I recently stumbled upon a reference to the helhest, a "three-legged horse associated with Hel". Unfortunately, searching for more information on about this fascinating legend didn't turn up much.

Obviously, the most distinctive characteristic of the creature is having three legs and I'm hoping there's a story or stories explaining how that came to be. Is there?

  • Considering that it seems more a group of creatures rather than one distinct horse, an "in-myth" explanation of its looks seems unlikely. I'm fairly certain that the three legs is a sign of just how close to, without actually crossing the line to become totally improbable as a living being it is.
    – andejons
    Jul 22 '17 at 8:09
  • 1
    @andejons Apparently the legend relates to horse sacrifice, helhest were normal horses risen from the grave. I was hoping for a story that comments on this process of transformation and perhaps explains why they are missing a leg. That said, it's folklore, I am not highly optimistic on an "in-myth" explanation as you say. My own opinion is that the missing leg serves to radiate a feeling of incompleteness.
    – yannis
    Jul 22 '17 at 11:07
  • I also wonder if there's a connection with Sleipnir, given that both are horses with an abnormal number of legs that can travel to Hel.
    – yannis
    Jul 22 '17 at 11:23
  • From this book it looks unlikely that the horse belonged to Hel. books.google.com/… May 13 '18 at 2:13

The helhest, in Danish folklore, is essentially the ghost of a horse sacrifice that was made when a new cemetery was consecrated. It was considered bad luck to be the first one to be buried in a cemetery. The horse would be buried with one of its legs cut off to prevent it from escaping. In Sweden a related creature is called the kyrkogrim.

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