In 1949 Marguerite Henry won the Newbery Medal for her novel King of the Wind. Many of the older Newbery winners have fallen into obscurity (when was the last time you saw a copy of Shen of the Sea?) but Henry’s story of a magnificent horse and boy who faithfully attends him continues to be a popular selection.
Perhaps the appeal lies in the unbending loyalty shown by Agba to his beloved stallion Sham. Born in Arabia and serving as one of the Sultan’s many stable boys, mute Agba feels a special bond with Sham, who is born with omens for both speed and misfortune. When Sham is chosen to be part of a gift of horses to Louis the Fourteenth, Agba is delighted to go with him. However, tragedy strikes, and the horses are not accepted. Sham is thrown out into the world, a beautiful horse forced into drudgery, with Agba determined to help him. In the end, through a series of fortuitous events, Sham goes on to become the famous Godolphin Arabian, sire of many amazing racers.
While the story probably owes as much to Henry’s imagination as it does to pure fact – very little is known about the early history of the Goldolphin Arabian – that does not detract from this story of optimism in the darkest times and complete faith in oneself and one’s friends.