a book review by Miss Elliot

Old books


“It was under the white moon I saw him,

The little white horse, with neck arched high in pride,

Lovely his pride, delicate, no taint of self

Staining the unconscious innocence…”

The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge

I first read this book (set in the mid 1800’s) at least four years ago, under the suggestion of Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt. I have kept reading it again and again and it gets better every time. It is one of those books that has hints of Heaven in it- there is a deeper meaning to it that perhaps even the author didn’t intend. But perhaps she did.

To start with Maria (the feisty heroine). She’s thirteen years old when the story begins. She is an orphan: her mother died when she was a baby, and her father died two months before the story begins. She is rather vain, overfond of pretty clothes, and inquisitive, but she is also very honorable and courageous.

Ever since her mother died, Maria has been taken care of by Miss Heliotrope, who is middle-aged and not beautiful, but loving and patient with Maria. Miss Heliotrope is disposed to indigestion, and her nose is large and hooked and puce-colored, but Maria sees through her outer defects to her good heart.

As the story begins, Maria, Miss Heliotrope, and Maria’s greedy cocker spaniel Wiggens are traveling to live with Maria’s cousin, Sir Benjamin Merryweather, in the ancestral home of the Merryweathers- a large estate with a castle that dates back to the 13th century-  called Moonacre Manor. Maria soon finds that it is full of mystery. No woman has set foot in the castle for twenty years, Sir Benjamin tells Maria. Why not, Maria wonders? But who is it that lays out Maria’s clothes every morning? Who- and what- is the strange dog Wrolf? Can she find the reason for the centurys-long feud between the Black Men who live in the forest around Silverydew, and Moonacre Manor? And will she ever find the little white horse that she saw upon arrival at Moonacre Manor?

First published in 1946, The Little White Horse has a charm that is missing from many books today. It’s full of memorable characters and has many unexpected plot twists. The illustrations are very sweet as well- make sure you find a copy of this book with illustrations by C. Walter Hodges.

The motto over the fireplace in the parlor at Moonacre Manor reads thus~

“The brave soul and the pure spirit shall with a merry and a loving heart inherit the kingdom together.” With this maxim, Elizabeth Goudge weaves her story together in a delightful and entrancing way.