Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tompte -- a short history of "Thaw's" most important horse

Earlier this month, E. Kaiser Writes released a trio of new books entitled "Thaw." I haven't read them yet, but they sound interesting. She is here today to tell us about a Tompte, a very important horse in "Thaw."

P: Thanks for coming! I'm curious about this all-important horse. 

E: Okay! Well, you've picked a fun subject today!
 This is the back info on Tomtpe, the most important horse in the Thaw books. At least he knows that he is. You see, he is not just any horse, but a very special horse. He belongs to a prince of Demargen and that makes him a royal horse. Or a royal's horse, if you want to be picky.
 Tompte thinks there's not much difference between the two.

P: He sounds like quite the character all ready; tell me more! 

E: Okay, so the quintessential Prince Charming's horse is of course white. Always white. 
 The war leader's horse is black, and also the bad guys horse.
   A lot of time the girl's horse is a yellow or beige color...
  But the prince's horse is always a white/gray.

 (For those of you less into horses than some, "gray" is a color pattern that actually isn't gray all the time. In fact a horse that is a "gray" is invariably born dark, (whether that is black, brown or chestnut) and then as they grow their hair "grays out". Different graying-genes have different time-spans; some family lines start going white as young as two years old, while others go slower and so retain some color late in life. These slow-gray-ers make for the gorgeous dapple-grays and steel-grays that will hold that phase of the pattern for several years.
 In the end, though, they all end up white. 
 Like a snowy haired old man or woman, "white" horses are rarely born white. They are grays.

  Some slow graying genes can actually hold onto the mane and tail color for a long time, and it is the last to go. On others it goes white right away. The gray gene is probably one of the most baffling and untrackable horse colors for equine geneticists to figure out... and they haven't gotten it coded yet.
 So it remains in the realm of "horse sense" and those still in the business of buying and selling horses rely on their own experience and the long history of horse-trading stories when dealing with grays.
   How long will they hold their color? Will they be dappled? Or that worst of all fates; flea-bitten? 
 A fleabitten gray is generally a horse that was born chestnut, and even though its hide goes white, specks of if stays red. This is considered among the least attractive of grays, and not at all prized.
  There is a stack of horse trading lore dealing specifically with grays, how some unscrupulous traders can "color" dapples onto a white horse to make it look prettier and fetch a higher price, or to make it look younger for the same purpose. 
 But that is not our subject today.)

P: Amazing! I had no idea there was such a science to gray and white horses. 

As we were saying, the Prince's horse must be white, and although at first I thought I might break the mold and give our prince a different colored horse, Tompte soon shook his head decidedly and insisted that he was white. And all white, having grayed quickly and thoroughly, so that although he is still in his prime, (what Tompte considers to be his prime, at any rate; around eight or so) he is pristine-ly white, as befits a prince of Demargen's royal house.

 Because you see Demargen has a reputation to uphold. With twelve dashing, gallant princes ahead of him, all Hess's brothers have set the bar high in military exploits. For though the known world has not had a war in almost a thousand years, the art of war has been kept alive with jousts and robust competitions, which Hess's older brothers loved dearly and did very well in. 
  The reputation goes back further than that, though, for old King Leopold in his day, was a force to be reckoned with on the field as well. 
  And so Demargen must keep up its chin and shine its buttons, because even though long ago it lost it's claim to the then empty Noran throne on a battlefield, it is not to be trifled with now. Or ever.

P: I'll be sure not to mess with Demargen!

E: So Demargen cadets train harder than any other kingdom's cadets. Demargen officers salute snappier, and with more meaning, than any other kingdom's officers. And Demargen princes are drilled in the school of honor and ability, turning out thirteen perfectly polished princes to unleash upon the world; which receives them in various ways, but is invariably impressed with their military precision. 

 And Tompte is a part of that, of which he is duly aware.
  And though his boy may attend the Noran coronation on his own, he is not alone. For he has a prince's horse, who knows his duty.

