King of the Wind

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King of the Wind
King of the Wind.jpg
First edition
Author Marguerite Henry
Illustrator Wesley Dennis
Country United States
Language English
Publisher Rand McNally
Publication date
Media type Print (hardback & paperback)
ISBN 0-7862-2848-2 (reissue)

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 film of the same name in 1990.[2]


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, Samuel Riddle, 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, as the fast of Ramadan is ending. Agba, a mute slave boy, tends to his favorite Arabian mare. The Chief Groom realizes that 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 the colt's hind heel, considered the emblem of swiftness and good luck. The Chief Groom spots a wheat ear on the foal's chest: a sign of bad luck. He attempts to kill the colt, but Agba points out the white spot. The Chief Groom 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 when the mare dies. Agba 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 in the stable. One day, the Sultan summons six horseboys to his palace, including Agba, and charges them to accompany six horses that are to be given as gifts to the French King Louis XV. Sham fits the requirements and accompanies Agba to France. The horseboy is to remain with that horse until death, then return to Morocco.

However, the captain of the ship charged with transporting the horses pockets the money allotted to him to buy grain and allows the horses to go hungry. When the now emaciated racehorses arrive in France, they are frowned upon by the French, who believe that they are not 'lusty' enough to be racehorses. Sham becomes a kitchen horse but causes such a mess that the cook sells him. Agba becomes a servant to Sham's owner and meets Grimalkin the cat along the way.

Sham is bought by a Quaker man and taken to England. When Sham refuses to let the Quaker's nephew ride him, his owner sells him to an inn. When Agba is caught sneaking in to see the horse, he goes to jail. The jailer destroys Sham's pedigree. Fortunately, Agba is bailed out by the Quaker's housekeeper, and Sham is released from his cruel treatment at the inn. The housekeeper 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 the stallion Hobgoblin, whom Sham detests. Lady Roxana, a mate meant for Hobgoblin, arrives, and Sham successfully fights Hobgoblin for her. Lady Roxana enjoys Sham's company, but the Earl is embarrassed by the incident. He sentences Sham, Agba, and Grimalkin to life in Wicken Fen, and they depart.

Two years later, the Earl's Chief Groom comes to see Agba and reveals that Lady Roxana gave birth to Sham's son Lath, who was left untrained. Lath, however, one day jumped a fence and outran some of the colts that the Earl was training, proving his worth.

The trio come back to Godolphin, and Sham is named the Godolphin Arabian. After the Earl reveals that he is near bankruptcy, they race Sham's sons at 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 left his grave blank, and Agba returned to Morocco, content that his task on earth was completed. After the Earl's death, the dates and name of the Godolphin Arabian are put on the grave, but time is slowly erasing the words as if in respect to the earl's wishes.


Reviewed by the New York Times.


Preceded by
The Twenty-One Balloons
Newbery Medal recipient
Succeeded by
The Door in the Wall