Date of Award

Spring 4-2017

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Jennifer Flaherty

Second Advisor

Katie Simon

Third Advisor

Craig Callender


There is a strong connection in Don Quixote and the works of Chretièn de Troyes and J.R.R. Tolkien between a character’s moral decisions and the way that said character treats his horse or horses. The Horse and the Heroic Quest: Equestrian Indicators of Morality in Lancelot, Don Quixote, and Tolkien studies the moral factors that affect the way heroic characters are revealed to readers and how these morals relate to the ways in which characters interact with horses. This ecocritical study focuses on the protagonists in Chretièn’s Lancelot, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It is revealed that characters who treat their horses badly, such as Chretièn’s Lancelot, lack society’s definition of moral characteristics. Characters who treat their horses well, however, such as Chretièn’s Gawain, Cervantes’s Don Quixote, and Tolkien’s many horse-loving protagonists are more likely to meet society’s understanding of morality. This theory can be applied to modern heroic works as well as medieval and Renaissance works; “Xena: Warrior Princess,” The Princess Bride by William Goldman, and the works of Mercedes Lackey all exhibit positive interactions between their heroic protagonists and the horses they ride. The connection between a horse’s treatment and the protagonist’s moral character makes equines more important to the plot and purpose of these stories than previous scholars have noticed. As ecocriticism becomes a more prevalent genre, it is increasingly important to study aspects of stories that involve animals, such as horses.