King of the Wind Summary

Marguerite Henry

King of the Wind

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King of the Wind Summary

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King of the Wind (1949), a children’s novel by American writer Marguerite Henry with illustrations by Wesley Dennis, tells the story of an Arabian mare and the mute slave who tends to the horse. King of the Wind won the Newberry Medal for excellence in American children’s literature.

The novel begins in Morocco at the end of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which Muslims fast to commemorate the prophet Muhammad’s first revelation of the Quran. The stableboy Agba, a mute slave, tends to his favorite horse, a pregnant Arabian mare. That night, the mare gives birth to a colt. The colt is born with a “wheat ear”— a tuft of hair on its chest that grows in the opposite direction of the rest of the hair. Pointing this out as an omen of bad fortune, the chief groom tells Agba the newborn foal must be killed. Agba, however, points out to him a spot of white on the foal’s back leg, a sign of good luck foreseeing great swiftness in the horse’s future. Because this good omen counteracts the bad, the chief groom relents, deciding to let the foal live. He does, however, prophesy that the mare will die in the coming days.

After the chief groom’s prophecy comes true and the mare dies, Agba takes it upon himself to care for the newborn foal, feeding it honey and camel’s milk. Owing to its gold coat, Agba names the horse Sham. He whispers in Sham’s ear that it will one day be “the king of the wind,” known for its superior swiftness among horses.

As Sham matures, he fulfills Agba’s whispered promise, becoming one of the fastest racehorses in all the land. The sultan selects Sham as one of the six horses to be gifted to King Louis XV of France. Along with five other stableboys, it is decided that Agba will accompany Sham wherever he goes to tend to the horse until its death. The six horses and stableboys board a ship that will cross the Mediterranean Sea from Morocco to France. Unfortunately, the ship’s captain is a greedy man who takes the money that’s supposed to be used to buy food for the horses, keeping it for himself.

When the starving horses arrive in France, the court rejects them because they are emaciated and unsuitable for racing. Despite this turn of events, Agba has no intention of abandoning Sham. Agba accompanies Sham after the horse is purchased by a cook. However, Sham has too much energy to work in a kitchen and is then sold along with Agba to a Quaker man who transports them both to England.

The two get into trouble there after Agba refuses to let the Quaker’s nephew ride Sham. As a result, Sham is sold to an inn, and Agba is barred from tending to it. Because their bond is so strong and he can’t imagine living apart from the horse, Agba breaks into the inn’s stables one night and finds evidence that Sham is being mistreated at the inn. Agba is caught and thrown in jail. Consequently, evidence of Sham’s impressive breeding and pedigree is destroyed. Fortunately, the Quaker’s housekeeper feels pity for Agba and Sham, bailing him out and finding a new home for the two of them at the estate of the Earl of Godolphin.

With no pedigree to show, Sham is treated as a workhorse by the Earl’s stables. Meanwhile, the Earl’s prize stallion, Hobgoblin is slated to mate with a fine mare named Lady Roxana. There turns out to be a love triangle of sorts between Sham, Lady Roxana, and Hobgoblin, and after Sham defeats Hobgoblin in a fight, he wins Lady Roxana’s affections and mates with her.

Embarrassed that a horse with no pedigree defeated his prize stallion, the Earl banishes Sham, Agba, and Agba’s cat Grimalkin to live life in the wild in a nature preserve called Wicken Fen.
Two years pass before the Earl comes back for Sham. Sham’s son Lath, having proven himself a capable racehorse, gives the Earl the idea to race Sham. The Earl doesn’t have much choice as he is on the brink of bankruptcy. After naming Sham “The Godolphin Arabian,” he enters the horse into the national races, which Sham wins. The Earl is awarded the queen’s purse, saving him from destitution, while Sham lives a long and fruitful life, bearing many successful racehorses and a long tree of descendants. After Sham’s eventual death, Agba returns to Morocco.

Based on a real horse from which many successful modern-day racehorses are descended, The King of the Wind is a well-researched and heartwarming tale of resilience and the bond between man and beast.