Study Guide

War Horse Warfare

By Michael Morpurgo


Chapter 2

"Mother says there's likely to be a war. [...] Something about some old duke that's been shot at somewhere." (2.15)

Joey, being a horse and all, has no idea why he's going to war. But you know what? Albert the human doesn't really have much of a clue either. Many soldiers in World War I were fighting because they had to, not because they cared about—or even knew the reasons—why.

Chapter 6

Captain Nicholls walked by my head turning his eyes out to sea so that no one should notice the tears in them. (6.3)

War will make grown men cry. Seeing all the death on the battlefield moves Nicholls to tears, but being a Captain, he has to set a stoic example for his men.

Chapter 9

"When noble creatures such as these are forced to become beasts of burden, the world has gone mad." (9.7)

This statement might be about horses, but the same could also be said for the men at war. Many of them came from peaceful jobs—fruit selling, anyone?—and they've been forced to become soldiers.

All that was different were the uniforms. (9.11)

Joey observes that the two sides of the war, the English and the German, are basically the same. Both sides have good people and bad people and people that really, really, love horses. It's not personal, it's business.

Chapter 10

"One shell, that's all it takes." (10.9)

Emilie's Grandpapa is talking about the death of Emilie's parents. Sounds familiar, though, right? That's because it's echoed throughout the novel, as "one shell" is all it takes to kill Friedrich, Coco the horse, and Albert's best friend, David. Scary.

Peace had come for one night. (10.13)

The rules of war are strange indeed. An unspoken truce puts an end to the gunfire and bloodshed for one night—Christmas Day.

Chapter 12

It was the mud that was killing us one by one—the mud, the lack of shelter, and the lack of food. (12.16)

Many casualties of war weren't the result of gas or gunfire. Instead, it could be simple things like sickness due to inadequate shelter or nutrition. Joey and the horses experience the same issues. Remember, Topthorn isn't killed by battle; he's killed from illness and exhaustion.

Chapter 15

I stood in a wide corridor of mud, a wasted, shattered landscape, between two vast, unending rolls of barbed wire. [...] This was what the soldiers called "no-man's-land." (15.19)

We're lucky Joey's our narrator because no human soldier could have ever lived to tell this tale. He ends up in the middle of the war-torn no-man's-land, totally exposed between the trenches. Any soldier would have been shot on sight, but through Joey's surviving eyes, we get a rare glimpse into the situation.

Chapter 16

"We have shown them that any problem can be solved between people if only they can trust each other." (16.16)

Two men from opposing sides settle a dispute with... talking? Instead of sending a bunch of people they don't know to fight to their deaths? Hmmm. The leaders who started this war might be able to learn something from these guys.

Chapter 19

When the end of the war did come, it came swiftly. [...] There was little joy, little celebration of victory, only a sense of profound relief. (19.6)

The only reward for these men is that they don't have to fight anymore. They gain nothing from being at war, except for life-long injuries and trauma. There is no cause to celebrate.