Who does not remember the heartwarming, classic tale of the gorgeous colt named Black Beauty? Written in 1877 by Anna Sewell during the final years of her life, the success was instant and sold over 50 million copies – one of the best sellers of all times.
Sewell, however, did not have much time to enjoy the popularity of her one and only novel (she passed away only 5 months after publication). It took her 5 years to write it, during which she was home-bound due to invalidity.
However, the lessons taught are many and have been appreciated by audiences for generations. She speaks not only about animal welfare – which is central to the story line – but also how to treat humans kindly, and thus her story became a children’s classic.
Her respect for horses began due to an injury as a child. During a walk home with her brother, she fell and broke both her ankles. Since medical care in those days was not always quite at par with what was needed, she became invalid and spent the rest of her days depending on horse-drawn transportation, creating a strong connection with these beasts.
The idea of writing was inspired by her mother, who was also a children’s writer. Anna would help edit the books. Her story, however, one narrated by a horse, was a new format to the world of literature. But, Black Beauty was not intended for children. Perhaps it was so only because she was used to reading her mother’s level of writing – which was meant for a younger audience – and instinctively followed the same pattern. She only wanted to tell a tale of kindness, sympathy and an understanding of horses since in those days, the welfare of animals was still relatively new. Her novel helped popularize the thought of taking care of working animals.
Let’s hope this form of thinking never goes out of fashion.
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