Black Beauty is an 1877 novel by Anna Sewell, tracing the life of the titular fictional horse from colthood to retirement. Beauty provides a horse's perspective on the human capacity for cruelty and kindness, and comparisons between the treatment of animals and the treatment of poor working-class humans.
Sewell originally intended the book to be read by people who work with horses, to encourage them to think about the way they treat their animals, but today it is considered a classic of children's literature. For some reason.
Many film and television adaptations have been made, with varying degrees of faithfulness to the original work.
- Adaptation Distillation: While not getting everything right (and cutting the dialogue for all of the animals besides Beauty), the 1994 movie starring David Thewlis is the best of the film versions. (Not to mention that David Thewlis as Jerry Barker is some of the best casting in film history.)
- All Girls Like Ponies: Many of the film versions like to throw this in there.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Mostly averted. Once you get past the fact that the horse is narrating his own life story, Beauty largely behaves like a normal horse - for instance, being too terrified to leave a burning barn until he's blindfolded and led out.
- Animal Stereotypes: Black Beauty fits the horse stereotype to a T.
- Animal Talk
- Animated Adaptation: Courtesy of Goodtimes.
- Artistic License Animal Care: Only in-universe; for example, Beauty is nearly killed by a groom who gives him cold water and leaves him standing uncovered in his stall after a strenuous effort.
- Author Tract: The original purpose of the novel was to get people to be a little more conscious about the way they treated animals. Boy, did it work. Giving particular weight to the moral was that if religion did not teach people to be kind to animals, it was a sham (remember, this was read by Victorian Britons).
- There came a major outpouring of concern about animal welfare
- The bearing rein lost a lot of favor. It's still used as a piece of safety equipment (to keep the reins from getting tangled) but is never tightened as much as it once was.
- Laws were changed, including those which eased financial strains on cabdrivers, which led to better treatment of the horses.
- Bitch Alert: Lady Wexmere in the 1994 film. Her first scene is her having the bearing reign tightened over the horses, stating "they're not fit to be seen". Ginger gets a bit of an introduction like this but Beauty is attracted to her immediately.
- Bittersweet Ending: Beauty ends up in a good home with the promise of never being sold again. Ginger however continues to suffer under one cruel owner after the other, ultimately killing her. Combine with Beauty seeing her dead body, hoping her pain is finally at an end, and the ending with him dreaming about the days the two were together, along with Merrylegs.
- Break the Cutie: Ginger. Poor, poor, beautiful Ginger.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: A rare live action example with animals: Ginger.
- Earn Your Happy Ending: You're damn right that horse has to earn his happy ending.
- Friend to All Children: Merrylegs the pony is specifically cited as being this. Of course, it helps that, being a Shetland pony, he's pretty much child-sized.
- The Film of the Book: Quite a few in fact. At least four movies.
- Follow the Leader: Inspired many similar books.
- Horsey Heroism: Beauty (and to a lesser extent, the groom who rides him) saves his mistress's life when he brings the doctor in time.
- Horsing Around: At least twice Beauty rebels against orders. The first time he refuses to cross an unsafe bridge; the second, he pitches a fit at the bearing rein. He is meant to have the audience's sympathy (and he does) both times.
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: See if you can read the words "bearing rein" without being thrown into a frothing rage.
- I Will Find You: What Joe tells Beauty when leaving him in his new home.
- Kick the Dog: Some of the more villainous characters get to do this.
- Rearing Horse: Mostly played straight; downplayed with the pony Merrylegs, who would do this as a gentle way to get passengers off his back when he'd had enough of them (he is, of course, a lot closer to the ground).
- Recursive Adaptation
- Shiny Midnight Black
- Spirited Young Lady: Lady Anne, based on what we see of her.
- Spoiler: The whole movie is told in flashback, making you aware that Beauty ends up in a good home in the end.
- What Do You Mean, It's Not For Kids?