Monday, April 11, 2011

Story Notes: A Horse as an Important Supporting Character

Yesterday I posted an excerpt from The Adventure of Anna The Great. It was part of a subplot about the horses in the stable -- in particular Sea Sprite, the nemesis of all of the stable boys except for Anna.

SEA SPRITE WAS based on a real horse. He was a Morgan named Shadow (although his registered name was something longer that I don't remember).

When I was a kid we had three extra box-stalls in our barn, and we boarded horses. Shadow had a special stall -- one with an upper door as well as a lower one, so he wouldn't reach out and nail you as you walked by. Even with the door there, if anyone, horse or human, came close to his stall, he would hurl himself against the wall and bare his teeth and roll his eyes. It was often quite a shock to someone who didn't know him, because just before he did it, he was usually standing so quietly you'd hardly notice him. His owners believed he had been teased by someone at one of his previous boarding stables, and I can certainly believe it.

I do know from simple observation that they didn't teach him to do that.

But I think his orneriness was also partly due to the fact that he had the excess energy of a star performer. He was retired when I knew him, but he still liked to be fed cigarettes, and I heard that in his champion days, they used to feed him a pint of whiskey before a show to calm him down. (I don't know if the story was true, but doesn't that sound Hollywood to you?)

And as with Sea Sprite, you could always get on Shadow's good side by holding up his bridle. He liked action. Driving or riding, he didn't care, he just wanted to GO.

Sprite's story, of course, follows Anna's story in terms of theme. Like any good secondary character, Sea Sprite has an important and ongoing role in the story, even if he isn't the main horse. Overtly, Anna has two role models -- a good guy who is too straight-laced to have fun (the marquis) and a bad guy who has lots of fun, but who is destructive (Tybalt). But you could say that Sea Sprite is a third role model. He's like Anna, a creature of too much spirit who lives in a restrictive world, and has become a nasty, dangerous old crank because of it. Nobody knows quite what to do with him.

Anna instinctively understands him, and admires him. I didn't make it overt, but Anna is aware that Sea Sprite is living the life she sees ahead of herself. As a girl in a Victorian society, she will always be restricted and controlled, and bored. To Sprite that race is what Anna's whole adventure is for her -- a temporary relief. (This is why the book is called "The Adventure of" rather than "The Adventures of." Anna goes on this adventure figuring it's her only chance. She leaves it, determined to continue.)

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If you'd like to read more of The Adventure of Anna the Great, you can find it in ebook form at Amazon's Kindle Store, Kindle UK Store, Smashwords. and Barnes and Noble's Nookstore. Look for it at Apple's iBookstore, Sony, Kobo and Diesel, too.


A.M. Kuska said...

Beer is usually more common than whiskey. I'm really surprised they got away with it though, what with how strict the drug testing etc. has gotten. Maybe alcohol doesn't show on those tests though.

A.M. Kuska said...

I'd just like to add, if you have time on April 17th, I hope you'll join me on my blog for my e-book launch party. :) I'd love to have you there. You're so much fun!

The Daring Novelist said...

This was quite a long time ago, so I don't know the conditions Shadow was shown in (or the truth of the story).

As for the blog party -- how do you do that? Just visit and comment?