War Horse: The Inspiration

I was able to grab and read my son's newly purchased copy of the book War Horse.

It is excellent (well developed characters, integrated historical research, and suspenseful), and is the story of Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, who is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the the first World War.

I am always interested in learning how authors develop a book idea.

The story behind the story.

Finishing War Horse in 1982, Michael Morpurgo's creative journey is an interesting one.

As a teacher, he decided to write books because he had difficulty finding works that interested his students.

Like: "if you want it done, do it yourself."

Reminds me of two other authors (J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis) who were similarly motivated.

Years prior to that, Morpurgo listened to the stories of World War I veterans in the Devon Village of Iddesleigh (Britain).

A seed was planted--he wanted to create a story that would help others understand World War I, but target it to a children's audience.

Morpurgo wrestled with idea, but no approach seemed to work.

Until he observed this:

Then one evening he was at the farm he and his wife run in Devon, where poor children come to work with animals...

He was passing through the stable yard when he saw one of the children, a troubled boy who had a bad stutter and had not uttered a word in school in two years, standing head to head with a horse.

“He started talking,” Mr. Morpurgo recalled.

“And he was talking to the horse, and his voice was flowing. It was simply unlocked. And as I listened to this his boy telling the horse everything he’d done on the farm that day, I suddenly had the idea that of course the horse didn’t understand every word, but that she knew it was important for her to stand there and be there for this child.”

That became Joey’s role in “War Horse” — observer and witness as much as protagonist.

The book was a limited success, but in 2007, the work was adapted to a play that was a hit in London.

In 2010, the production moved to New York City, and a movie-version of the project premieres this Christmas Day.

I wonder if Mr. Morpurgo ever dreamed that the famous director Steven Speilberg would be moved to tears after seeing the play version of his work, and quickly purchase the rights to put his idea on the big screen?

Not bad for a farmer, teacher, and author with an idea.

A creative idea that he would not let slip away.

And that is the story behind the story.

This is the trailer for War Horse...

16 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

Jury still is out on whether the movie will be any good or not. Spielberg is nothing like he once was. But then most movies aren't either, so who knows. Always like learning how the books came about too.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

Um, why do I have a feeling I'm going to be crying A LOT during that movie? I was already tearing up at the excerpt and the trailer. *grabs a Kleenex*

Jeanette Levellie said...

Oh, I love sucess stories like these! Thanks for sharing; I will put this on my to be seen list of movies!

Happy Christmas,
Jen

Rachna Chhabria said...

I just love to read such success stories. I will try to get a copy of the book.

Carol Kilgore said...

I want to see this movie even more now after learning the author's backstory. Thanks!

Bob G. said...

Slamdunk:
Great back-story about the author...and the movie trailer looks like it's going to have it's share of "tear jerking" moments.
It's stories such as these that provide a LOT of hope for humanity, as well as the creatures we share this old Earth with.

Good post.

Stay safe.

Elizabeth Grimes said...

I'm going to the play in New York this Friday! After that, I hope to see the movie. Should have read the book already!

Dawn said...

Wonderful! Our house rule is: read the book then watch the movie. I'm going in for the book this week! What a great review.

StrongNHim said...

I have seen the commercials for it and thought it looked cheesy. However, after reading your post. I think I'll look into the book and if I like it, I watch the movie. :)

Thanks!

Diane said...

Great story behind the book and movie. Sounds like a tear jerker for me. :O)

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

Yep you never know when inspiration will strike, right? I heard that the whole Indiana Jones character may have come about in a similar manner. I think I read somewhere that George Lucas and Steven Spielberg had a conversation on how to get kids more interested in history and bam...in that convo was created one of the most iconic roles in movie history.

I think that getting Steven Spielberg to personally direct your project would be one of the biggest honors of anyone's life. It's sweeping the golden globe nominations and because of his name, is probably going to get some Oscar buzz too.

Of course, the Oscars are notoriously hateful of Spielberg...having only honored him once for Schindler's list. People are just too jealous of him really to give him a fair shake I think.

oceangirl said...

I think I will love it. Thank you for the story behind the story. It was most interesting and touching. What does your son think of the book?

Maxi said...

Wonderful, a rare movie that the family can watch together.

Momma Fargo said...

It's a wonderful story. Read it myself back then. However, I never understood why everyone becomes famous after they are gone or many many years later. Why aren't they right when the work comes out?

Lisa said...

I'm torn whether I want to see this movie or not. I think it may be a 2-boxer of tissues for me. But it sounds like a marvelous flick. Also heard Spielberg was so moved by the young actor's audition, he hired him on the spot.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Slam Dunks .. I gather the play is fantastic .. so I hope Elizabeth had a wonderful time ... lucky woman!

I suspect I'll end up seeing the movie .. and must read the book too ..

Thanks for this great review and inspiration within the inspirational post. Happy New Year - Hilary