Book name: Son of the Black Stallion
Author: Walter Farley
Publisher: Random House
Format: Print, ebook
Genre: Pony book, Vintage children’s fiction
Publication Date: 1947
Star Rating: 5/5
American writer Walter Farley published a total of 21 books in the ‘Black Stallion’ series.
This includes a prequel written with Steven Farley which tells the story of the Black before he was shipwrecked with Alec.
The books were adapted for film and TV, and the Black became the most famous fictional horse in America according to the New York Times.
Son of the Black Stallion is the third book in the series. It opens with the Black’s firstborn, a colt, being transported by ship to America.
When Alec Ramsay returned the Black to his rightful owner, the sheikh promised to give Alec the Black’s first offspring.
In due course, the Black fathers a colt, which the sheikh calls Satan.
The colt causes trouble during the sea crossing, and when Alec and his father collect the horse from the docks the colt kicks their family dog Sebastian and knocks him unconscious.
Alec loves the colt and vows to earn his love. The black coat and white diamond on the young horse’s forehead reminds Alec of the Black.
Alec and Henry Dailey, a racehorse trainer and groom, plan to train Satan to race. They hope the colt will be as fast as his sire!
Over the months that follow, Alec and Henry have their work cut out. Alec is away upstate in college, so Henry is handling the young horse by himself for long periods.
Henry is getting older and he is often afraid of Satan. The horse is vicious and rejects all human kindness.
When Alec is thrown from Satan, he suffers concussion. During Alec’s recuperation Henry knows that he must break the horse immediately so that Satan is docile when Alec wants to ride him again.
Satan is roped but he still attempts to leap a fence. He falls during the jump and nearly strangles himself.
Henry believes that the horse has been killed but, when Alec goes to see Satan, he finds the horse still alive. He is able to get Satan to his feet and the bond of trust between boy and horse begins to build from that moment.
Satan is still a real handful, and there are plenty of time when their hope of training him to win races seems like a very long way off.
Son of the Black Stallion was published in 1947, so it is a very traditional story aimed at (at that time) readership of growing boys.
Alec is an obedient young man who bends to his parents’ wish that he attend college, even though this means being away from Satan for long periods.
Henry is respectful of the parental authority that belongs to Alec’s parents, even though Alec himself feels that in some way the trainer is more of a father than his own.
Above all, the story contains only one female figure (Alec’s mother) and another woman who is mentioned is Henry’s wife. Jockeys, horse owners and racehorse trainers are all men. Alec exists in a man’s world, and doesn’t even have a sister or girlfriend to widen the interest.
On the other hand, the ‘Black Stallion’ books were progressive in presenting multiple nationalities without slurs or lazy characterisation. Satan is stabled with Napoleon, an old grey working horse belonging to Tony, who is Italian American. The sheikh is shown as a fellow horse lover who keeps his word and is a positive character to whom Alec is very attached via their mutual love of the Black.
Son of the Black Stallion is at the adventurous end of pony stories, with the expected emphasis on getting ahead by hard work and education via the American dream. Through loyalty to each other and a belief in their horse that won’t quit, Alec and Henry succeed in getting Satan ready to race and prosper as a result of their hard work.
Son of the Black Stallion is very typical of boys’ stories of the time, but it has travelled well through time. As in many stories that involve horses, the emphasis is on how riding and horses bring people together.
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If you’ve enjoyed this review, you might be interested reading in my review of A Pony of Your Own by Mary Gervaise.
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