The Wild Hunt in The Solstice Blade was always going to be led by King Herla, as it is strongly based on the British variation of the European folk tale of the Wild Hunt which has many versions but generally features a legion of faeries, demons, or the dead, riding through the skies. In the Germanic versions of the Wild Hunt legends the leader is often assumed to be Woden, in the British version the leader is King Herla.
Several versions of The Wild Hunt occur in English folklore, especially in the South West, where the events of The Solstice Blade are set. In Somerset, the hunt was said to be led by King Arthur, in other versions the hounds are said to be Gabriel Ratchet’s dogs, and in Northern England they are Gabriel’s Hounds. In Devon in the legend of the Wisht hounds is associated with Wistman’s Wood high on Dartmoor (‘wisht’ in the Devonshire dialect is variously attributed to mean eerie or uncanny, or else pixie-led or haunted). In Cornwall, where The Solstice Blade is set, reference to the hunt are found in the story of Dando and his dogs or the devil and his dandy dogs, or sometimes as Jan Tregeagle who escaped from hell, trying to outrun the devil’s hounds.
In the Solstice Blade, I tried to make the character of King Herla someone who had been in the hunt for so long that he had lost all sense of himself and has became the personification of the hunt. This why he enjoys the sensation of being struck by lightning in the prologue, and why he and all the other members of the hunt are frozen in ecstasy when the lightning flash renders them visible for the first time to Liam, Evan and Travis in ‘Snow’. To arrive at a description of Herla, I envisioned how someone who had spent centuries riding through the storm would appear. This led to the description of the burnt and blackened crown and sword, the jagged corrosion of the sword making it all the more fearsome as the group imagines in ‘Pursued’. Herla’s clothes are burned and tattered rags, the inspiration of these being the appearance of old flags that have been ruined by a relentless wind.
The image Åsgårdsreien by Peter Nicolai Arbo that is shown with this post was also a source of inspiration for the Wild Hunt in The Solstice Blade.
References to the hunt being frozen in place in a lightning flash are deliberate and are an indication of things to come later in the story!
If you enjoyed reading about King Herla and the Wild Hunt, don’t forget to check out my book The Solstice Blade!