Landstriders were herbivorous quadrupeds characterized by their cream-coloured hides, stilt-like legs and prominent whiskers. They stood four or five times higher than a Gelfling, and were primarily browsers, using their long tongues to suck up nectar from flowering trees or strip leaves from branches.
Their eyesight was poor, but compensated with acute hearing, thanks to their large ears which permitted them to travel by night, as well as by day. They also used the echoes of their hoofbeats as a form of rudimentary sonar. They were a successful species with a wide distribution, ranging from the rocky cliffs of Ha'rar to the Spriton Plains, with only the Crystal Desert being unsuitable for them.
They were among the hardest hit by the spread of the Darkening, with All-Maudra Mayrin losing at least 80 from her royal stables. During the Garthim War, the Landstriders became bitter enemies of the Garthim, attacking them at every opportunity, but did not inflict enough losses for the Skeksis to take notice.
Though not easily tamed, they were frequently used as mounts by the Gelfling, a practice dating back to the Age of Harmony, after the urSkeks had taught them to tame nature. The Gelfling saw their relationship with the Landstrider more as a partnership than a case of domestication. Females were generally noted for having more intuition than males, and were thus better suited for first-time riders. Those gifted in the art of Animal Soul Speaking could summon Landstriders by emitting loud, high pitch trills.
The Landstriders were the sigil animal of the Spriton Clan. Spriton-kept Landstriders were allowed to range freely in valleys outside Sami Thicket, as they did not fare well in enclosed stables. These valleys contained feeding troughs and trenches containing fresh water, as well as structures containing saddles and riding gear. They were fed on a diet of fruit and nectar, and were so accustomed to Gelfling that they would call out to them in the hope of a ride in exchange for a meal. Landstriders were also used by the Castle Guard, the Royal Guard and the Stonewood and Vapra Clans.
Behind the scenes
The Landstriders first appeared in David Odell's 1979 draft outline, under the name of "land-spiders", and were described as eight legged creatures which blended with their environment. The arachnid design was scrapped early on, as it would have been overly complicated to operate. The basic form of the final design was decided after Robbie Barnett presented the designers with his stilt walking colleague Paul Goddard, who assumed a quadrupedal posture with extensions attached to his arms and legs. The body suit was covered in muslin, which concealed the stilts and gave the illusion of tendons and musculature beneath the skin. The heads were made of fiberglass, with radio controlled eyes.
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