Review: “The Black Stallion” by Walter Farley

For the love of books

The bond between the main characters of The Black Stallion, Alec Ramsay and the Black, is undeniably strong and dramatic.  In fact, it is this unique relationship that makes the first chronicle in Walter Farley’s series so unforgettable, a touching memoir and novel recognizing how humans should treat horses, a situation that has unfortunately not changed since ancient times.

The chapters in The Black Stallion that describe the Black’s and Alec’s short stay on a deserted island as a result of a shipwreck contribute a Robinson Crusoe-like atmosphere to the storyline, especially when a young modern boy like Alec is stranded without any tools or human help except for an exceptional pocket knife.  However, as realistic and life-like as the narrative is, it cannot compete with Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, a wildly beautiful and powerful tragedy.  Not only does Sewell propagate the better treatment of these truly extraordinary mammals, she also tells her story effectively, without pointing fingers at anyone and simply laying out the novel’s detailed content.

While Farley has included reasonable misfortune in The Black Stallion and has attempted to be direct at every angle, the horse races are distracting.  Alec’s “brilliant” idea to promote the Black by registering him for a horse race seems demeaning in regards to the novel’s themes, although these events take place quite often during modern times.  True, Farley’s presentation of a heated horse race does demonstrate humanity’s ridiculous obsession with speed and gambling, but somehow the author never portrays the race as being a bad thing—instead, it is meant to be an achievement for the Black, a positive moment to prove his worth.  This part of The Black Stallion is repellent in comparison to the rest of the story, an unsatisfactory exhibition of the splendor, majesty, and celestial strength that horses possess.

Nevertheless, Farley drives the universal need to be respected and the emotional characters of both the Black and Alec through his vivid scenes.

Original review: ‘The Black Stallion’ is a passionate display of horses from different angles, Examiner.com

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