Friday, September 14, 2018

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

When I was about 10 years old, I lived in a brown stone row house in Philadelphia.  It was a few years before they planted trees on our block.  We had about a 10 by 10-foot slab of concrete for a back yard.  When I read The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, I fell in love with horses and horse stories.  I doubt I had ever seen a live horse by then.  But I loved that book so much, it became a frequent companion.  We had an alley between our house and a neighbor’s, and I begged my parents to let me have a horse, which I could stable in the alley.  As time passed, I forgot about Farley and horse stories. 

Recently, I began searching for nice, clean copies of Farley’s 41 stories.  I have found about 6, but “The Black” as Farley named him, eluded me.  Suddenly, I found a pristine copy of a new edition of Farley’s work.  In every detail, it perfectly matched my memory.  I sat down and red it again—complete with the original illustrations and dust jacket.  I am going to intensify my search for others in the series.

The story line is a typical YA novel.  A young boy, Alec Ramsey, is on a ship bound for home from an Arabian port on the red sea.  Alec watches as the huge, magnificent stallion tries to break out of the hold, with no success.  Then a storm comes, and the small ship is tossed up and down and all around.  The ship began to sink.  Alec and the other passengers abandoned the ship.  Farley wrote, “When he came up, his first thought was of the ship; then he heard an explosion, and he saw the Drake settling deep into the water.  Frantically, he looked around for a lifeboat, but there was none in sight.  Then he saw the Black swimming not more than ten yards away.  Something swished by him—a rope. And it was attached to the Black’s halter!  The same rope they had used to bring the stallion aboard the boat, and which they had never been able to get close enough to the horse to untie.  Without stopping to think, Alec grabbed hold of it.  Then he was pulled through the water, out onto the open sea” (22).  Ah, how those thrilling words came back to me.

Alec was ship wrecked on an uninhabited island.  First, he tried to get close to the horse with no luck.  He began to explore and found some fruit trees.  Slowly the Black began to trust Alec, and they formed a heart-warming bond.  He was able to build a fire, which spread to some trees.  He ran to the shore.  A ship saw the smoke.  As they approached, the Black ran off.  The sailors tried to convince Alec to leave the island without the Black.  Farley writes, “Alec’s eyes blurred; he couldn’t see.  He stumbled and fell and then clambered to his feet.  Again, he rushed forward.  Then they had their arms around him. // ‘For the love of St. Patrick,’ the man called Pat groaned, ‘he’s just a boy!’”  Alec stubbornly refused to leave the island without the horse.  Then the stallion appeared, and Alec mounted him.  Farley wrote, “Approximately thirty yards away, Alec cane to a halt.  ‘You just have to take us both, Captain!  I can’t leave without him!’” he yelled” (59).  Lots of exclamation points and lots of suspense.

Walter Farley’s, The Black Stallion, is a magnificent story for readers of all ages.  It is a story sure to delight Texans who love horses.  5 stars

--Chiron, 9/11/18

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