I’ve just finished reading The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, which was given to me by my dear friend and book buddy, Susan Shisler. This children’s classic was written in 1946, and I can’t imagine why I never read it, or even heard of it, before. A quote on the cover says, “I absolutely adored The Little White Horse.” —J. K. Rowling, and I have to agree.
But as much as I loved the book, I have to wonder if it would be published as a new book today. Its pages contain no vampires, no aliens, no irredeemable villains, no deeply conflicted heroes; the protagonist learns to fulfill her destiny not by rebelling against authority and pursuing her own passions, but through obedience and growth in virtue; and nothing really frightening or suspenseful happens until page 70. The earlier pages do contain some mystery, but all is roses and light in the heroine’s world, and the mystery concerns only the source of some of the loveliness.
And yet this book gripped me from page one. The loveliness is so intense, so piercingly sweet, so true and deep and good, that I was drawn into the book’s world and not let go until I finished it. This book is ultimately about self-sacrifice, atonement, reconciliation, and thus it breathes the breath of heaven.
In England in 1946, with all the horrors, hatred, and deprivation of World War II only just behind them, I can imagine many children—and adults—were more than ready to immerse themselves in a book like this, an enchanted world in which nothing can harm them, yet in which the forgiveness they so desperately needed to experience is very gently and palatably taught.
Our world, I fear, has grown too cynical for a book like this to have a wide appeal among those over the age of 10 or 12. But I recommend it nevertheless, as an antidote to cynicism in the young, or in those who would like to be young again. I’ll be looking for more by Elizabeth Goudge.