The original story was written by Ted Allan in 1949. Allan, a Jew from East End Montreal, was working at an advertising agency. David Rome, editor of the Canadian Jewish CongressBulletin, asked him to write a story immediately. Allan thought up a story and had it in Rome's hands within hours. It eventually became this Academy Award-nominated film and a novella.
The story tells of a six-year-old boy who would travel with his grandfather on an old horse-drawn cart through the alleyways in a Jewish ghetto of Montreal in the 1920s. The two would call out to residents asking to collect their old junk (a rag-and-bone man). The boy's grandfather was religious but his father was not. Eventually the grandfather dies, as does his horse Ferdeleh, leaving the boy feeling bitter toward his secular father.