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Literature / The Black Stallion

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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 return 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. (Yes, the same guy who directed The Godfather.) 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. Last books call attention to how hard it is for him and other jockeys to stay under the maximum weight.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The movies
  • Artistic License – Sports: Played with as one of those cases where something was within the rules when it was made, but not now... except it's a Long Runner, and the series kept following the obsolete rule. The rule in question? Allowing a "Mystery Horse" (i.e. a horse of uncertain breed) such as Black to enter a special match race that had been arranged between two champion racehorses, Cyclone and Sun Raider.
    • There's a lot of weirdness connected to the Kentucky Derby in The Black Stallion's Filly — a filly with no earnings (she's raced twice and not finished either time) gets into the starting gate. Moreover, one of the races she failed to finish was Derby Week itself. This wasn't so unusual at the time (see below) but it would be impossible now.
  • 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
  • Bond Creatures: Of a very mild sort — only Alec can handle the Black and only Steve can handle Flame.
  • Bus Crash: Pam.
  • Crossover: With his Island Stallion series
  • 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.
  • 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: In the first book, and ostensibly Azul Island as well.
  • 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.
  • Genre Shift: Farley departed from his normal horse-and-his-boy story and wrote mysteries and even a horror novel within the series
    • Heck, 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. May be a symptom of Creator Breakdown as the books just got progressively stranger after that.
  • Hellish Horse: The Black's sire in The Black Stallion Mystery
  • Heroic BSoD: Alec after learning of Pam's death.
  • 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). In another case, the Black loses when Alec throws the race, choosing to help another rider whose saddle slipped, saving his life, instead of finishing the race.
  • 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: In the first book, but used again throughout the series.
  • 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.
  • Society Marches On: In addition to the blatant sexism displayed by Henry and others, the world of horse racing depicted is almost nothing like its present reality.
    • In The Black Stallion's Filly, for example, the filly of the title is able to get a place in the Derby starting gate despite never winning a race, and is entered in another race during Derby week itself. Contemporary horses need a certain amount of graded stakes earnings to even look at the starting gate and almost never run earlier than three weeks before the race.
      • Since the above edit it's gotten even harder, with a point system earned from specific races (all of which would require a filly like Black Minx to compete in mixed races against males.) But then, when the books were written, horses also would sometimes race the week before the Derby, or in races between the legs of the Triple Crown (for instance, Triple Crown winner Count Fleet won the Withers Stakes between the Preakness and Belmont... and then won the Belmont by 25 lengths). This would be unheard of today.
  • Spin-Offspring: Several books center on the Black's sons and daughters, including Satan, Bonfire, and Black Minx.
  • Underdogs Never Lose


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