SFF Equines Revisit the Classics: Walter Farley’s Black Stallion Books

All the drama about this year Kentucky Derby It inspired me to re-read my favorite fairy tales about horse racing. Of course I had to go back to the Black Stallion series, the first ten or so volumes I read as a tween and teen. I can’t say I got past them because the rest of the series came out during the ’70s and early ’80s – I’ve always been irresistibly drawn to books about horses – but I’ve moved on to other authors and genres.

Thanks to the magic of e-books and the glories of instant gratification, I’ve amassed a handful of subsequent volumes: black stallion revolutionsAnd the black stallion challengeAnd the black stallion and girl, And the The legend of the black stallion. My memory from previous entries is surprisingly clear, considering how long they’ve been and how many books I’ve read in the meantime. the two films, black stallion And the The return of the black stallionIt helped, but I never forgot the offspring. Lucifer, Black Minx, bonfire rider, belt rider…they are an indelible part of my personal legends.

And let’s not forget the file Horse Island, Flame, whose story intersects with that of The Black. I’ve written about it here before, because Farley immersed himself in science fiction in the second volume, Island stallion races. This book is partly responsible for my tendency to write weird genres.

The original reason for coming back to Farley was to see if I remember correctly that he wrote a lot about stallion behavior and misbehavior on and around the racetracks. The black horse, his hero, was essentially feral, and boy Alec rescued him from a desert island. The horse was originally domesticated, and eventually tracked down by its owner, but all of its natural instincts were to go wild and free. The only thing that connects him to a domesticated life is his relationship with Alec.

Much of this is wish-fulfillment fantasy. Only a registered Thoroughbred horse can run in Thoroughbred races including the three races at the Triple Crown. The Black, a desert Arab, could originally only run match races against the famous Thoroughbreds – he couldn’t take part in official races – but after two books, Farley stopped worrying about that. Satan, the purebred Arab son of lions, won the Triple Crown, and his daughter, the Black Minx, won the Kentucky Derby. I suppose the reasoning is that the principal offspring of the Thoroughbred horse breed were Arabian horses; Why can’t lions continue the tradition?

I recently learned that Walter Farley wrote black stallion in high school and published in 1941, when he was in college. It’s not just a boy’s adventure story in the classic mold, it was written by someone pretty much the same age as its protagonist.

Farley would never have matured into a great prose designer, and his plot and characterization were very basic. He is not a great literary talent. But it doesn’t need to be. From the start, he knew how to tell a story. And above all, he knew horses.

The story he told was in twenty different volumes on two topics. Only a boy and a boy can handle a stallion. The stallion lives to run. It is the fastest horse in the world. Sometimes he runs for glory. At other times, particularly in later volumes, he runs the farm he bought on his winnings. His descendants likewise bring money and glory to their humans.

Each book has a discount. Sometimes it is a financial or personal crisis. He is often a contender for the Black title for the fastest horse in the world. Often both. Usually there is a race that determines the fate of the horse and the farm.

Black is a super horse. It is gigantic for an Arab, and increases in size with each book, until it reaches more than seventeen hands. This is huge even for an authentic movie.

However it is not a machine. in black stallion revolutionsHe’s mentally stable under all the pressure he’s been under. So much so that Coach Henry sends him across the United States with Alec to take a break at a friend’s farm. But of course, this is Walter Farley’s novel, the highly anticipated vacation turning into a whole new round of shockwaves. The plane carrying the boy and the black ship crash, the lions flee into the wilderness and Alec suffers a head injury that causes amnesia.

It’s actually hard to read about the lions becoming a wild herd stallion and that Alec doesn’t remember his name, his past, or his horse. I couldn’t wait for them to be reunited. That’s how strong their bond is, and how strong it is in book after book.

After a series of twists and turns and a villain or two, Alec and Black meet in a perilous race. During the race, the memory of Alec returns, just in time to save him from arrest for a murder he didn’t commit. But that’s not as important to him, or to me as a reader, as the fact that the boy and his horse are finally back together again.

Another exciting reunion is the encounter between the Lions and Stallion Island, Flame. These two stars from the Farley universe met during Another wild adventure When Black and Alec were separated due to a plane crash, it was in the Caribbean, but Alec doesn’t know the stallions have met. He also doesn’t know the human of the Flame, Steve Duncan, until Steve sends Alec a fan letter.

