Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Black Stallion

Go To

A book series by Walter Farley beloved by little girls everywhere. The first books deal with Alec and the Black, a half-wild Arabian stallion he comes across while on a cruise. When the ship crashes, Alec and the Black are stranded together on a desert island. He builds a bond with the horse, and both are eventually rescued and returned to New York. Home again, Alec meets up with an old racehorse trainer and convinces the man to train him and the Black. They then enter a match race as a wild card between a champion of the West Coast and a champion of the East. Obviously, they win.

The second book details Black's real owners stepping forward to claim him, and Alec has to venture back to Arabia to stake his claim on his favorite horse. Other books follow the exploits of the Black's son Satan and his other foals. The Black himself is still the main character throughout most of the series.

The first two books were adapted into movies, The Black Stallion (1979) and The Black Stallion Returns (1983), both of which were produced by Francis Ford Coppola. The twentieth and final book, a prequel, became a Disney IMAX film, The Young Black Stallion (2003).

    Novels in the series 
  1. The Black Stallion (1941)
  2. The Black Stallion Returns (1945)
  3. Son of the Black Stallion (1947)
  4. The Island Stallion (1948)
  5. The Black Stallion and Satan (1949)
  6. The Blood Bay Colt (1951)
  7. The Island Stallion's Fury (1951)
  8. The Black Stallion's Filly (1952)
  9. The Black Stallion Revolts (1953)
  10. The Black Stallion's Sulky Colt (1954)
  11. The Island Stallion Races (1955)
  12. The Black Stallion's Courage (1956)
  13. The Black Stallion Mystery (1957)
  14. The Horse Tamer (1958)
  15. The Black Stallion and Flame (1960)
  16. The Black Stallion Challenged (1964)
  17. The Black Stallion's Ghost (1969)
  18. The Black Stallion and the Girl (1971)
  19. The Black Stallion Legend (1983)
  20. Young Black Stallion (with Stephen Farley, 1989)

The series provides examples of:

