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A beautiful horse saga: The Silver Brumby
Beginnings: the wild silver colt
Horses, a family saga, romance and adventure.
Add the mysterious backdrop of Australia's alpine wilderness and the story of the Silver Brumby provides a combination sure to capture the hearts of many readers.
However, the Silver Brumby series provides readers with so much more. It is as much a survival story as a celebration of nature and freedom.
A brumby is an Australia term for wild horses.
The Silver Brumby opens with the birth of Thowra. Right from the beginning author Eleyne Mitchell's writing style lends a sense of mysticism to the story. It is as if we are conscious that with the birth of Thowra we are also witnessing the birth of a legend.
Thowra's mother, gives birth to him during a vicious storm high up in the Snowy Mountains. His name means "wind" and she predicts: "In wind you were born, and fleet as the wind you must be if you are to survive."
In the novel Bel Bel is often described as a "lone wolf". She is an intelligent but tough loner who prefers to be on her own than to run with a herd. Driven by a strong survival instinct she tries to impart to her young son the essential skills he will need in order to exist in the wilderness.
Bel Bel is conscious that Thowra's magnificent "creamy" colouring will be a both a blessing and a curse. She knows that as a wild horse with a unique colour he will be hunted by men who will wish to own him. She also believes "every stallion would be doubly against him because of his colour."
So the scene is set for the first novel in the long running Silver Brumby series. The first book tells the story of how Thowra grows from a young foal into a powerful stallion with a herd of his own.
As Bel Bel predicts, throughout the story Thowra is hunted by man because of his colour. This is further complicated when Thowra meets Golden, a beautiful "creamy" filly who is owned by mountain "cattle men". These men graze their cattle on the mountains during the milder times of year.
So Thowra and his herd must avoid being captured by man. He also has several confrontations with other stallions, before he and his own herd can eventually feel secure. Although he is a strong fighter, he tends to survive through his cunning and deep knowledge of his surroundings. This intimate knowledge of the mountain landscape allows him to escape from many situations.
As is implied right from the beginning of the book, Thowra is destined for greatness. We follow the story of how he eventually becomes the "king" of the brumbies". As the story progresses both "men" and the bush animals tell stories about him and his exploits gradually become the stuff of legend.
Author Eleyne Mitchell originally wrote the Silver Brumby for her daughter because she felt there was not enough reading material available for her. Eleyne was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1913. Like her mother, Eleyne's daughter clearly loved horses.
So perhaps it's not surprising to learn that Eleyne came from a family with a strong connection to horses. Her father was Sir Harry Chauvel. He is known in Australia for being the commander of the Desert Mounted Corp during World War 1. His command included the Australian Light Horse Brigade, which undertook a famous mounted charge at Beersheba in Palestine during 1917.
A keen skier, Mitchell lived in the Snowy Mountain's region. Her writing reveals an obvious love for and knowledge about the Australian environment.
The text contains many references to Australian flora and fauna. Her descriptions really are lyrical. The names of trees and locations are referenced with care and detail.
Further Silver Brumby stories
The original Silver Brumby book was so popular that it grew into a thirteen book series.
The Silver Brumby books are:
The Silver Brumby, published 1958
Silver Brumby's Daughter, published 1960
Silver Brumbies of the South, published 1965
Silver Brumby Kingdom, published 1966
Moon Filly, published 1968
Silver Brumby Whirlwind, published 1973
Son of the Whirlwind, published 1979
Silver Brumby, Silver Dingo, published 1993
Dancing Brumby, 1995
Brumbies of the NIght, published 1996
Dancing Brumby's Rainbow, published 1998
The Thousandth Brumby, published 1999
Wild Echoes Ringing, published 2003
The second novel, "Silver Brumby's Daughter" follows the fortunes of Thowra's cream coloured daughter Kunama. Subsequent novels follow the stories of Thowra's grandchildren.
I can't comment on these remaining novels, as I have only read the first two in the series. Please feel welcome to leave comments about the remaining novels in the series in the comments section at the end of this article.
Silver Brumby Adaptions
The story of the SIlver Brumby has been adapted for television and film.
The original book in the series, "The Silver Brumby" was turned into a film in 1993. It starred Russell Crowe. The film adopts a different focus to the novels. It looks at Crowe's attempts to tame Thowra. It also features Eleyne Mitchell writing the story of the mountain brumbies for her daughter.
A cartoon series of the books was also made for television in the 1990s.
The Silver Brumby: just a beautiful book
The Silver Brumby is a beautifully written book.
One of the outstanding features of the writing is the author's love of the environment and horses. Elyne Mitchell uses beautiful imagery in her descriptions to convey personality and feeling. For example she compares Thowra's stealthy movements in a snow storm to a "pale, floating apparition". Another lovely description is of Thowra's friend Storm as "the noble bay with the strong head, and great, kindly eyes."
One of the reasons that the writing is so effective is that the Elyne Mitchell does not attempt to overly humanise the horses. The horses act on instinct and behave as we can truly imagine wild horses would. Their priorities are to survive and live in the moment. They are matter of fact about life and death. Births and deaths happen in the stories. In an echo of real life, there are not always happy endings for all the horses.
I found it very hard to recommend an appropriate age group for this series of books. Because of the length and some of the vocabulary it is probably best read by older primary school children or young teenagers. Having said that I know a five year old who enjoyed it immensely. Obviously if the book is being read to a younger child there may be times that the reader has to stop and explain certain passages.
The book is also a great opportunity to learn a little more about Australia's Snowy Mountains region.
The Silver Brumby book
More information about the Silver Brumby and horse stories
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