But 22-year-old Vincent Gabriel Kirouac and his horse Coeur de Lion (Lion Heart) are very real and they have been drawing a lot of attention during their long ride across Canada.
Kirouac, who is from Quebec City, is dressed in the outfit of a knight, complete with a helmet, a sword and a long tunic with an engraving of lions on the front.
“It’s just amazing,” he said about people’s reaction. “People are stunned, people are amazed. They love it and they just want to know about the project. … They stop, they take pictures, they make donations, they’re just really amazed to see me.”
This modern-day pilgrim was knighted by a Catholic bishop before the start of his journey on April 1 in Saint-Aubert, Quebec. He travels an average of 30 kilometres a day and rests one day a week. His trip across six provinces will end in Richmond, British Columbia, which he is planning to reach in early August.
He has been travelling through Saskatchewan since mid-June, for the most part along Highway 13. He spoke to the Prairie Post on July 5, shortly after leaving the village of Cadillac en route to his next stop in Scotsguard. He admitted his knightly outfit is not the most comfortable way to travel.
“Oh, it gets pretty hot and on a day like today, without any wind, it’s good for people who want to spray but it’s not good for me,” he said. “We keep going and take it slowly.”
He was scheduled to cross the border into Alberta on July 10. The onset of hot weather since the start of this week with daily temperatures over 30 degrees forced him to start travelling at night.
His trip is the result of years of contemplation that started eight years ago with a question from God.
“He asked me ‘do you want to serve me?’ and then I said, ‘yes,’” he said. “But, I was not thinking I would be a good priest or a monk.”
Because he has always been interested in knights, he decided to be a knight for God and to undertake this trip to promote chivalry.
“Chivalry means integrity,” he said. “It means being devoted to people, being honest, being good and being a symbol of incorruptibility.”
The kind behaviour of strangers towards him during the trip has convinced him that chivalry still exists in Canada.
“In three months I’ve never been sleeping outside, so it does exists,” he said.
But while it might be present in individuals, he is concerned about the overall lack of chivalry in society.
“Every individual person is really good but when you put all of them together, everybody starts to think about themselves instead of thinking about helping somebody else,” he said. “There’s no devotion around, and that’s the part missing, the devotion.”
His preparation for the trip included the completion of a degree in equine science, talking to people who have made similar long-distance trips on horseback and finding a suitable horse.
His trusty steed is a nine-year-old mare from Alberta that was rescued from going to a slaughterhouse. Her name was Aisha and most riders found it difficult to control her.
“When I found her she was dumping everyone on the ground,” he recalled.
He immediately decided she needed a more suitable name, because she did not look like a cute, small Aisha. After many suggestions from his friends, who came up with names such as Genevieve because he loves the Middle Ages, he settled on Lion Heart.
“She’s wholehearted, no matter what,” he said. “She’s wholehearted for eating, wholehearted for walking and she’s wholehearted for stopping. She’s always wholehearted for something.”
Their paths will separate at the end of this journey, when Lion Heart will return to Saskatchewan to find a new home with a family near Griffin.
“So that she can retire and have a nice life,” he said.
He still plans to visit her and he might even consider moving to Saskatchewan, although it is still something he will have to discuss with his girlfriend.
“It’s a really nice place,” he said. “The countryside, everything is so nice out here. Some people would say it’s flat, it’s not really nice, but you see forever and it’s all the hope you can have.”
During the long days on the road he is already thinking about his next project, which will probably take place in 2016.
“My girlfriend and I want to cross Europe from Scotland to Jerusalem on horseback,” he said. “I’m really thrilled about it and I wish I could be there already but I know I’m enjoying my time here and then I’ll just finish it.”
To follow Kirouac’s trip, visit his website at http//www.chevalierautourdumonde.com