Study Guide

War Horse

By Michael Morpurgo

War Horse Introduction

World War I. You've heard about in school. You've read about it in books. You've even seen the movies. It was big and brutal enough to be called the Great War, at least until World War II came along. Although World War I may not be as prevalent in pop culture as World War II (we blame Steven Spielberg, but more on him later), it has still gotten plenty of press.

Human press, that is. And we're not complaining. We are human, after all. But we're not the only creatures on this planet, you know? So how did the war affect other species? Well, Michael Morpurgo's War Horse shows us this global struggle through a brand new perspective—as told by a horse unwittingly drafted into battle.

Yep, this book is narrated by a horse.

War Horse is the story of Joey, a young horse separated from the boy he loves and drafted into World War I. It's a familiar story given a new twist. Here's the formula: All Quiet on the Western Front + My Little Pony = War Horse. Sign us up.

Published in 1982, the novel was adapted into a critically-acclaimed play in 2009, which made its way to Broadway and beyond. And after all this success, Steven Spielberg, who never met a war story he didn't like, adapted War Horse to the silver screen in 2011 and it was a hit and a half with audiences and the Academy. Not too shabby.

Joey's horseshoes may trod well-worn territory, but the novel has a fresh perspective and an important message. War Horse urges readers to remember everyone affected by war—the soldiers both living and dead, the civilians, and yes, even the horses.

What is War Horse About and Why Should I Care?

As we've learned from My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, everyone loves horses. Everyone. From your little sister to your mom to the amazing bronies in the military, we all know that horses are where it's at.

So even if you're sick of war stories, seeing things through a horse's eyes will give you a brand new perspective on the war—and on the world.

Speaking of eyes, have you ever looked into the big, bright eyes of a horse and wondered just what the heck he's thinking? Morpurgo dives into the psyche of a horse with Joey's first-person narrative, and after reading War Horse, you'll never look at a horse the same way again.

War Horse Resources

Websites

Want More Morpurgo?
Michael Morpurgo has written over 100 books. Does he have time to do anything else? You'll have to go to his website and find out.

Movies and Stage

War Horse on the Big Screen
Steven Spielberg directed the silver screen adaptation of War Horse. It's like Saving Private Ryan except about two decades earlier, less violent, and with more horses. Okay, it's nothing like Saving Private Ryan, but it's still pretty emotional.

War Horse on the Big Stage
Before it was a movie (but after it was a book), War Horse was performed live on stage. Who knew that Mr. Ed, Trigger, and Silver retired from Hollywood to act on Broadway?

Articles and Interviews

From Book to Play to Movie, Oh My!
In this interview, Morpurgo reveals that he wanted to write a book that didn't favor one side of the war. So he wrote War Horse, which showed that things totally sucked on both sides.

Some Say "Neigh"!
Some critics had harsh words about the War Horse play: "'War Horse' has its share of neat contrivances and less-than-subtle moralizing." Could the same be said for the book?

What's His Line?
In this interview, Morpurgo reveals his favorite line in the book. Our money would have been on "it was the giant Heinie who showed the first signs of weakness" (12.5), but that's just because the phrase "giant Heinie" makes us chuckle like we're back in the second grade.

Video

A Story About a Horse, Of Course
This interview is both an intriguing look at why Morpurgo wrote War Horse and a glimpse into the incredible puppetry of the play. Oh, and what Morpurgo thinks about Steven Spielberg. (Hint: he's the best.)

Boy Meets Horse
The War Horse trailer focuses on the gooey emotional center of the book: the relationship between Albert and Joey.

Hooves on Stage
Missed the play? Watch this video and get the gist of it in two minutes or less.

Audio

War Scores
If reading War Horse is too quiet for you, listen to some samples of the score from the Original London Cast recording. "Learning to Plough" has never been so soothing.

Images

Eight-Horsepower Horse
Gawk at the play's incredible horse puppets, which seem to be more machine than horse. Also, they have eight legs.

Joey Uncovered
Before the movie, the book cover focused on what the book is really about: the horse.

A Boy and His Horse
In this still from the film, we see the bond between Albert and Joey... or at least between Jeremy Irvine and the horse playing Joey.

The Man in the Saddle
Here he is: the author of War Horse. Looks like a nice guy.