The Black Stallion
Walter Farley (Juvenile Fiction)
The tramp steamer Drake—loaded with coffee, rice, tea, oil seeds, and jute—was pushing its way from India and heading to New York City. Aboard was young Alexander (Alec) Ramsay, who had just spent two months in India with his uncle. Also on board was a wild black stallion picked up in an Arabian port. Alec knew enough about horses to be intrigued by the magnificent beast, but also wary. This was not an animal to be underestimated. But one night, the Drake encountered a fierce storm which would ultimately spare only two passengers: Alec and the stallion whom he called “the Black”. Can these two possibly form an alliance in order to survive their harsh and uninhabited island home?
The Black Stallion, published in 1941, is the first of twenty books in The Black Stallion series written by Walter Farley. The twenty-first book, The Young Black Stallion, was co-authored with Farley’s son, Steven, and published shortly after the author’s death. At the time of the book’s publication, the news was dominated by the war in Europe and so this book not only served as a respite from the ensuing turmoil, but was also a reminder of the good still inherent in humans. The Black Stallion is a wonderful story about the importance of trust, loyalty, and devotion to each other during the most trying of circumstances. Today’s young readers may find this story’s text to be a bit hokey given its multiple uses of the words “gee” and “swell”, but this book is an excellent example of how far someone can go when they not only have faith in themselves, but they have the unified support of those closest to them. Alec is surrounded by loving and encouraging adults who do not treat him as an idealistic child, but rather as a competent and trustworthy peer. Modern juvenile fiction often pits the young protagonist against skeptical parents, jealous schoolmates, or crotchety neighbors—anything that presents an obstacle that our young hero or heroine must overcome. The Black Stallion instead focuses on positive relationships and the rewards that come with perseverance and good old-fashioned hard work.
The unlikely relationship between Alec and the Black garnered much awe and attention from all who witnessed it. One such observation came from a ship’s captain and his first-mate, Pat. After the captain marveled at how gentle the Black was in the presence of Alec, Pat replied, “Yes, sir,” he said, “one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. I wonder where it’ll take them?” Lucky for us, it took them on many, many unforgettable adventures that would span twenty-one books and an incredible forty-eight years. Enjoy.
*Book cover image attributed to www.amazon.com
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