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Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Black Stallion

Let's say you've been living on an island and I have never read the 1941 "The Black Stallion" by Walter Farley.

Similar to trying to explain what oatmeal was to the Japenese college roommate (it's delicious I swear!), the conversation might go like this....

"'s about a boy getting shipwrecked and being saved by a horse and they are on a deserted island. And he tames it. And rides it around the island at a gallop without a bridle or saddle. And then they get rescued.....and they run this race and....Hey, where are you going!? It's good I swear!"

Because honestly, let's face it, in less than 200 pages we have a shipwreck, the taming of a wild stallion, and a winning horse race. And let's not forget, a boy jockey that seems to fall unconcious at the drop of a hat.

Not to mention a whole 'nother host of equal improbabilities and cringe-worthy information such as:
  • It's possible to have a "special relationship" with a horse, such that you can become a world class jockey in less than 200 pages. (and your special horse will not kill you or otherwise harm you).
  • Stallions fight to the death.
  • A hot or nervous horse that is given water will colic
  • It's appropriate for a young kid to own an unbroke stallion.
  • It's appropriate to show up with your unbroke stallion and ask your parents to pretty please keep it, so you go across the street and plunk it in a broken down stall that needs repairs.
  • It's perfectly acceptable to let your stud act like an idiot around other horses (and people) because "that's his nature".

And yet, 180 pages into the book, as Alec flies around the track, I'm STILL teary eyed as love conqueres all and victory is won - every single time I read the book (which is a lot, as I read The Black Stallion as my first chapter book when I was 5 years old or so).

Why is it that I forgive Walter Farley's fantastical details, with a smile and an eye roll, where with another author I might become so irritated I might not be able to finish the book and quite possibly make rude comments with a pencil in the margins?

Is it because Walter Farley alone manages to capture the spirit of the horse so accurately that all else if forgiven? That he comes the closest to describing the relationship I have and the way I feel about my horses?

For those of you that aren't aware, Farley is named in honor of Walter Farley, and Minx was a tribute to the Black Stallion's filly, named Black Minx.

How many countless children (and adults) has W. Farley inspired? Among the "gee whiz's" and "golly's" of a bygone era there's a kernal of the essense of what it is to love horses. Do yourself a favor and let yourself get lost in the fantastical world of the Black Stallion. You won't be dissapointed.


  1. I still to this day love those books. I whiled away many a lunch hour my freshman year of high school hiding in the library and reading through the entire Black Stallion series.

  2. I scored ALL of the series on Ebay in paperback some years ago. I decided to read them in order of how the story fell, not in order he wrote them. It was wonderful. Hummmmm, maybe time to dig them out again

  3. I might just have to find my box of the entire series for a good summer read. I think my favorite for silliness might be "The Black Stallion and Satan" where (spoiler ahead) the Black and his son Satan race the forest fire and only Alex knows who is faster...

    I think your horse's names are a great homage to dreams. How many of us dreamed of a fiery Arabian, and now we get to live that?

  4. A friend once explained her theory that we tend to adhere to the kind of horse that appeared in the first horse book really bonded with. Clearly, Mr Farley's books were your first bonding experience!

    Me, I loved Marguerite Henry's books, especially Born to Trot about the STB mare Rosalind, and San Domingo about riding impossibly long distances on the pony express. Gee, do you think they made a lasting impression on me?

  5. The Black Stallion was my absolute favorite and inspired my interest in horses.
    Remember the island stallion, Flame? My friend and I used to pretend that we were The Black and Flame and we would race at recess.

    The Black Stallion story is wonder and love at its best.

  6. My first cat 'stallion' was named Farley. I read all the BS books the library had, but lusted after the ones listed that it didn't have, like BS Mystery. Finally grew up and bought 'em. i loved the BS Rebels or whatever, where Alec & BS are flying, vacation, the plane goes down and they're separated and Alec gets amnesia.


  7. Aarene - My first horse book was either The Black Stallion or Black Beauty. I ended up with calm TWHs!

    I do still love The Black, and I keep meaning to reread them and giggle about how ridiculous they are.

  8. My favorite horse book was Man O War- and I ended up with TBs! Sounds like that theory might be pretty accurate.
    Karen W.

  9. Of them all, I had never come across Man 'O War to read. Recently I found it at the Thrift and picked it up. It's ok, but seems pretty slow. Still working up to the action. Of course, it is somewhat historical rather than a fictional adventure.


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