I’m celebrating the publication this week of Winter, the last book in the Hyddenworld quartet. And I’ve just visited its central motif – the White Horse. This is located at Uffington Hill which towers above the ancient Ridgeway in Berkshire, the oldest routeway in continuous use in Europe. It’s here you’ll find the mysterious and beautiful prehistoric White Horse scoured into the chalk 3,000 years ago and maintained by local people ever since.
Fantasy lovers will know that white and pale gray horses have a special place in cultural mythology and storytelling. The Greek god Pegasus rode one, as did the Nordic god Odin. Iranian, Hindu and Buddhist culture all glorify white horses. Great modern writers like Tolkien, Lewis and more recently Terry Pratchett all use them in their tales. In Hyddenworld I use the Uffington White Horse as the journeyer between worlds of life and death, the then and now, and what has been and what might be. Inevitably in Winter (there's a free extract here, for interested readers), which is about the End of Days or the threat of the extinction of all things, the horse plays a vital role in the final resolution of the story.
I chose the Uffington horse as the symbol within my books. This is for the simple but poignant reason that the only photograph my mother had of her and the man she married – he was not my father – was taken of them standing on the eye of the White Horse in 1933. She loved the picture as she loved him and when she died I inherited it.
So naturally, I have stood on that same eye and considered the significance of the White Horse and what it means to the hydden of the Hyddenworld in my novels. And why they might turn to it for help at the moment of mortalkind’s greatest need – when the worst winter in living memory threatens life, the Universe and everything…
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