Classic Remarks is a meme hosted over at Pages Unbound. Every Friday they ask a question about classic literature. Participants are asked to discuss the themes, canon formation, the ‘timelessness’ of literature, and modes of interpretation.
The question this week is:
What children’s classic couldn’t you read enough when you were growing up?
Before I answered this question, I frantically googled whether or not Harry Potter counted as a children’s classic. Determining that it did not, the answer became clear.
I adored Black Beauty as a kid.
I read it over and over again, often crying from the very beginning because I already knew what was going to happen. I was never particularly attracted to tragic stories, but this one absolutely captivated me.
I grew up on a farm, but to my chagrin we never had horses. I always wished for them and I loved visiting friends who had them. We had donkeys and a mule (who was the meanest creature ever), and I used to talk to the donkeys as if they could understand me while I brushed them. I’m still a little convinced that they could.
Black Beauty was a book that really affected the way I thought about animals. It was the first book I read with anthropomorphic characters, and I still to this day think of animals as beings with thoughts and feelings like my own. Objectively, I know that the human brain operates differently than animal brains, and that animals like snakes are incapable of love… but I can’t quite shake the feeling that animals can understand me and feel the way that I feel.
It also opened the door for me to other books with anthropomorphic characters. I went on to read and enjoy Watership Down, Narnia, Warrior Cats, and countless others.
Not only did Anna Sewell write an excellent story, she touched millions of lives as well. She died five months after its publication, but lived to see Black Beauty become a success. It sold millions of copies, and readers were so outraged at the treatment of horses that actual changes in law took place because of it. The punishing use of the bearing rein was outlawed in Victorian England, and taxicab fees for drivers were greatly reduced as well.
Black Beauty wasn’t written for children. Sewell wrote it so that people would understand the plight of horses – and she succeeded greatly.
If you’ve never read it you’re really missing out on a fantastic classic.
What children’s classic did you pore over as a kid?