Black Beauty: Another Classic

MSDBLBE EC001First there was The Secret Garden, and then there was Black Beauty. I was such a horse-girl when I was child. There was an anthology about unicorns in my elementary school library that I checked out once a month to reread the stories. This lead me to selecting books because there was a horse on the cover, and I even fooled myself into thinking I liked cowboy books for more then their trusty steeds. Eventually, the librarian placed Black Beauty in my hands, a story I already knew well.

When it was time to relax with a movie, my parents sat us down to classics, The Secret Garden which I mentioned in my last article, and Black Beauty being two of that exceptional collection (more to come). Back then, I almost couldn’t tell these two films apart and I’d convinced myself that Dicken’s little white pony was Merrylegs, Black’s best little friend from his happier days on the estate with Ginger. (Especially because Andrew Knott played roles in both movies – ah, young love).

MV5BMjEwNTc3NzI4NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTk3MDcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR10,0,214,317_For the horse-girl inside me this storyline could not be more enchanting. Anna Sewell caught the voice of a horse in the time when these gorgeous animals were as useful as they were objects to their owners. Only a lucky horse would end up being cared for the way a little girl would want to read. Sewell’s horse star, Black, met all sorts of masters who loved him and abused him, and finally came to rescue him. You can only imagine this story being an eye-opener for some horse owners to see a personified horse carrying out the standard work of pulling carts and wagons of hay with masters that seem unaware that there is life in the creature they whip. It had a great effect on me as a little girl and only added to the empathy I felt for life.

What amazes me is how this classic was brought to the screen and in a successful way. A horse narrates the story in the book and in the film. There is very little dialogue that moves the scenes and human involvement is coincidental for the most part. As a child, these story telling maneuvers might be overlooked, but as an adult there is always a sense of humor when an animal’s voice tells the story, (two horrifying examples come to mind; one with a blue dragon and another with some wolves in a vampire romance). However, as an adult you can sit down to this movie and enjoy the voice of Black Beauty. It is another great tale to read over and over again, or view over and over again, as your life redevelops the story lines and the movie allows you to do this, humor free.

Adventure, smiles, heartbreak and the constant journey for a home and acceptance fill the pages of this book. As a child, I knew this story was great, even if I didn’t understand the term ‘classic.’ It is yet another story from our childhood that shows what film adaptation can be, and should be, about. In short: a simple, honest expression of the words that have captivated readers of all ages.

And on that note, I have a movie to watch. 

Was Black Beauty a staple in your childhood? Tell us about your favorite memory in the comments!

The Secret Garden – Then and Now

When I was younger there was a certain collection of classic stories that were turned into movies. It seems like everyone around my age was sat in front of them, only to find themselves so engaged they had to watch the films over and over again. Essentially, they may have been the first adaptations we saw, without even realizing.

As a child, when I first saw The Secret Garden I could not read. It was a story that captured me and the relationship I felt I had with my own backyard. I remember being a little girl, thinking the robins that bobbed around could understand me and that we were exploring together in the woods of my backyard, complete with wild flowers and wild rose bushes. It was years later when I discovered the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett. The pages engulfed me once again, but as age does to a reader, I found a new story in the pages that kept me entranced. It was less about the garden and much more about the secrets.

the-secret-gardenThe movie was made for children. Just enough dark to keep you frightened and hiding behind the couch, but enough light-hearted adventure to pull you closer to the screen. The white pony, the castle in the hills, magic around a large fire, the stone walls around a secret place to play and that old wooden swing remain images in my mind as I recall the film. Even the hint of a romance with the dashing Dicken, (the first love of my life), and Mary.

Of course, as a child you can’t quite put a finger on that layer of love, but are intrigued by it all the same.

The book was still made for children, but as literature does in comparison to film, the plot and story lines are considerably slowed down. When I first read it, I was a very slow reader, and the pacing seemed to change the tone of book. I began to see the darkness in the family in contrast to the lighter story of getting a boy in a wheelchair into the garden.

The loss of a mother and a sick little boy abandoned by his father, who refrains from looking at his son from the hurt of memories. The same hurt that caused him to lock up and neglect his wife’s garden for years until Mary’s appearance. The type of loss and the impact it was able to have over an entire household was something new to me and it forever changed the way I watched the adaptation of the film.

The older I became, the more I could see these lines in the film. It seemed the more disturbing depth I could see, the more hooked I became as I began to see the brilliance of a film created for all generations. A good time to a three year old, but with the abilty to bring tear to a woman in her 50s. It even can bring a second thought to a title so familiar that we hardly notice the depth in the words chosen by publishers long ago to describe the entire story…

The Secret Garden

How old were you when you first read the book? Saw the film? How has the story changed with you over time?