P: It sounds as if Tomte must have been fun to write.
E: This horse turned into quite the character as I was writing, he just sort of developed his own "voice" even though of course he can't speak. But looking back on it, I realize that the horse from my past that was channeling onto the page was just such a beastie... a half Welsh, half Percheron that was 13 hands tall, mostly white and as full of importance as a horse can get. 
 His name was "Buddy", which if he would have understood English he certainly would have objected to. He probably would have insisted on being named "Prince" or at the very least "Duke". 
 Perhaps "Charger" would have been a better name for him, since there was nothing that could stop him. 
 He rode and drove, and pulled a wagon as if he'd been born to it. (Which of course he partially had, on his Percheron half.) He had a hitchy little trot that just wouldn't give up, flicking his white feathered hooves with each step, he looked the part of a proud harness horse.
 He was just about six inches too short to be the sort of impressive he was aiming for! 
 But he was cute as a bug... with a deep, Percheron jaw and a nice Welsh muzzle... arched white neck with thick wavy white mane flowing over it. 

 But he was a good horse.  At eleven years old, I learned to ride on Buddy, and even though he had all the heart in the world, his pulling horse build wasn't designed for speediness. My brother would race away from us on his Arab mare, and Buddy and I would be left loping along in the dust. And then we'd run out of dust, for even that had settled by the time we came along. 
 But I was never worried with Buddy because he never bucked, didn't spook... he was so solid and confidant he never met a worry. And he always knew the way home, even if I didn't.

   He was so coordinated he could stand on an ice-slicked sloping path... and run in place to keep from falling down. Seriously, this was actually witnessed one winter... he just moved his feet so fast he didn't have time to slip, until he could edge himself off the icy patch.
 This degree of dexterity is referenced in Prince of Demargen when Hess asks Tompte to jump back over a wall onto the road toward him, and Tompte does so from a standstill. It takes great coordination for a horse to do that, not to mention great back muscles.

P: What skill--in both the real and fictional horses!
E: Buddy could gallop away fully hobbled; tie his front feet together and he'd simply left them both of the ground at once and hop off like that. Pretty soon he was literally galloping around doing that, so the decision was made to side hobble him. Most horses move their lateral feet in opposite directions and so tying left hind to left front effectively stops them from going too far.
 Not Buddy. He took maybe half a day, and then figured out how to "pace", moving both laterals forward at the same time.
   We liked to keep him in the yard where we lived at the time in the mountains, so he could eat the grass down. But he kept turning mobile on us, until we finally ended up tying his front feet and a hind foot.
  That kept him restricted... poor Buddy. Not even he could figure out how to lift all three feet of the ground at once. Though he did try for some time, just in case.

 His antics were so amusing and impressive, that we soon let him go completely, where he could charge about the place as he liked. He enjoyed this very much, and the sight of the little white horse grazing tranquilly along the creek-bed below the house was like something out of a fairy-tale. Then he'd get the notion to gallop up the trail to the barn, all rounded neck and floating mane and rat-a-tat-tat thundering hooves on the forest path. He seemed to enjoy showing off his freedom to the other horses in the pens.

  Buddy is a memory horse that will not be forgotten... and his indomitable spirit, good looks, physical prowess, and quirky character lives on in Tompte, (who is taller, like a riding horse should be.)
 But he too would make a white vision of loveliness grazing lush spring grass along a gurgling creek in a tiny mountain valley.

  And there the both shall ever live in our dreams.

P: What a beautiful picture! And what a great story of the inspiration for Tompte! Thanks for joining me today. I look forward to learning more about your new books. All the best!


  1. Thanks for having me, Perry! :-)
    Yes, it was fun having that horse "back" again for a little while, even in my mind. Buddy was truly an unforgettable creature, and I'd love to meet another like him! :-)

  2. I can't wait to read these 8-D