Customer Reviews (134)
"They Do Not Suffer Less Because They Have No Words..."
Animal books that are told from the creature's point of view (whether cat, dog, horse, or some other species entirely) are a dime a dozen these days, but "Black Beauty," was the first book of its kind to use this technique and is thus the forerunner to all animal stories that came after it. Most people are unaware that Anna Sewell broke new literary ground when she wrote "Black Beauty" in the style of an autobiography, though ironically she never meant it to be a children's story at all. Instead she intended that it would be read by those that work with horses: "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses."
Beauty is one of several names given to the horse that grows throughout the story from a young colt in a farmyard to an elderly stallion enjoying his retirement, chronicling all his experiences in between, both good and bad. These include being the horse of a squire, a cabby, a gentleman and a cart driver among others, as well as events that are probably known even to those who haven't read the book, such as the fire in the barn and the washed-out bridge.
Throughout his life he meets several other horses such as cheerful Merrylegs and feisty Ginger who recount their stories to him; and it's difficult not to get a little choked up when it comes to Ginger and her tragic tale, especially when she tells Beauty at their final meeting: "you are the only friend I ever had." For many children, Ginger's story may well have been their first experience with the portrayal of death in a story - I know it was mine, and I never forgot it.
Since being published in 1877, the story has lost none of its power, and the image of a black horse with a white star on his forehead is universally recognized as the iconic Black Beauty. Not only this, but the novel is credited with driving the bearing rein out of fashion, a device that was popular in the Victorian age but which damaged horses' necks by forcing them upright at an unnatural angle, and is also believed to have made a difference in reducing the taxicab licence fee of the time, (something that was often exploited by those that hired out cabbies to drivers), not to mention heightening the awareness of animal cruelty at a time when animal welfare simply didn't exist.
As such "Black Beauty" can be described as the first animal rights book, told in first-person narrative from the (literal) horse's mouth, criticizing things such as docking (that is, cutting off horse's tails), the aforementioned bearing reins, and the long, hard hours of work that horses had to endure. The trick of it though, is that the issues never seem particularly moralizing or heavy-handed because it's all told by the horses themselves. It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to assume that if horses were capable of talking to each other, they would discuss the cruelties and kindnesses that human beings mete out upon them.
This is effectively portrayed by the sheer confusion of the animals as to why humans act in certain ways; such as Beauty pondering why human beings endanger both themselves and their horses in fox hunting, or why so much pain is inflicted on animals for the sake of fashion, asking: "What right have they to torment and disfigure God's creatures?" Likewise, the first-person narrative gives a perspective on the life of a horse that had probably never occurred to Sewell's original audience (or indeed, her first-time contemporary readers), has when Beauty discusses how it feels to wear a bit:
"Those who have never had a bit in their mouths cannot think how bad it feels. A great piece of cold hard steel as thick as a man's finger is pushed into one's mouth, between one's teeth and over one's tongue. It ends come out at the corner of your mouth and are held fast there by straps over your head, under your throat, round your nose, and under your chin, so that in no way in the world can you get rid of the nasty hard thing."
Towards the end of the book, it does start to get slightly more preachy, mainly due to the fact that Sewell begins to dwell on issues such as alcohol, elections and religion that have no bearing on the horses at all, but are merely being discussed by the humans around them. However, this aspect is thankfully minor and doesn't detract too much from Beauty's own story.
I have a particular soft-spot for "Black Beauty" considering Anna Sewell is lurking up in my family tree somewhere (on my grandmother's side), and the fact that the memories of reading this book as a child have always stayed with me. This is an essential book for any children's library in order to cultivate empathy for the animal kingdom, but is also valuable reading for an adult as well, not just for the ur-example of an animal tale, but as a thoughtful, bittersweet and well-researched look into the life of man's second-best friend.
Seems good, like many others
A worthwhile read for kids, tho my grandchildren didn't seem interested in this and other books I got them.
READ THIS BOOK
I didn't read the audio book but I read the novel. This book was excellent, it definatly belongs up there with all the classic novels. It makes you think about all the horrible things some horses go through in their lifetimes(like my own horse). No animal deserves abuse or mistreatment no matter how intelligent(horses) or not.
FYI, Orrin C. Judd, horses are NOT STUPID!!!! Scientific research has recently discovered that horses' intelligence is the same as dolphins' and chimps' and we all know that dolphins' and chimps' intelligence is extremely close to our own. Research also suggests that horses may actually be smarter and more intelligent and have a more complex reasoning system than could have ever been thought. Of course, horses don't think exactly like humans: they don't judge, they don't hate, they don't lie, they don't cheat; they are honest, loyal, loving and brave-provided they have a person who cares about them, they are all these things and more. It doesn't take a genius to see that horses have very complex personalities and emotions. Sometimes I think my own horse's personality and emotions mirror my own.
And all you kids out there who have read or want to read this book, don't listen to this guy. Take it seriously, because mistreatment of any animal is no joke, its a very sesious problem, because people who hurt other people usually start by hurting an animal.
P.S. Obviously, Orrin C. Judd never even read the summary for The Black Stallion, because it's about a BOY and a horse, written by Walter Farley, a man who LOVED horses.
I recommend ANY horse or animal lover who cares at all about the abuse animals suffer to READ THIS BOOK!!! The abuse animals and people suffer everyday is a very, VERY serious problem, and one we need to think more about. Animals are such innocent creatures, why should they have to suffer for our own ignorance and superior feelings of ourselves?
Horse lovers classic
It's kind of sad that we have passed that period of time when every little girl was obsessed with this book. Ah, that glory time of girls and horses! Even so, Black Beauty continues to endure as a classic in my mind of both decent anthropomorphism and great Victorian writing.
In the tradition of great animal classics, this story is written from the perspective of the horse, called, among other names, Black Beauty. This strong horse of the most delightful British personality leads a life full of change that ranges from the best of circumstances to the worst.
Without being overly dramatic or adventuresome, the story still remains gripping due to the sparkling narritive and the fact that we just want to know what happens to the poor horsie.
A classic for all horse lovers.
I read this book a while back when my husband, a horse lover, introduced me to it. A great tale of the life of a horse that teaches values to anyone who reads it. I have learned much about these beautiful animals and can see why my husband loves them. Strongly recommended for your children, you and they will love it.
Anna del C.
Author of "The Elf and the Princess"
and "Trouble in the Elf City"
The Elf and The Princess: The Silent Warrior Trilogy - Book One (The Silent Warrior Trilogy)
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