Looking back, my primary school library was akin to the wardrobe leading into Narnia. It was my portal to knowledge, wonder and adventure, and I discovered many of my favourite ever books on its shelves.
Three of these were the animal classics The Silver Brumby, White Fang and Black Beauty, which I would go on to read multiple times in my teenage years and adulthood.
Still one of my ultimate favourite books is The Silver Brumby, by Elyne Mitchell. Mitchell transported me to the Snowy Mountains, and to the desperate struggle of the silver stallion Thowra to evade capture from humans and protect his herd. I found the scenes of Thowra running through the mountains simply breathtaking. Mitchell described the brumbies’ world in detail, making the setting almost a character in itself; and though the animals do talk to each other in the book, I found this didn’t take away from the realism of the story. Needless to say after reading these as a kid, I was ready to go horse riding through some mountains!
White Fang, by Jack London, was a very different book. London took a realistic approach, telling the story of the wolf-dog White Fang’s journey from wild wolf to domesticated dog, from the emotions, instincts and simple logic of White Fang’s point of view. There are no talking animals in this adult story. It’s a fascinating glimpse into how an animal could view the world. The story is set in the harsh environment of the Yukon territory during the 1890s’ gold rush, before finishing in California. Because of White Fang the Yukon territory has made it onto my travel list.
And then we come to the popular Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (I obviously have a fondness for books with talking horses). It’s about the trials of a black horse who is raised in the country, but ends up pulling cabs in Victorian England, before a much-deserved happy retirement. The story is told in autobiographical style from Black Beauty’s point of view. Sewell is obviously advocating for greater kindness to horses, as Black Beauty faces many hardships at the hands of humans, particularly when working for taxicab drivers. I see the story as reminder that humans should be kind to all animals. Whenever I read it I always want to give my pooch a great big hug!
If this post has you in the mood to read more animal fiction, see Goodread’s Animal Classics shelf here.