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Literature / King of the Wind

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King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian is a Newbery Medal-winning 1948 novel by Marguerite Henry, best known as the author of Misty of Chincoteague.

As the title states, the book is a fictionalized biography of the Godolphin Arabian, one of the three foundation sires of the Thoroughbred horse breed.

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  • The Alleged Steed: Sham is treated as this from the moment he arrives in Europe, where he's seen as a scrawny runt compared to the larger, sturdier European horses. Even the exceptionally high crest of his neck — a good thing for an Arabian — is considered a deformity.
  • Babies Ever After: Sham spends the rest of his days as a prized stud, and the story ends with a description of his most famous descendants and their achievements.
  • Beauty = Goodness: Agba can't bring himself to hate Lady Roxana because she's beautiful. Conversely, the established sire Hobgoblin is large and heavy, and thus evil.
  • Cool Horse: Sham and his descendants, especially Man o' War (for whom this was definitely Truth in Television).
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  • Cute Mute: Agba is gentle and sweet, and eternally loyal to Sham, but does not speak (it's never specified why).
  • Framing Device: The book begins in 1920 with Man o' War's match race against Sir Barton and Samuel Riddle's decision to retire Man o' War from racing. When questioned about his decision, Riddle begins to tell the story of the Godolphin Arabian, starting off the story proper.
  • Happily Ever Before: The main plot ends with Sham retiring to a happy life as one of the Thoroughbred foundation sires, though the book does mention that he eventually died and Agba had to return to his life of slavery.
  • Horsing Around: Sham is hot-tempered, disobedient, and prone to throwing any rider who isn't Agba, which doesn't help the view of him as The Alleged Steed.
  • Interspecies Friendship: The three-way friendship between Sham the horse, Agba the human, and Grimalkin the cat.
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  • Kick the Dog: A number of Sham's owners do this, though the cruel woodcarter is easily the worst. There's also the jailer who ignorantly destroys the document proving Sham's pedigree.
  • Meaningful Name: Agba comes from "father" and Sham means "sun" (his bay coat explicitly has as gold sheen to it).
  • Missing Mom: Sham's mother dies only a few days after giving birth. No mention at all is made of Agba's parents.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: The Real Life mare Lady Roxana died after foaling Cade. The novel doesn't mention this and suggests that the third foal, Regulus, was also out of Roxana.
  • Vague Age: Agba is said to be around the same age as Louis XV of France, who would have been about sixteen at the time (assuming Sham, like the real Godolphin Arabian, was foaled in 1724). However, he doesn't begin to reach manhood until Regulus (foaled in 1739) is a two-year-old. The author tries to avert this by never giving exact dates in the story, but it's still distracting to readers who are aware of the history.

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