Fantasy is about transporting readers to a different world. This world is everything from the planet’s orbital path to worship methods to fauna. Animals are a subset of the ‘setting’ in my three-legged-stool for Fantasy (i.e. setting, characters, magic). One thing that you will not see in my stories is animals that are indigenous to Earth. To me, this makes no sense. Sure, it’s easy to just give my band of hero’s horses and let them be on their merry way. Oh, and I can switch it up by giving the horses the ability to speak or having great speed and endurance. We really should be a bit more imaginative than that. I think Fantasy readers want to be transported into a different world and that includes strange creatures. I do use comparisons when I describe my creatures. Because I write Low Fantasy, my hero/heroine is most likely from Earth and can compare the animal he/she is observing to something known.
In ‘Jericho Solus’, I have a creature called d’niten. I spent a fair amount of time describing the d’niten. It is a thick creature, setting low to the ground with a shell-like coat extending from the creatures back up its arm-length neck and across the top of its head. I go into more detail in the book. The d’nitens are pack animals, but can also carry as many as four people. Why spend a lot of words describing the d’niten? Generally, I wouldn’t if the animal was say some type of rodent they trapped and ate for dinner, but in the story, the d’niten have a key role towards the end. When my hero, Jericho, sacrifices the d’niten to save the party from the ravenous falcuta, we are saddened by the loss.
How many fantasy stories just throw in a horse that the bumbling kitchen-boy-gonna-be-wizard instinctively knows how to ride? A lot. Hmm.