  • A Boy and His X: The premise of the whole series. The boy is sometimes a girl, but the X is always a horse.
  • Accidental Athlete: Alec, fortuitously, stays small so he can be the Black's jockey. Later books call attention to how hard it is for him and other jockeys to stay under the maximum weight.
  • Alien Episode: The Island Stallion Races has two shape-shifting aliens named Jay and Flick helping Steve enter Flame into a race. Paranormal help is needed because Flame is feral and untrained.
  • Artistic License Biology: Azul Island has a population of horses which have been inbreeding for centuries with no ill effects. Farley hand-waves this by saying that they had good genes from the start... and at any rate, we do see one throwback 'mutant' stallion who poses a threat to the entire herd when he ousts Flame.
  • Artistic License Sports: A mix of this and societal change, as the world of horse racing in these books bears almost no resemblance to horse racing today. The one violation of the rules which the books acknowledge and deal with is the Black racing against Cyclone and Sun Raider in the first book — since it's just a match race (not sponsored by a racing association), the Black can enter even without a known pedigree. A local newsman helps things along by spreading rumors of a "mystery horse" who could beat them both, raising interest to the point where the Black is invited.
  • Automaton Horses: Averted. Farley does a good job of describing day to day care of the animals.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: As Alec gives The Black some sugar cubes, it becomes more tolerant of him, later saving his life from a cobra.
  • Big Race: The climax of nearly every book. The Black always wins, of course.
  • Bond Creatures: Of a very mild sort — only Alec can handle the Black and only Steve can handle Flame.
  • Bus Crash: Pam, the title character of The Black Stallion and the Girl, dies offscreen in the next book. For bonus points, it actually was a bus crash.
  • Crossover: Once Flame enters the scene in The Island Stallion, it's inevitable that the two central stallions will face off. They meet twice, in The Black Stallion and Flame and The Black Stallion Challenged.
  • Cool Horse: The Black, naturally, but also his children (Black Minx, Bonfire, Satan) and his main rival (Flame).
  • Coming of Age Story: Alec grows from a young kid to a veteran jockey to the competent manager of a Thoroughbred farm over the course of the series.
  • Contrived Coincidence: More or less every encounter between the Black and Flame. In their first meeting, a shipwreck just happens to strand the Black within swimming distance of Azul Island, and in later books Flame's racing career is explicitly the work of 'outside' forces.
  • Death by Adaptation: Alec's father, an important supporting character in the books (especially Son of the Black Stallion), is inserted onto the ship at the start of the film version of The Black Stallion in order to die in the shipwreck.
  • Deserted Island: The refuge of Alec after the shipwreck in the first book. Azul Island is also uninhabited, but Steve and an archaeologist friend find evidence that it used to be a fortress.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Steve knows Flame will be on Azul Island because he had a dream of seeing a red stallion on a cliff. Subverted when his friend Pitch informs him that he'd seen pictures of that cliff before and must have made it up; double-subverted when Steve really does see Flame there. (See Real Life Writes the Plot, below).
  • A Dog Named "Dog": The black stallion's only name is "the Black." (Later books reveal his given name to be Shetan).
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Tom Pitcher's attempts to "tame" (read: brutalize and break) Flame.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Pam is a gentle soul who attracts and controls animals through her kindness.
  • Genre Shift: Farley departed from his normal horse-and-his-boy story and wrote mysteries and even a horror novel to full-on sci-fi in The Island Stallion Races. To get himself and his horse to the mainland and into a race to save the island, Steve gets help from race-loving aliens. No, seriously.
  • Heroic BSoD: Alec suffers a breakdown in The Black Stallion Revolts after learning of Pam's death. He then has a car accident and gets a concussion in the process, which only makes things worse.
  • Horsing Around: The Black is decidedly feral, and the books make it plain that his erratic behavior is potentially dangerous to everyone, including Alec. Played straighter with Black Minx, who was spoiled as a filly and tends to bite — a lot of Henry's time goes into retraining her.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: Steve Duncan tells Alec he'll write a book about his discovery of Azul Island and Flame. Alec suggests he call it The Island Stallion.
  • Invincible Hero: The Black almost never loses. Justified, since the Black is half-Arabian and Arabian horses are specifically bred for speed and endurance. Nowadays Arabians and part-Arabs are only allowed to race other Arabians.note  There's also the fact that his non-Arab half is possibly mystical and/or aliens. No, seriously. The Black loses once due to a technicality, despite crossing the finish line first (he broke from Alec's control and bumped other horses, causing him to be placed lower due to interference).
  • Later-Installment Weirdness: The book starts as a fairly realistic albeit dramatic children's adventure: boy rescues and tames a beautiful wild horse and rides it to fame and glory. It ends with the reveal that the horse is probably an alien hybrid and that extraterrestrials have been guiding both the horse and the boy.
  • Miracle Rally: Several races end with the Black (or the focus horse of that title) overcoming a bad start or aggressive race riding to get up in the final strides.
  • Mythical Motifs: From the first movie, but not in the original novel; Alec's father tells Alec about the legend of Bucephalus, a magnificent stallion who was to be put to death by a king after the king was unable to claim the horse for himself. The horse's life was spared when a young boy claimed that he could tame and ride the wild stallion, and the king declared that if the boy could do that, he could keep the horse for himself. The boy, who would grow up to become Alexander the Great, proceeded to do just that. The similarities between Alexander and Bucephalus, and Alec and The Black, are hard to ignore.
  • Old Master: Henry, who is an old racehorse trainer; when Alec has a bad fall in the third book, Henry proves he still has what it takes to climb into the saddle, though his techniques aren't always friendly.
  • Only the Chosen May Ride: The Black, Flame, and to a lesser extent Satan won't let most riders on their backs.
  • Opening Narration: the film version of The Black Stallion Returns has a brief one, provided by Hoyt Axton, who played Alec's father in the first movie.
  • Prequel: The Young Black Stallion.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Farley first came up with the idea of Flame while under anesthesia for an ear operation.
  • Rearing Horse: On the cover of many books, including Son of the Black Stallion.
  • Setting Update: The first book was published in 1941. The 1979 film version moves the setting forward slightly to 1946, presumably to maintain the time period while avoiding interference from World War II. Despite featuring Mickey Rooney reprising his movie role as Henry Dailey, the TV series dropped the 1940s setting entirely in favor of the contemporary 1990s. The prequel film The Young Black Stallion restores the 1940s setting.
  • Silence Is Golden: The island sequence has no dialogue.
  • Spin-Offspring: Several books center on the Black's sons and daughters, including Satan, Bonfire, and Black Minx.
  • Take a Third Option: Steve seems to be caught between leaving Flame where he is on Azul Island or taking him away and leaving the other horses to fend for themselves. When aliens help him take Flame into horse racing, he realizes he has a way to earn enough money to simply buy Azul Island.
  • Worf Had the Flu: The Black and Flame are effectively equal; the Black wins their one official match by "the thinnest fraction of a nose." However, the Black had the more experienced jockey in Alec, plus the race was on dirt rather than Flame's preferred turf, so fans of the red stallion don't lose much in defeat.
  • Worthy Opponent: In the main series, Flame to the Black. In other books, there is usually one dominant horse to challenge the protagonist, e.g. Princess Guy to Bonfire and Wintertime to Black Minx.