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Literature / The Little White Horse

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The Little White Horse is a classic of children's literature, written in the 1940s by Elizabeth Goudge. First published in 1946. The events of the novel begin in 1842.

After her father dies in debt, Maria Merryweather and her governess Miss Heliotrope go to live at Moonacre Manor with Maria's uncle Benjamin.

While there, Maria learns all about her family's history, and discovers that she is the last in a long line of Moon Princesses, and that it is her destiny to reunite her family with the evil De Noirs.

Has been adapted into both a live-action TV series, Moonacre, and a movie, The Secret of Moonacre. The latter was directed by Gabor Csupo of Bridge to Terabithia fame, and while it is an enjoyable movie in its own right, it plays up the more overt fantasy elements of the book with Maria now having to force the two families together, before the 5000th moon since the curse was laid upon the family destroys Moonacre Valley. It also eliminates any reference to Old Parson (or the surrounding village) and re-tools the character of Robin into being the Big Bad's son. Oh, and it has Tim Curry as the Big Bad, Coeur de Noir.

It is also noteworthy for having been a favorite book of J. K. Rowling as a child.

The book and its adaptations show examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade: In the movie, Maria clearly has a hard time coping with her fathers death and moving out of her home in London as opposed to the Angst? What Angst? of the book.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Sir Benjamin Merriweather is described as fat, bowlegged, and past his prime. In its film adaptation, he's played by the lean, sinewy Ioan Gruffudd, who's also considerably younger than the character.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Basically, Gabor Csupo took the book's characters, and went off and did his own thing.
    • To be fair, however, the original book really doesn't lend itself that well to a cinematic adaptation.
  • Adapted Out: Most of the pets: Wiggins, Zachariah, and Marmaduke's parakeet are not seen in the movie. There's also no mention of Old Parson or any of the villagers.
  • Age Lift: In the movie Benjamin and Miss Heliotrope are younger than in the book, while Robin who is implied to be the same age as Maria is noticeably older.
  • Alliterative Name: Maria Merryweather.
  • All Women Love Shoes: The first chapter in the book describes Maria as being plain but blessed with tiny feet. Because of this, Maria is described as taking more pride in her footwear than her dresses or other attire.
  • Babies Ever After: Averted with Sir Benjamin and Loveday and Miss Heliotrope and Old Parson. Due to their ages, they are all wed without issue. Played straight with Robin and Maria as they have ten children.
  • Badass Preacher: Old Parson. Admittedly, he's only badass in the context of the book, but it's enough.
  • Ephebophile: Played with in the film. The romantic relationship present in the original book (which is not an example of this trope since the characters were around the same age) is downplayed to some hinting, but it's enough to come off as a little squick when one considers that the actor playing Maria was 14 during filming and the actor playing Robin was 21.
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Robin and Maria. Also Old Parson and Miss Heliotrope.
  • Costume Porn / Scenery Porn: One cannot deny that the costume and art design are simply stunning
  • Damsel in Distress: Maria gets captured by the De Noirs in the forest several times, and Wrolf saves the day whenever she's in danger. During the climax, she becomes too helpless, leaving the good guys to try and rescue her. While underwater, the unicorn saves her from drowning.
  • Establishing Character Moment: In one scene, Maria gets ambushed while in the carriage, while her caretaker protects her. For the rest of the film, she's in constant need of protection from the De Noirs. Even Wrolf protects her.
  • Food Porn: The book has mouthwatering descriptions of the food served at mealtimes.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Maria has a King Charles Spaniel, Wiggins, in the book, but she also quickly makes friends with the pets of Moonacre Manor and adopts a hare named Serena.
  • Gigantic Moon: The film adaptation features a continuously-full moon that gets larger and larger as the movie goes on. It's an actual plot point, as the moon will destroy the earth unless Maria gives back the moon jewels.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The De Noirs wear black, and are seen as villains. Admittedly, this does have a plot related reason in the book, but is just this trope in the movie.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Loveday Minette.
  • Happy Ending: The ending of the movie.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Maria is this, transforming her uncle (in the movie), and even reconciling him with his true love
  • Heel–Face Turn: Robin in the movie. Actually fairly easily, but it can be put down to him knowing the legend, and not wanting to to come true. Though a frankly awesome parody suggests another reason...
  • I Am Not Pretty: Maria describes herself as plain in one chapter but she doesn't spend the book fretting over her appearance.
  • Identical Grandson: The actors playing Benjamin, Loveday and Coeur de Noir all show up as their ancestors.
  • Known Only by Their Nickname: Also overlaps with Meaningful Name, but in the book, Loveday's given name is also Maria but she's called Loveday Minette because she's lightly built and because "Moon people love the day and the bright sun."
  • May–December Romance: In the book, Benjamin is at least fifteen years older than Loveday.
  • MacGuffin: The moon pearls, more so in the movie.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Marmaduke Scarlett is described as often wearing a red hat and scarlett refers to a type of fabric that was frequently dyed red.
    • Miss Heliotrope is partial to the color purple, heliotropes are a flower that often sport purple blossoms.
  • Mr. Exposition: In the book, it's Old Parson that explains the Merryweather family history and the bad blood between Wrolf Merryweather and William De Noir.
  • Out Of Body Experience: It's strongly implied that this was how Robin met Maria in London when they were younger, despite having never traveled farther than Moonacre Valley
  • Parasol of Pain: Miss Heliotrope has one. Subverted slightly in that it's only shown to be a minor distraction (albeit one that helps greatly, as the movie's already over by this point and all that's needed is for the villain to see sense.)
  • Pink Is Feminine: In the books, Loveday has a passion for pink geraniums and decorates her cave home in pink, saying that it made the place more homelike.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "There is only one thing that can save us now. Classical. French. Needlepoint!".
  • Redheaded Hero: Maria.
  • Related in the Adaptation: And How!
    • Maria and Sir Benjamin are distant cousins in the book. In the movie, he's her uncle.
    • Loveday is a Merryweather cousin in the book. She and Robin are members of the De Noir family in the movie.
      • In addition, Robin is Loveday's son in the book. In the movie he's her younger brother.
  • Scenery Porn: The book spends a lot of time evoking the charming and beautiful settings, but the one thing that fans are sure to recall with the most rapture is Maria Merryweather's bedroom. Pretty, mysterious, comforting and grand all at once, the author somehow imagined and described the bedroom that apparently all little girls long for.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Marmaduke Scarlet speaks like this. He's a guy who works in a kitchen.
  • Shipper on Deck: Maria for Benjamin and Loveday. In turn, Loveday is this for Maria and Robin.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Loveday is quite the talented seamstress and embroiderer, having sewn her own wedding clothes and dresses for Maria.
  • Wacky Marriage Proposal: Played with. During teatime in Loveday's sitting room, Robin gets himself whipped up in a jealous frenzy when he thinks Maria's getting married to a stuffy Londoner and proclaims that Maria's going to marry him instead. Loveday does call him out on it saying that he's not doing a very good job of proposing, but it works out because Maria says yes, puts a stop to Robin's ranting and while they're not officially engaged, they are married by the end of the book.
  • What Beautiful Eyes!: Jane Heliotrope is described has having a beaky puce colored nose and a hairstyle of ringlets that's twenty years too young for her, but she does have very nice blue eyes.
  • Youthful Freckles: Maria has these.

Alternative Title(s): The Secret Of Moonacre