Classic Children’s Stories: Black Beauty

Black BeautyWho can forget the handsome black stallion with a white diamond mark on his forehead? Black Beauty has touched the hearts of animal lovers for centuries, and inspired many a horse owner to name the stable’s best horse after him.

Black Beauty (1877)

Author: Anna Sewell

Black Beauty was the very first book in the genre of animal autobiographies – and, believe it or not, Sewell sold the manuscript for a meager twenty pounds! The fact that this evergreen classic is published in a brand new edition every year is testimony to its timeless popularity. The book reaches out too all animal lovers – young and old.

The Plot

Black Beauty is a story of a horse that comes from the horse’s mouth (no pun intended). In the book, the horse traces his journey from birth to old age – a journey fraught with pain, suffering, happiness, learning, a handful of masters (all kinds) and a few nostalgic moments.

Black Beauty’s mother teaches him the essence of life, which she sums up in the following words – “There are a great many kinds of men; there are good, thoughtful men like our master that any horse may be proud to serve; but there are bad, cruel men who never ought to have a horse or dog to call their own.

Besides, there are a great many foolish men – vain, ignorant, and careless – who never trouble themselves to think; these spoil more horses than all, just for want of sense. They don’t mean it, but they do it for all that. I hope you will fall into good hands, but a horse never knows who may buy him or who may drive him. It is all a chance for us, but still I say – do your best wherever it is, and keep up your good name.”

This piece of advice sums up all that the story is about. Beauty gets his knees scarred from a race injury and is no longer fit to be a ‘gentleman’s horse’. He is passed on from one master to another and gets to live with all sorts of men – good, bad and ugly. He also loses his best friend, Ginger, who is also a victim or cruelty and starvation. Will he get to see the good life in the pastures again or meet with a tragic end like his friend?

Why Your Kids Will Love It

Unlike many other animal tales, Black Beauty is narrated by the protagonist (the horse) himself – thus striking an intensely personal relationship between the reader and the horse. Children find it easy to identify with the horse, and feel its pain and happiness as though they were their own.

Older children often prefer to read the book by themselves, while the younger ones enjoy a read-aloud more. Some sections of the book might need a bit of explaining. The sections are more like a series of short stories, which makes it easier for children who digest things in smaller chunks.

Why You Will Love It

Black Beauty is a touching and deliciously soppy tale about the cruelty meted out to animals at a time when the concepts of animal rights and animal welfare were unheard of.

If you feel strongly on these issues, you can use this book to sensitize your children to the existence of animals, and help bring about a lot of empathy for them.

Using examples from the book, you can impart lasting lesson about respecting and caring for all forms of life. After all, this was the book that sparked off the animal rights movement in London soon after its release. Don’t be surprised if your child shows a sudden and new-found affection for horses after reading the book!

When your kids are through with it, you can cuddle up in bed with Black Beauty and a box of tissues.

Here are a few more horsey tales for you:

•    War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
•    Blind Beauty by K M Peyton
•    The Wyoming Trilogy by Mary O’Hara

© Shuchi Kalra

Shuchi Kalra is a freelance writer based in India. Her works have been published several online and print publications- both in India and abroad. She also writes content for websites, businesses and portals. She is currently working on a short-story anthology.

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  1. Loving Your Child June 15, 2010