I have to admit that I approached this book with trepidation. It might seem like just another 1970s children’s book cover here but SEE the scary shadow! Know that I had to stay up late to finish it then read a bit of the book about Airbnb to take the taste away …
I spent years looking for this book. I half-remembered a TV series from the very early 1980s featuring the White Horse of Uffington, Beltane Fires, Wayland’s Smithy, and no, it wasn’t Susan Cooper’s “The Dark is Rising” sequence because I knew those. Anyway, some time in the last decade I found out what it was called, and then I found out it had been reissued! And for some reason then a few original copies made it out into the marketplace and I picked one up.
I’m known for being quite feeble with my reading and viewing matter and some of this was seared into my memory (that’s made me think of the terrifying home-videos on Screen Test – I’m going to have to look at some fuzzy puppies for a bit). Anyway, I managed to read it and I’m sending it on to a friend who likes this kind of thing.
Brian Hayles – “The Moon Stallion”
(8 September 2016)
Published in 1978, this is the novel of a TV series (I see that this was repeated in 1980, when I was eight, which makes more sense than having the whatsits scared out of me at the age of six!) that affected me so powerfully that I still can’t see an image of – or the actual – White Horse of Uffington without shuddering.
I’d been warned (who by?) that this story o f blind Diana’s affinity with the mysterious white stallion that seems to be a harbinger of death and their opposition to Sir George Mortenhurze and his stableman Todman’s greed to control it – was written boringly and tedious to get through. I didn’t find that, although reviews of the TV series suggest that it was slower than people now like. The combination of time-worlds clicking into sync at the ancient liminal festivals, old country lore and unending battles for natural power was reminiscent of Susan Cooper (even to the point of featuring Wayland’s Smithy: Oxfordshire and Berkshire are certainly places of fascination and ancient magics). There was a lot of mysticism and symbolism (and some unexplained or undiscussed: yes, Todman is related to toads and thus horse-whisperers, but what about Tod meaning Death in German, and Estelle can’t be accidentally named, either).
There’s also a huge environmental and anti-war message bolted into it in some of the visions Diana has – this had totally passed me by originally or been forgotten, even though it makes the book totally of its time (and mine – anyone else in their mid-40s have a primary school teacher who ran away to Greenham Common, leaving you unable to tell the time or hold a pen correctly?). Not as scary as I’d feared, and no white horses came to me in my dreams, thank goodness.
Have you revisited a childhood favourite and found it different / more or less scary?