PBOTD 7th December: Elyne Mitchell - Silver Brumbies of the South

Today's PBOTD is Elyne Mitchell's Silver Brumbies of the South (1965). I think this is possibly my favourite Brumby book, because I do enjoy the contrast in the characters of the two Silver Brumby sons, Lightning and Baringa. Lightning is brash, convinced he knows it all, and wants Baringa's mares. Baringa is a sensitive and wise soul. He was also standing considerably nearer the front of the queue when the brains were handed out.

Now that I've written that, I think I've managed to put my finger on the reason I don't enjoy the Brumby books as much now I'm well and truly grown up. The horses are really humans in silvery equine disguise. They still do all the things that horses do, but overlaid with characteristics they simply don't have because they're not human.

That said, the book's still a satisfying read in terms of plot because the villain of the piece, Lightning, is comprehensively outwitted by Baringa every time. And I do like the scene where Baringa rescues Lightning and his mares after they've managed to get themselves trapped in the snow.

This stunning piece of altruism on Baringa's part, because he knows Lightning will, as soon as he's recovered, want to steal Baringa's mares again, always struck me as rather impressive. Maybe it is what a horse would do, but I'm guessing not, in the harsh world real life Brumbies inhabit.

I suppose the whole human characteristic thing does add to the romance of the Brumby books: they are hunted, and they feel like us. Hunting them is like hunting ourselves. As good a reason as any, I imagine, for not hunting Brumbies, but I can't ride myself of the suspicion that we do animals no favours by anthropomorphising them. We should appreciate them for the wild, and different creatures that they are, and the fact they're not human.

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