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The motif The bone-horse is a part of: Ghost

See also The grave-pig


Horse, death, omen

Description of this motif:

The bone-horse is, like the grave pig the ghost of an animal, that has been buried alive. According to Thiele: Danmarks Folkesagn (1843-60), 1968, vol. 2, p. 234, in the old days it was custom to bury a live horse before the burial of people. The horse re-emerges and haunts the living as the bone-horse. It has only three legs. Meeting it means death.

A hell horse is spoken of in Godfather's Picture Book, but it is just one of Andersen's several parodies of critics:

That is a hell horse. He shouldn't have come until the end of the book, but he has run on ahead to say that neither the beginning, nor the middle, nor the end is any good; he could have done it much better – if he could have done it at all. The hell horse, you see, stands hitched all day in the newspaper, and walks on the columns, they say. But in the evening he slips out, stations himself outside the poet's door, and neighs, so that the man inside will instantly die; but he won't die if there's any real life in him.

The hell horse is usually a poor creature who can't understand himself and can't earn a living, and he gets his air and food by going around and neighing. I am certain that he doesn't like Godfather's picture book, but in spite of that, it may be worth at least the paper it's written on.


The tales are sorted by year. The leading numbers refer to the number of occurrences of the motif in the respective texts.