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hgarey71 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Michael Morpurgo's novel War Horse was originally published in 1982 and was made into a motion picture in 2011. It is a unique story told from the perspective of a horse named Joey and set against the backdrop of World War I. Morpurgo's choice to have the horse narrate the story offers readers a unique insight into the kindness and brutality of men's hearts, and the best and worst of people. Through Joey's eyes, we see how people can choose peace in the middle of chaos and hate, and how war affects every facet of life when it rages. 

Joey is just a colt when he is sold at auction to Albert's father. Albert is a thirteen-year-old boy who forms a bond with Joey that lasts even through the separation of war. Albert's father is an alcoholic and sells Joey to help pay the mortgage on his farm. Joey is purchased by a military man named Captain Nicholls. Captain Nicholls has a friend named Captain Stewart. His horse is named Topthorn, and he and Joey become friends. They go through many experiences together during the war. In Joey's first battle as a cavalry horse, Captain Nicholls is killed. Joey is cared for by a kind young man named Trooper Warren, and the horses are used primarily for transporting equipment now. 

Topthorn and Joey show great courage when they are sent back to the war front and cross enemy lines during a battle. They are captured by German soldiers and separated from their human companions, Captain Stewart and Trooper Warren. Joey and Topthorn are used for the dangerous mission of transporting wounded soldiers from the battle front to hospitals. During this mission, Joey meets Emilie, a young girl who has lost her mother, father, and brother to the war. She is kind and forms a close bond with Joey. One day, the soldiers come through and proclaim that they are taking the horses to transport artillery. Emilie and her grandfather have no choice in the matter, but Emilie tells the soldiers she is just loaning the horses to them and expects them to return. 

Topthorn and Joey are worked hard on this assignment, and Topthorn falls ill. One day, Topthorn stumbles and doesn't get back up. A battle rages around Joey, Topthorn, and their handler Friedrich, but Joey refuses to leave his friend. He finally flees because of his fear of the shelling and ends up in "No Man's Land," which is a space between the German trenches and the British soldier's trenches. A German soldier waves a white flag to go out to help the horse. In the midst of war, these two enemy soldiers forge peace out of their common interest in helping the horse. They flip a coin to decide who will get the horse, and amiably accept the results. The British soldier wins, and Joey is taken to have his wounds tended to, which include a nasty cut from the barbed wire. 

Albert, who was Joey's first human friend, has joined the British forces in a veterinary capacity, in the hopes that he might find Joey again. Joey recognizes Albert right away, but Albert isn't sure if it's him or not. He tests him by calling him with the whistle he taught him long ago. Joey responds and Albert is jubilant. 

Joey learns that Albert is going to marry a girl named Maisie and that she is the only one who understood his desire to find Joey again. When the fighting finally ends, the horses are sold at auction. Albert's fellow soldiers take up a collection to try to buy Joey for Albert. Albert is outbid by an older gentleman who is buying the horse in memory of his beloved granddaughter, Emilie, who has passed away. He promised Emilie that he would find Topthorn and Joey for her. When he hears Albert's story and sees his love for Joey, he makes a deal with him to give Joey to him for one English penny, and his promise that he will care for Joey for the rest of his life. It is a beautiful story of healing in the midst of unimaginable pain and suffering. There is a chapter by chapter summary available by using the link below. 

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War Horse

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