Right from the start, this book makes it clear that a human isn't telling this story. Some people might remember their childhood bedroom, or maybe a favorite toy, but our narrator remembers "a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clean water in it" (1.1).
Next clue about our narrator? His choice of food: "When I was young, I lived upon my mother's milk, as I could not eat grass" (1.1). Are you thinking this guy's a horse? If you are, grab a gold star because you are super on-point. Meet Black Beauty, the hero and narrator of our story. Of course he's a baby at this point and doesn't even have a name yet, but for our purposes, we'll call him Beauty.
Six other colts live in the meadow with Beauty and his mother. They play together like neighborhood kids on the same block: "[…] we used to gallop all together round and round the field, as hard as we could go" (1.4).
Because boys will be boys, sometimes Beauty and the colts play a little rough. Beauty's mom, Duchess (also called "Pet"), calls him over one day and gives him a little lecture. She says the colts are good colts, but don't have great manners, and they're only "cart-horse colts" (1.6). Beauty, on the other hand, is "well-bred and well-born" (1.6)—his grandfather was a famous racehorse, and his grandmother had the "sweetest temper" of any horse ever. So Beauty's mom gives him a major life lesson, which he never forgets: "I hope you will grow up to be gentle and good, and never learn bad ways; do your work with a good will, lift your feet up well when you trot, and never bite or kick even in play" (1.6).
Beauty calls their owner, Farmer Grey, his "master" and says he is a "good, kind man" who "spoke as kindly to us as he did to his little children" (1.8). His nickname for Beauty is "Darkie," and Beauty thinks he and his mom might be their master's favorites.
A ploughboy named Dick who visits their field sometimes throws stones and sticks at the colts. One day, Beauty's master catches him in the act and punishes him for it with a "box on the ear" (1.10), which means he really smacks him. Beauty's master reads him the riot act, too: "Bad boy to chase the colts! […] I shall not want you on my farm again" (1.11). Beauty says that was the last they saw of Dick, and that Old Daniel, the man who took care of the horses, was "just as gentle" (1.11) as their master.