The story of Black Beauty and Little Bear
Black Beauty is one of the most popular and well read books in the entire world. It has been adapted to countless movies and television series. The story of Anna Sewell's life is just as amazing as her book.
I love this book. The first time I read Black Beauty I must have been about nine years old and instantly fell in love it. As a matter of fact I can´t decide if this is a story for adults or children.
It is believed Anna Sewell wrote this book to improve the life of horses hoping people who worked with horses would treat them better.
It is the only book that Anna Sewell ever wrote and sadly she died just five months after it was published. This story is not only about Black Beauty the book however it is also about the souls of antique books.
Like I said I own several copies of Black Beauty but one copy is very special and I would like to share with you. Some old books seem to have sort traveled and picked up their own story on the way, and my favorite copy Black Beauty has a little side line. Real or imaginary I don't really know so I will leave up to you to decide.
The Black Beauty story seems to have followed me around, and whenever I go into a second hand book shop I look for it . I still have the copy of Black Beauty that my mom gave me, and my copy has been read by many people on its journey. Sometimes I wish that I would have asked readers to put their names inside the front cover and the date when they read the book.
My very special copy of Black Beauty
It was purchased about ten years ago and as soon as I saw I knew it was meant for me.
To be honest I don´t know what made it so different, it was sort of calling to me and I knew it was something special about it.
When I opened up the front cover I soon realized that it must have once been a gift to a small child. It has an inscription "To Little Bear from Jane" and the inscription is dated October 4 1924. It was published Jarrolds Publishers of London and printed by Jarrold and Sons Ltd Norwich. Not a million miles away from where Anna Sewell lived. It does not have a year of print so I don't know when it was printed. But I have never seen another Black Beauty book with the same picture on the cover.
It is said that Anna Sewell was a passionate advocate for animal welfare and wrote the book wishing to raise awareness for horses. At the time horses were not always well treated, and many were very undernourished and made to do lots of work.
In town horses pulled passenger carriages and were yesterday years taxi cabs. They also pulled heavy loads and quite often lived in make shift stables. I am sure Anna saw all of this and it touched her heart.
This book is just as relevant today as it was in 1877. Sometimes when I think about the way we treat animals I really wonder how far we have come. Animals still only have the rights that we give them.
Who was Anna Sewell
Anna Sewell was born in March 1820 in the town of Great Yarmouth in the County of Norfolk England.
She was not born into a rich family, and only days after she had been born her father discovered that he lost most of his money in a business venture.
Anna's mother was an artistic person and writer. She wrote books to earn money so she could look after her two children and educate them well. Mainly the Sewell children were educated at home and the home was supposed to have been filled with books. Mary Sewell, Anna's mother, was very close to her children and in one diary entry she describes them as her playmates. She writes that she encouraged their imagination to run free.
Anna loved to explore nature and she was a talented artist in her own right. Her mom writes that she was always busy doing something, and no stranger to hard work. It must have been a good thing as the family often suffered from poor finances.
One day on her way home from school she fell over and injured her ankle. As a result of poor medical attention she became "crippled" or handicapped as we now say. Even though this must have been a major upset for her she seemed to have stayed positive and was always described as happy and "constantly cheerful" according to her mom's diary.
As per Anna's personal journal she started to write Black Beauty in November 1871.
After that it is not actually mentioned until August 1877 and she writes that she is waiting for the first proofs. At the end of 1871 Anna's health took a turn for the worse and most of the book was written from her bed or couch. It is believed that her mother often transcribed the text as Anna found it very difficult to write and most her print was illegible.
Black Beauty was published at the end of 1877 and Anna lived for another five months after its publication so at least she knew the book had become a success.
In May 1878 Anna was laid to rest in the small village of Lammas Norfolk England.
Her beautiful book still fascinates and I often go back to it just to read about Black Beauty , and the other lovely horses.
Black Beauty is a story of a beautiful horse told in his own words. It almost feels like Anna identified herself with horses, and sometimes when you look into a horse´s eyes I think I can see where she got the idea to write this book.
They sort of look at you as to say " Go on . . . tell my story I have so much to say."
Black Beauty is not the only horse in the book and it really deserves to be read so you can meet the other characters as well. It is a story of sadness, happiness, longing, loss and finally joy.
It is just as relevant to a human life story as the story of a horse, we all have feelings and I believe that horses are some of the most sensitive creatures we humans have the privilege to come in contact with. The narrator of the story is Black Beauty himself but I often wonder if this is Anna's spiritual journey. Could it be Anna's right of passage as well as Black Beauty's?
The story has been adapted for television and has also been made into three films. The original version was in 1946, then again in 1978 and 1994.
I am not going to say too much about the story line of the book as this would spoil the pleasure of reading the book. Someone recently told me over 40 million copies of this book have been sold since 1877 and in itself it really says something about the book. If you have not read it you should definitely tried to get hold of a copy.
Little Bear the second story line in my book
What happened to Little Bear, the boy who received the book as a gift, and who was Little Bear. Little Bear most have been a young boy in 1924. I often wonder where he lived, what he looked like and what his life was like growing up in between the First and Second World War.
Books in 1924 were precious gifts and often kept and read by the entire family. I know Little Bear liked his book very much as it appears to have been well read and some of the passages have been marked. Did he grow up with horses and did he use the book in his schoolwork?
One of the characters in the book is called Ginger and her name has been underlined all the way through the book. Did he have a horse called Ginger? I suspect my imagination is just running away with me.
On page 294 we get an insight to his life. He writes " June 2 1944 I am going to join the rest of the boys, we are leaving for Europe soon I think"
On June 5 1944 the D-Day invasion force gathered of the Normandy coast.
I hope you came back to your beloved book and your family Little Bear.