Book & Movie Review: Black Beauty

We all love our books, and there are times we wish they could come to life on the big screen. Sometimes our wish comes true and those beloved stories soon hit theaters. Yet as excited as we are for the movie version to come to be they are not always good experiences. Perhaps a character is portrayed incorrectly, important scenes are left out or changed completely, or that wonderful story has been reduced to something with no plot but amazing CG effects. And then there are times when the movie is absolutely stunning and you are left with such an amazing feeling after watching it.

How I First Encountered Black Beauty

I cannot remember exactly when I first came across Black Beauty. I want to say it was probably around the same time, or shortly after, I started reading all of Marguerite Henry’s books. What I can remember is how the much the story stuck with me from that first reading and has continued to stay with me over the years. This book was so amazing and I have gone through several copies of it over the years I read it that much growing up.

The Book

While there are a lot of books out there involving horses Black Beauty really stands out among them as something truly amazing. It’s not just a story about a horse, but it’s his story told by the horse himself. That aspect alone truly makes this book shine among all the other horse books. Not only this, but the fact that it’s the humans that are the secondary characters in this book really shows how unique this story is. Anna Sewell did a top notch job at bringing not only the characters to life but the overall story as well. Often times with children’s novels things like cruelty are left out, keeping the story happy throughout the pages, but Black Beauty opens tells the truth that not everything is perfect in the world and that both man and beast are at the mercy of others around them. Because of this addition of cruelty the story of Black Beauty plays on a number of emotions as the reader ventures through the many life changes in the horses life. In fact this is the first book that I have read that made me cry and it continues to do so every time I read it, and though I do shed many tears during that one particular part there are also a great number of times when I know that there is a smile on my lips or a chuckle escaping from me.

The great mix of characters, both human and equine, combine to make this story what it is. If it wasn’t for Black Beauty moving from owner to owner because of certain events happening to him or to his current/previous owners, the story would be very short and certainly not have the appeal that it does as it is. While we don’t get to learn all there is about the owners and other humans that play a role in Black Beauty’s life we do see what is important to the story and it is those parts that affect the stallion directly and in some case indirectly. Of course I would like to know what happens to certain characters after they have left Black Beauty’s life, but the fact is the story isn’t about them, so we will just have to guess at what becomes of them and focus on the story of the stallion who touches each of their lives.

Though I know there are some people out there that think, even to this day, that a story about a horse by a horse would be silly I would highly urge those people to give it a chance. This book truly is a classic, a must read for all ages, and if you really don’t want to read it then I say at least give the movie a try because it too is another classic that must be seen by all. As for me the story of Black Beauty will forever hold a special place in my heart and it’s a book I will always have on my shelf so that I can read it again and again, for it’s just that good.

The Movie

Though there have been a number of movie, and TV, adaptations of this book the one I will be talking about is the 1994 version. While I cannot recall if I saw this one in theaters or not, though I feel as though this is the movie I would not have missed seeing on the big screen, it has forever been etched into my memory. From the moment we first see Black Beauty as a gangly colt to his journey’s through life’s up and downs and finally to his happy ending, I feel as though the movie draws the viewer in and doesn’t let their attention drop for one moment. As we watch the life events unfold for this lovely horse we realize how imperfect things can be at times and also how happiness can come at the most unexpected times. Certainly there are a lot of emotions both shown and felt through this movie. No matter how many times I watch this I always get completely chocked up whenever it gets to the scene when Black Beauty sees Ginger for the last time. It’s in that moment where the full force of the story of what not only Black Beauty, but those in his life, went through truly hits the viewer. This isn’t a movie where happiness is always present, there are moments of tragedy and sorrow mixed in as well. But of course there is happiness too. And I have to admit I love the character of Merrylegs, this spunky little pony rally adds sometimes to Black Beauty’s life. And of course we cannot forget about Ginger. All of the horses and all of the humans are, in my opinion, perfectly portrayed for their range of personalities and levels of affect on Black Beauty and others lives. The actors who play these roles did a fantastic job of fulfilling that particular characters attributes and doing their part to enhance or decrease the value of Black Beauty’s life.

I have lost track of the number of times I have watched this movie in the twenty years since it was produced but what I can tell you is that every time I watch it I feel as though I am experiencing it with new eyes. This is a movie I will never grow tired of. even if this movie wasn’t based on a book it would still remain one of my top favorite movies. Of course there are many versions of this movie out there and I have seen most if not all of them, and while I feel that they all do a good job of bringing this story to life, it is the 1994 version that will be my favorite among them. Anyone who has not yet seen this movie really should make an effort to see it as it is a truly wonderful thing to watch.

How They Compare To Each Other

I think that the movie is a fantastic adaptation of the book. It is one thing to read about all that occurs in Black Beauty’s life, but to actually see it play out for you on the screen brings a whole new level of emotions to the surface as well as creates even more realism to an already well developed book. I don’t really know what else I can say about this, as I feel this is one of the few adaptations that I feel is a perfect match to the book. There may be differences between the two, but I honestly cannot recall anything that sticks out to me, so if there are differences they must be minor ones. This book and movie will forever hold a special place in my heart.

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