by Michael Morpurgo
Emilie's Grandpapa outlives young Emilie and saves Joey from becoming gelatin in the book's final act. Although Emilie has died, Grandpapa sticks around to give us a little bit of faith, God, and family. With both Emilie's parents and Emilie herself dead, Emilie's Grandpapa is the last surviving member of his family. He doesn't want her to be "just a name on a gravestone that no one will read" (21.16)—he wants her story to live on.
By purchasing Joey and giving him to Albert in exchange for a promise to remember Emilie, he makes Joey a living, breathing memorial. In a sense, War Horse is a memorial as well, an urge to remember all of those who die in war—the soldiers, the horses, and the civilians alike.
Sadly, many soldiers die in war without anyone knowing their names, and David almost ends up with that fate. He has no family back home; only a fruit cart that he manned to make a leaving. After David's death, Albert says, "He always told me […] 'At least if I go, there'll be no one that'll miss me'" (19.5). With that, David emphasized the importance of memory in War Horse. Like Emilie is kept alive through her Grandpapa's memories, David is kept alive through Albert's, who tells his story to Joey—and so, to us.
Corporal Samuel Perkins
Corp. Perkins is the definition of a foil. For Albert, not for the horse. This guy suffers from little man syndrome. In a war other than World War I, we'd call this a Napoleon Complex. He's "a hard, gritty little man, an ex-jockey whose only pleasure in life seemed to be the power he could exert over a horse" (5.2). Compare that to Albert who, although young, never felt the need to make himself feel superior to Joey. Albert also loves Joey, whereas Perkins demands a respect "based on fear and not love" (5.3).
We don't see Albert's mom too much. She basically spends all her brief on-page time trying to convince Albert that his father isn't a terrible human being. We'd love to see the spin she put on the whole selling-Joey thing, but we never see it because the narrative follows Joey away from the Narracott farm and to the front lines of war.
Albert seems to really love his mom, though, and he always does what she asks of him. And after all, she's the one who convinces Albert's dad not to shoot Joey after Joey kicks him. Her heart's in the right place, and she's just doing what she can to keep her family happy and together.
When Joey and Topthorn are taken by the Germans, we have to admit, we kind of expect Herr Hauptmann to be like Hans Landa. But the bandaged captain is actually quite kind and caring—to the horses anyway. We have no idea what becomes of the British POWs Trooper Warren and Captain Stewart, but Joey and Topthorn are treated with honor and respect. Hauptmann tells his men, "They are not circus animals, they are heroes" (9.2), and Joey and Topthorn are treated as kings.
Albert loves telling Joey about his young love back home, Maisie Brown, and her delicious pastries. We also hear that "She was the only one that said [Albert] was right to come over here and find [Joey]" (19.4). She'd be a perfect fit for Albert—if only she actually liked horses. Maybe she feels that Albert would choose Joey over her if it were to come down to that. And you know what? We think she has reason to worry.
Sergeant Thunder's yet another character in War Horse who plays against stereotype. A big, blustering man who, if this were an R-rated book, would be dropping F-bombs like nobody's business, Sergeant Thunder is a "huge man [with a] heavy red face [and] an auburn mustache that spread upward from his lips to his ears" (17.3). That's quite a 'stache. Maybe he's growing it for Movember. Anyway, Sergeant Thunder's thunder is really just a big ol' purr turned up to the max.
This big burly man is the one who told his soldiers that "a horse's life is maybe even more important than a man's, 'cause a horse hasn't got no evil in him." (18.14) He doesn't just talk the talk, either; he walks the walk. He puts his career on the line when he bids for Joey despite his superior officer's orders to the contrary.
On top of all this, Sergeant Thunder lives to the end of the war. Huzzah! We guess this means that sensitive men with hearts aren't just cannon fodder, like poor Nicholls, Friedrich, and Warren.
Warren and Albert are pretty similar: they're both young, cheerful, have a good relationship with their mothers, and pine after a girl back home. But to Joey, there is one big difference between the two: Warren is simply "not a good horseman" (7.4). Since Joey is a horse, this is a dealbreaker. Joey laments, "if only he could just groom me and care for me and someone else could ride me." (7.8) Despite this, Joey still cares for Warren, calling him "my Trooper Warren" (7.9) on more than one occasion.
We last see Warren when he's captured by the Germans. He gives Joey a nuzzle and says, "I shan't ever forget you." (8.11) It's a bittersweet moment, showing us one of the many outcomes of war. We never hear what becomes of him, and Joey never thinks of him again. What do you think happened to Trooper Warren? Would Joey recognize him if he ever saw him again?