Black Beauty in Our Culture - Book, Movies, and More
Black Beauty - A Classic Book Published in 1877
Black Beauty, the Book
The classic version of Black Beauty written by Anna Sewell, originally published in 1877.
Black Beauty - It All Started With a Book
Anna Sewell had only one novel published, but it became a popular bestseller: Black Beauty . She didn't write it for children. Her intention was "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding of horses" in those who worked with them.
Black Beauty , published in 1877 when Anna Sewell was 57 years of age, is the story of a horse's life - from the point of view of the horse. It is said to be the first novel told from an animal's viewpoint.
Miss Sewell, never married, died only five months after her novel was published. She had been lame all her life since a tragic accident at the age of 14 broke both her ankles, so she relied on horse-drawn carriages for transportation. Her compassion for horses may have come from this constant contact with them.
Black Beauty was treasured as a foal, loved as a colt, and was passed from one owner to the next with an increasing neglect for his well-being. Throughout the novel we hear his thoughts on events around him - especially poignant are his friendships with the beautiful but petulant Ginger, a mare, and a white pony, Merrylegs.
As a means to raise awareness concerning the maltreatment of horses, Anna Sewell's Black Beauty was a profound success. To this day her book is treasured by horse lovers thorughout the world.
Here are the opening lines of Black Beauty :
The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a plowed field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master's house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a grove of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank.
While I was young I lived upon my mother's milk, as I could not eat grass. In the daytime I ran by her side, and at night I lay down close by her. When it was hot we used to stand by the pond in the shade of the trees, and when it was cold we had a nice warm shed near the grove.
As soon as I was old enough to eat grass my mother used to go out to work in the daytime, and come back in the evening.
There were six young colts in the meadow besides me; they were older than I was; some were nearly as large as grown-up horses. I used to run with them, and had great fun; we used to gallop all together round and round the field as hard as we could go. Sometimes we had rather rough play, for they would frequently bite and kick as well as gallop.
One day, when there was a good deal of kicking, my mother whinnied to me to come to her, and then she said:
"I wish you to pay attention to what I am going to say to you. The colts who live here are very good colts, but they are cart-horse colts, and of course they have not learned manners. You have been well-bred and well-born; your father has a great name in these parts, and your grandfather won the cup two years at the Newmarket races; your grandmother had the sweetest temper of any horse I ever knew, and I think you have never seen me kick or bite. I hope you will grow up gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play."
I have never forgotten my mother's advice; I knew she was a wise old horse, and our master thought a great deal of her. Her name was Duchess, but he often called her Pet.
The most recent movie version - Black Beauty (1994)
Black Beauty (1994)
The most recent film version of Black Beauty was released in 1994. It is said to be the version that most closely follows the story told in Anna Sewell's book.
The horse who acted the part of Black Beauty in this film, Docs Keepin Time, is an American Quarter Horse descended from War Admiral, his sire, Man O'War, and the Godolphin Arabian.
The movie contains breathtaking film of Black Beauty and his beloved Ginger in the days when they were happiest. It starts with a scene of him resting beneath a tree in his old age, then flashes back to his birth. Black Beauty tells the story of his life throughout.
Black Beauty (1971)
Black Beauty (1971)
This is an entertaining version that does try to tell the original story of Black Beauty from his point of view, but there are many modifications and it is far different than Anna Sewell's version.
A surprise ending has Anna Sewell as owner of the final estate he is to live on. We see Anna Sewell as an old lady concerned about his well-being. Of course, the real Anna Sewell never lived to old age.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this movie and recommend it to anyone who loves horse movies, along with the 1994 version of Black Beauty.
Black Beauty - model and book
Black Beauty (1921) and (1946)
These two versions do not even try to follow the story told in the book. The 1921 version was a hasty remake of an earlier film titled Your Obedient Servant (1917). It was scrambled with film including a black horse to defy another film studio's attempt to make a movie version of Black Beauty .
The 1946 version, a beloved film in its own right, was not even remotely faithful to the story told by Anna Sewell. In it a young girl named Anne was given a black colt that became the center of her life. As she got older and attracted a suitor, her father decided she needed to be sent to finishing school for a year. When she returns she finds out her father ordered Black Beauty to be shot so the compassionate caretaker gave him away to spare his life.
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