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King of the Wind

King of the Wind  
Author Marguerite Henry
Illustrator Wesley Dennis
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Rand McNally
Publication date 1948
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN NA & reissue ISBN 0-7862-2848-2

King of the Wind is a novel by Marguerite Henry that won the Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature in 1949.[1] It was made into a 1990 movie.

Plot summary

The novel is a fictionalised biography of the Godolphin Arabian, an ancestor of the modern thoroughbred. The story starts with Man O' War's victory over Sir Barton in a race. The fans expect Man O' War to race at Newmarket, but his owner chooses to end his racing career early. When questioned about his decision, he tells the story of the Godolphin Arabian.

The story starts in Morocco, and the fast of Ramadan is ending with the setting sun. The boys in the Sultan's stables begin to hungrily feast, but Agba, a mute orphan, ignores it and continues to tend to his favorite mare. She refuses to eat, even though she herself participated in Ramadan, and Agba worries for her. The Chief Groom realizes this, and realizes tonight is her birthing hour.

Agba, sleeping in the mare's stall, wakes to find a new foal in the stable. He notices a white spot on his hind heel, considered the emblem of swiftness and good luck. The Chief Groom, upon entering spots a wheat ear on the foal's chest, a sign of bad luck. He attempts to kill it, but Agba intervenes and points out the white spot. The Chief Groom considers this, then leaves, prophesying that the mare will die. Agba, undaunted, names the colt Sham because of his golden coat.

Within a few days, the prophecy is fulfilled. Agba attempts to run away from the stables, but is knocked into a camel. This gives him an idea, and he feeds Sham on camel's milk and wild honey, promising that someday he will be King of The Wind.

Sham matures into a promising racehorse, beating all of the other horses. Sham sees Agba as a mother, and they develop a close bond. The Sultan summons six horseboys to his palace, including Agba, and charges them to accompany six horses to the French king, one chestnut, one yellow dun, one dark gray, one white, one black, and one golden-colored. Sham fits the requirements and accompanies Agba to France. The horseboy is to remain with that horse until death, then return to Morocco.

Here, the supposedly great racehorses are frowned upon, believing that they are not 'lusty' enough to be racehorses. Five are sent to work in the army, but Sham remains behind to be a kitchen horse. He does not take to this well, and when Agba is gone one afternoon, causes such a mess that the cook sells him.

Agba searches desperately for Sham, finally finding him pulling water in the streets of Paris. He becomes a slave to Sham's owner, and meets Grimalkin the cat along the way.

Sham is bought by a Quaker man and taken to England. He refuses to have the Quaker's nephew ride him, and is sold to an inn. When Agba is caught sneaking in to see him, he goes to jail. The jailer destroys Sham's pedigree. Fortunately, Agba is bailed by the Quaker's housekeeper who is quite fond of him, and Sham is released from his cruel treatment at the inn. She finds him a job with the earl of Godolphin.

The Earl treats Sham as a workhorse, albeit kindly. The true celebrity in the Godolphin stables is Hobgoblin, who Sham detests. Lady Roxana, a mate meant for Hobgoblin, arrives, and Sham fights Hobgoblin for her. Lady Roxana enjoys his company, but the Earl is embarrassed. He sentences Sham, Agba, and Grimalkin to life in Wicken Fen, and they depart.

Two years later, the Earl's Chief Groom comes back and reveals that Lady Roxana had a foal with Sham, who was left alone and left untrained due to his skinniness. Lath, however, one day jumps the fence and beats some colts the Earl's training, proving his worth.

The trio come back to Godolphin, and Sham is named the Godolphin Arabian. He has two more foals with Lady Roxana, Cade and Regulus. After the Earl reveals that he is near bankruptcy, they decide to race Sham's sons in Newmarket.

They win the races and the Queen's purse, and Agba contemplates his life with Sham.

As a footnote, it is revealed the Godolphin Arabian lived long and had many successful descendants. The Earl has left his grave blank, and Agba has returned to Morocco. After the Earl's death, the dates and name of the Godolphin Arabian are put on the grave, but time is slowy erasing the words.


  1. Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922-Present


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