never laid eyes on its lake. Should this happen, the fairy horse would make a dash for its old home, taking its rider with it; there, it would tear its former master into bloody pieces. Once wild again, it would return to its normal diet of eating cattle.

*Read more in the book.

Rabbit Steed. Image credit

Further Reading:

Dragon-esque Steed. Image credit.

Folklore in a Nutshell by Ronel

There are several shapeshifting faery animals in folklore. Some, like the Brag, enjoy being in the form of a horse so it can trick people to get onto its back so it can take them on a wild ride through the countryside – much like the phouka. It also appears as a calf, a donkey, and some other animals. There are water-dwelling horses from Scotland and Ireland – whose names I won’t even try to pronounce – who change their shape to the kind of steed their prey would find enticing to ride. Once on the back of this creature, it would gallop to the water and then devour the human foolish enough to get on its back – much like a Kelpie. But these faery horses, if properly bridled, would be faithful mounts until the special bridle is removed.

Probably best to stay away from magical horses and the like if you’re not a magical creature yourself.

Flying Steed. Image credit.

Steeds in Modern Culture

Eragon book/film by Christopher Paolini

After the agreements of creating the Dragon Riders, a spell was cast over the dragon eggs to ensure that the baby dragons inside would only hatch when the eggs were touched by the Human or Elf whom they wanted to bond with. In exceptional circumstances, the dragon would subvert certains spells and bond with a Human child under the age of ten or an elven child under the age of twenty but most Riders were older. The instant the egg is laid, the dragon infant inside is ready to hatch, but waited sometimes for years to.

Upon hatching, the young dragon would make contact with its Rider for the first time, leaving a mark, the gedwëy ignasia (“shining palm”), on the Dragon Rider’s hand. A bond forms between the dragon and the Rider, which melds their minds on a basic level, binding them for life in the most enduring friendship that can possibly exist and endowing the Dragon Rider with magic.

Learn more here.
Eragon dragon rider. Image credit.

Spider Riders anime series

In the centre of the Earth there’s a war going between fairies (humanoid and insect). A human boy is pulled into it and becomes a Spider Rider. The spiders can talk, too. (Can’t remember much more about this series, as I watched it over a decade ago. Liked the spiders, though.)

spider rider
Spider Rider. Image credit.

Here’s the opening theme for fun:

Wicked Lovely book series by Melissa Marr

Steeds are a unique subspecies of faerie in the Wicked Lovely Series. They are considered vehicles for transportation and are most often utilized by a hound.

Learn more here.

Dragon Ball TV series

The Flying Nimbus (筋斗雲 Kintōun, lit. “Somersault Cloud”) is a magical, yellow cloud that serves as a way of transportation. Goku obtains the Nimbus from Master Roshi as compensation for saving Turtle.[4][5] It served Goku and his sons well throughout Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z, by acting as a way for them to fly around at high speeds without using up any energy

Learn more here.
Steed flying nimbus. Image credit

Steeds in My Writing

Origin of the Fae: Steeds

Vicious hunters that will eat anything they can kill. They roam freely in Faerie and rarely venture into the Mortal Real – especially after the Compact.
They’re shape-shifters (cars, animals, etc.)
They’re immune to iron.
Rarely, they’ll bond with a Faery. This bond allows a telepathic connection between Steed and Faery. Though lower Fae such as Brownies and Phoukas can easily understand them without any such bond.
Mortal enemies: none known.

Translation of steed to Afrikaans: Strydros.

See them in action:

Solitary Fae (Origin of the Fae #6)

What do you think of this kind of faery? Have you heard about steeds before? Any folklore about steeds you’d like to share? Check out my Pinterest board dedicated to the subject.

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image credit https://pixabay.com/illustrations/ai-generated-fairy-wings-magic-8121013/

No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.

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