Study Guide

War Horse Abandonment and Death

By Michael Morpurgo

Abandonment and Death

Chapter 1

We were parted that day in the terrible hubbub of the auction ring and I was never to see [my mother] again. (1.2)

This is the first of many abandonments that Joey will experience throughout this tear-jerker of a novel. You might think that being ripped away from his mother would result in lifelong trauma, but he gets over it pretty quickly. Guess horses are pretty resilient.

Chapter 2

"I'll promise you another thing, Albert: if I have to lose that bet, then [Joey] has to go." (2.9)

Albert proves early on that he won't abandon Joey when the going gets rough. He devotes every spare moment of his time to keeping Joey from being taken away from his first family.

Chapter 3

"They'll look after you—they promised they would. And I need the money, Joey; I need the money bad." (3.11)

What Albert's dad does is the only instance of purposeful, heartless abandonment. He treats Joey not as family, but as property, selling him for a few bucks.

Chapter 8

"Don't suppose they'll let you come with me where I'm going, Joey. I wish they could, but they can't. But I shan't ever forget you." (8.10)

Joey loses Captain Stewart and Trooper Warren in a matter of minutes, never to see them again. By this point, Joey's gotten kind of used to losing people; all he can do is keep moving forward.

Chapter 11

"I shall die if you don't come back." (11.17)

Poor Emilie gives us a deeper glimpse into what loss feels like from the other side. Where Joey always soldiers on when his humans abandon him (either intentionally or not), Emilie collapses.

Chapter 14

The last I saw of my troop were the bobbing blond manes of the two little Haflingers as they struggled to pull the gun up through the trees. (14.10)

In the confusion surrounding the surprise attack that claims the lives of Topthorn and Friedrich, everyone runs. Even the Haflingers, who had been pulling the gun with Joey for months, flee without helping him. Sometimes in war, it's every man—and horse—for himself.

I had lost my best and dearest friend. (14.5)

Death might be the ultimate abandonment. Joey experienced this earlier with Captain Nicholls, but he wasn't as close to him as he was to Topthorn. With Albert, Emilie, and even Trooper Warren, Joey has a small shot at seeing them again. Death, however, brings the odds of reunion down to zero.

Chapter 19

"I'm afraid the horses won't be coming with us after all." (19.13)

The Powers that Be have abandoned all the horses, including Joey, by letting them be sold as livestock. Thankfully the soldiers step in to break the cycle.

Since David's death, Albert had not been himself. I had not once seen him smile or joke, and he often fell into prolonged brooding silences when he was with me. (19.7)

Albert has to deal with loss as well. In fact, he and Joey deal with loss in remarkably similar ways, don't you think?

Chapter 20

He brought his hammer down on the table and I was sold. (20.12)

Joey may not be shaking in his horseshoes, but we sure are. We don't think we could handle it if Joey were taken away from his family again. Joey's lack of panic either shows his confidence that things will turn out okay or proves that he is completely oblivious to everything going on.