In the letter, Steve asks for Alec’s help to get Flame into a major race in Florida. Steve needs the winnings to buy Flame Island from the British government. Alec gives him tips on how to qualify for the race, but he doesn’t really expect anything to come of it.

Not only did Flame qualify, but he proved to be a serious challenge to Black’s supremacy on the racetrack. He’s equally fast and downright brutal – and black hates him. Alec resents it, and isn’t too happy with Steve either. He was not used to having a real competitor in the racing world.

I think Farley wrote himself somewhat in the corner here. He didn’t want any of the horse stars to lose a race, and he obviously wanted Steve to buy up his island and let Flame and his flock live there free forever. Lions get injured, kind of evading the issue of the real standoff between stallions, and Flame gets his win and his money.

Money has been an issue throughout the series. The need for this overturns both people and horses. Steve makes his goal, but continues to race, until Alec asks him if that’s what he wants. Will he continue to pursue the governor of the race, or will he decide to win enough, letting Flame return to his life full of freedom?

Alec must be facing the same problem with the BlackBerry. How long can he keep racing? How long should the race last? lions love to run; live for it. But he began to collapse physically. However, the farm needs his winnings in order to keep going.

These facts circulate in later books, along with the fantasy of the ideal horse, and the romance between a horse and his boy. More human romance appears in black stallion and girlwhich is original Pixie Dream Girl Mania He appears at Hope Farm and applies for a job. The traditional Henry is vehemently against women in racing, but Pam has a talent with horses. She can even handle lions, eventually not just riding but racing it.

It’s an interesting book, very much an artifact of its time: it was published in 1971. It came to the benefit of women in racing, and gives Alec a genuine interest in human love. Of course he will fall in love with a mare. Of course, blacks will love it, too.

One thing that comes out of this book is the sheer physical strength needed to ride a racehorse. It’s not just about balance and basic fitness. It’s upper body strength. A rider must be able to control the speed of his mount, and that means getting a grip on the reins – which is like trying to curb a runaway train. The horse is committed and determined to run faster than anything else on the track, and the rider has to assess his speed, guide him through the pack, and convince him to slow down and stop once the race is over. This is by no means an easy task, and for many years the racing world did not believe that a woman could do it.

In 1970, women riders began to prove they could. Farley engages in his version of the story, giving her the greatest gift of all: the chance to race lions. After thirty years of being the boy’s dream horse, Black finally gets a girl.

At this point, it appears that Farley has run out of stories to tell about Alec and the Black. in The legend of the black stallion, does what writers have long been known to do when they have had enough. For Sherlock Holmes, it was Reichenbach Falls. For Alec and the Black, it’s the chill of the girl (on the way to Vienna to see the Lipizzaner family – especially touching to me) and the effective blasting of the planet. Alec runs west with the lions, ends up in Arizona – just as he did when he was suffering from amnesia – and he and his horse become the fulfillment of a Native American prophecy. And then, a swarm of earthquakes shattered the world.

This is one way to make sure there are no more stories in this universe. I would have liked to see Alec and the Black in a post-apocalyptic world, but this could have been a completely different kind of series. Farley could have killed them, but even if he could make himself kill lions, his fans would have revolted. So he shattered the world instead.

It seems fair. All things considered. Black is an epic hero, and he deserves an epic conclusion.

It’s also a very accurate representation of a dominant stallion, and when he’s racing, he does so mostly through the book (except for the part where he’s not a thoroughbred). Entire generations of equine children in the United States have learned the basics of equine and racing from Walter Farley’s books. Even when they turn to other books and authors and to other breeds and types of horses, they always remember the feeling of dreaming about riding the fastest horse in the world.

Judith Tarr is a lifelong horse person. She supports her habit by writing works of fiction and science fiction as well as historical novels, many of which have been published in e-book form. I’ve written an introductory book for writers who want to write about horses: Writing Horses: The Fine Art of Correcting them. She lives near Tucson, Arizona with a herd of Lipizzans, Claude’s cats, and a blue-eyed dog.