During my research for the book I started to wonder if there were any fairytales which featured horses as suitors or husbands to girls – rather in the tradition of Beauty and the Beast et al. I didn’t have the time to pursue this exhaustively, but did find the following story, which is as sinister and weird as the best Bros. Grimm tale:
“In one Chinese tale, a man travels far from his family to fight for a warlord, leaving behind his daughter and a stallion. The daughter tends to the horse as there are no servants left. One day she tells the horse, far from seriously, that if he brings her father home she will marry the animal. The stallion, to her horror, escapes and disappears. Days later he returns, ridden by the girl’s father. She is delighted, and soon forgets her promise.
The father notices that the horse will not eat, and that if the girl comes to the stable he becomes vicious. He asks his daughter what happened, and when she confides he says she must stay away from the horse and tell no one. He then shoots the horse with an arrow, and when it is barely dead, guts it and strips its skin. When he leaves the hide to dry out in the courtyard, his daughter dances a jig of glee on it, mocking the horse for its presumption. She gives the skin to a neighbour. Like a thing from a horror film, the skin slithers back from the neighbour’s house to the daughter and, rearing up, embraces her and crawls away, the girl enfolded. The father finds them hanging from the branches of a mulberry tree, turned to silk worms. ”
(above painting sourced here)