Critter Alley

Critter Alley

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Little Kindness, Please

I'll bet that if you're a reader, you can name at least one book that influenced some aspect of your life. An enduring classic that rates high on my list is Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. In fact, I'm so fond of the story that its one of my favorite gift books for children.

Yet Black Beauty wasn't written for kids. Published in 1877, Sewell hoped to reach the hands of those who used horses. Wheelchair bound from youth, it broke her heart to see the majestic animals often literally worked to death. In a brilliant stroke, she wrote her novel from the horse's point of view, a method that powerfully connected the reader to the four-legged main character, Beauty, and by extension to all animals. We see good masters, foolish masters, and even cruel ones through Beauty's eyes in a way that portrays "dumb beasts" as thinking, feeling creatures, not so very different from humans. Her portrayal must have been a unique concept for 19th century society, and became a commercial success. Best of all, Anna Sewell accomplished her goal. The novel is credited with fueling the movement to improve the life of both animals and people by encouraging compassionate and humane treatment.

Wouldn't it be a wonderful world if we practiced the message of Black Beauty today?


Leona said...

One of my favorite books as a child was Charlotte's Web. I loved how Charlotte tried to help Wilbur out by printing those messages in the web. That's friendship! I loved Black Beauty as a tv show,but can't recall if I actually read the book. I read a book to my youngest daughter once about a horse who was sold and then the horse ran away back to its home 1400 miles away. A true story set in the 1800's. And today I'm reading a book called Lonesome, the dog of the Cariboo. A true story of a dog that grew up in BC, in the dog's POV. I love stories like this, giving the animal's perspectives on such human thoughts.

Anonymous said...

To a certain extent, I have lost my courage when it comes to reading. I refuse to harrow myself with anything too sad or gruesome, so I tend to shy away from anything too hard-hitting. Black Beauty is a wonderful book, but I cry buckets when poor Ginger dies, so I won't re-read it.

I remember loving Call of the Wild as a child, but would probably find that too hard to bear now too.

The Word Place said...

Black Beauty was one of the novels I always read with my class. I read it as a child but then, like Linda, couldn't bear reading about the abuse. My class and I got through it only because it was an abbreviated version for students learning to read in English.

Katie (the house elf) has pictures on her Facebook site of the mare and foal she rescued several months ago. I got to "meet" them in October. Rose (the mare) has picked up about 200 pounds but still has health issues and probably always will. Gypsy (the foal)thrived on Carnation foal formula which was mixed, heated, and toted to the barn several times a day, and she is the star of the farm. She is beautiful, smart, and has the most engaging personality. Both will live a fine life there with people who know and love equines.

But the "before" and "after" pictures are startling.

Donna Volkenannt said...

Books for and about animals are once again popular--some are also being turned into movies. "Marley and Me" was a literary success and is now a box-office smash. "Hotel for Dogs" is one of the books I'll be reviewing this month. It was published in the 1970s, but has been updated and is popular again; it also has been made into a movie. My grandson Michael can't wait for me to finish my review so we can read it together. Leona, Michael also liked Charlotte's Web. In third grade, his class went to see a live play of Charlotte's Web, and he loved it.
Donna V.