“Some in the village, only very few now and fewer as each year goes by, remember Joey as he was. His story is written so that neither he nor those who knew him, nor the war in which they lived and died in, will be forgotten.” – from the War Horse authors note by Michael Morpurgo.
Yesterday, I went to the wonderful city that is London to see Michael Morpurgo read War Horse in the Olivier Theatre at the National. It doesn’t sound terribly exciting, I know, but the fact that a theatre full of people listened to every second shows the power of good storytelling.
War Horse has been many things – a book, a play, and soon, a film and while the story may change a little with each version (for example, the play is more about Albert’s quest to find Joey rather than the other way around), the essence of the story, the sentiment and message do not.
Alongside the reading, Barry Coope and John Tams sung some of the songs from the play and some other appropriate folk songs. The music was weaved into the story and sometimes underscored Morpurgo such as the brilliant moment when he was reading the part about German soldiers singing in their trench on Christmas day and the others sung Stille Nacht underneath him.
At the beginning of a week which will undoubtably be filled with stories and memories leading up to Remembrance Day, hearing the story of a brave horse and his loyal owner made me think about what people were prepared to sacrifice for their country, which is Mr. Narracott’s case – in the worst case scenario – his own son.
Mr. Narracott may have sold Joey to the war effort, but under the care of Captain Nicholls, Joey becomes a hero, a horse that men up and down the line talk about. Whether the story is about a horse sold to the army or a man joining up because he thinks it is the right thing to do (Why, hello, protagonist of my novel), the reader should never forget that these stories are based, even in the vaguest of circumstances, on some grain of truth. Maybe events have been exaggerated, maybe they have been played down a little, but as with anything based on a real historical event, it happened.
NaNoWriMo word count: 15, 804
Current word count: 51, 848
Currently reading: Hurricane Gold – Charlie Higson