LORE: The Mearas
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The Mearas from which one assumes our War-steeds are descended, are quite reminiscent of the world famous, snow-white, Lipizzaner Stallions. The Lipizzaner is considered to be the ancestor of the Andalusian and other similar breeds. We know them from the Spanish Riding School of Vienna.
In the old north of Middle-earth lived a proud race of wild horses, long-lived, wise and fleet of foot. The legends of Men said that their ancestors had been brought from the West by Béma, their name for the Vala Oromë.
A name used in Middle-earth for the Vala known to the Elves as Oromë or Araw, the Huntsman of the Valar. In ancient days, he was the Vala who came most often to Middle-earth to hunt the monsters of Melkor, and legend said that he brought with him certain fabulous creatures. At the close of the Third Age, Men still believed that certain animals were descended from stock brought to Middle-earth by Béma, most notably the extraordinary horses known as the mearas, and the huge Kine of Araw that wandered the plains of Rhûn.
Béma was the name used by the Northmen for Oromë. As the great huntsman and horseman of the Valar, he and his steed Nahar were known to the horse-loving people of Rohan, who claimed that their great horses, the Mearas, had ancestors brought out of the West by Béma himself
Felaróf was described as being as intelligent as any human, could understand the speech of men.
Felaróf was a wild foal when he was captured by Eorl the Young's father Léod, a tamer of horses. Despite no one being able to tame it, Léod attempted to mount it, but was killed when the stallion threw him.
Eorl vowed to avenge his father, but did not slay it, naming it Felaróf and commanding the horse to serve him. Eorl rode him without bit or bridle. They took part in the battle of the Field of Celebrant.
Shadwofax was Gandalf's horse. He was Chief of the Mearas.
They were descended from Felaróf, who was tamed by the first King of Rohan, Eorl. Ever since, they have been the mounts of the King and Princes of Rohan alone. During the War of the Ring, however, Gandalf the Grey tamed Shadowfax, lord of the Mearas at the end of the Third Age.
Shadowfax is a mighty horse of Rohan, the chief of the Mearas, tamed by Gandalf and reluctantly granted as a gift to him (after Gandalf had borrowed him for some time) by King Théoden of the Rohirrim. No Man could tame Shadowfax. He would not tolerate a bridle or saddle, and only carried Gandalf by choice. The great horse also bore a hobbit, Pippin, as well as the dwarf Gimli for a short time during the War of the Ring.
Like the other Mearas, Shadowfax was a grey/silver stallion, and could understand the speech of Men. He was also seemingly fearless, and could run faster than any other horse in Middle-Earth. In an unpublished epilogue and letters Tolkien stated that Shadowfax passed Valinor over the sea with Gandalf, but in The Lord of the Rings itself this is only hinted at by mention of Gandalf standing near a "great grey horse" on the quay just before departing.
Shadowfax is not white. He is, in fact, a silvery-grey that shines like silver in the sunlight and renders him virtually invisible in the shadows of the night.
Snowmane, foal of Lightfoot, was the mount of King Théoden, on which he rode into the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He was certainly weaker than Shadowfax, who was claimed by Gandalf; however, since his master was the King of Rohan he was most likely one of the Mearas himself.
Snowmane accompanied Théoden to the Battle of the Hornburg, and was ridden on the final charge out of the fortress. At the battle of the Pelennor, however, Snowmane was pierced by a black dart, causing him to fall and crush Théoden beneath him. He was buried with honour on the field of battle; his grave, known as Snowmane's Howe, bore the inscription:
- Faithful servant yet master's bane
- Lightfoot's foal, swift Snowmane.
- -- The Return of the King: "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields," p. 120