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From Book to Film: The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

The adaptation of a book into screen is but one of the many ways to appreciate a story created in literature, to see it come to life (sometimes not exactly in the way we imagined it) but to enjoy it nevertheless through the interpretation of another. This is a new feature in the blog and count for more of these posts from hereon. Now what better way to start it than with a little fairy tale.

Thirteen-year old Maria Merryweather left London a penniless orphan to journey to the West Country to live with her nearest living relative, Sir Benjamin Merryweather of Moonacre Manor. Accompanied by her odd and rather rigid governess, Miss Heliotrope, they arrived to a charming English estate, met eccentric people, friendly animals, and lush gardens. However, the idyllic life in the manor is shadowed by appearances of black men, the De Noirs, from the woods and Maria's glimpses of a white horse at night. As the strange history of her family unfolds, an ancient feud was revealed done by her ancestors. Now she is determined to make things right,with the help of a mysterious boy only she could see, and to restore peace in the land.

Elizabeth Goudge creates a strong heroine, captivating details of a cozy home and warm people with a sprinkle of magic that makes for a light fantasy reading. It is filled with little adventures, delicious desserts, some tangled love stories, pots of pink geraniums and emphasizes the values of kindness to nature and family relationships. The little parts about God and religion subtly woven into the story is more of an inspiring wonder. It is a coming of age story for young readers set in the nineteenth century Cornwall.


Each characters are lovable and even the villains have their dark charms. The book encourages us to be more hopeful of things and to aspire for a better world. The sense of enchantment on the silvery air adds that magical quality to the lovely home. In the book, everything is neat and quaint; the manor, the village of Silverdew, Maria's silver tower bedroom, witty Sir Benjamin. Sometimes things could get saccharine (and you want to roll your eyes) but it can be overlooked.


Things couldn't get more different in the film (as book to film usually is). It came out to the big screen titled as The Secret of Moonacre. Still, it got its own charm and humor. The scale of the story is much bigger (again as films usually are, like if you aren't out to save the world then you are the destined one). The manor, however, is supposed to be crumbling and shabby. Sir Benjamin is quite the moody uncle while Miss Heliotrope is the odd funny character. The ancient feud between the Merryweathers and the De Noirs is tied to the power of the Moon Princess and the moon pearls, lost now out of their greed and strife. Only when the curse lifts will peace be restored to the valley and Moonacre will return to its old grandeur.


The scenery quite won me over and the dusty manor walls does not dim its beauty. Maria's tower room has a painted sky for a ceiling and the gray-blue tinge of the walls has the feel of an underwater haven. They cut out a few characters though and improvised a few ones but the heroine is still as strong-willed as in the book played by the luminous Dakota Blue Richards and perhaps the momentous scene at the end is as hauntingly jolting as the book (and I am talking of varying scenes here). It is a rather feel-good kind of fantasy movie, a bit less delightful than its original with dialogues that leave much to be desired but the set and costumes will most likely steer your attention.


In the end, it shows you how magic and a good courageous heart has the power to change your fate.

Book Title: The Little White Horse
Author: Elizabeth Goudge
Genre: Fantasy, Historical, Magic, Children Stories
Published: 2001 Paperback (first published 1946)
Publisher: Puffin
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ (4 cups - A delightful little tale that shares inspiring values and philosophies along with a handful English anecdotes. It is a good read for growing kids who missed stories like this in a time of fast-paced generation.)

Film Title: The Secret of Moonacre
Director: Gabor Csupo
Cast: Dakota Blue Richards, Ioan Gruffald, Juliet Stevenson, Tim Curry)
Release Date: 2008 
Rating: ♨♨♨ (3 cups - Sometimes it is rather hard to lift a certain magic from the words and capture that on the film. The story line is a bit rough on the edges but still it gets you there and the film is visually stunning.


{film photos. michaela}

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