Tuesday, September 27, 2011
War Horse (1982): Chapters 6-10
Joey and Topthorn have boarded the ship to France. By the time they arrive, "the wounded", remarks Joey, "were everywhere -- on stretchers, on crutches, in open ambulances, and etched on every man was the look of wretched misery and pain." Topthorn remains the greatest solace for Joey during this time, even going so far as to wake him up in the aftermaths of battles.
During the charge of a following battle, Captain Nicholls is killed, and Joey runs and runs until he reaches Captain Stewart and Tophorn on the other side. Horses lie dead everywhere.
"He'd have been proud of you, Joey," said Captain Stewart as he led me back to the horse lines with Topthorn. He'd have been proud of you, the way you kept going out there. He died leading that charge and you finished it for him. He'd have been proud of you."
Joey is introduced to his new rider, Trooper Warren, "not a good horseman" according to Joey. Eventually, however, Warren starts talking to Joey, revealing that his previous horse had been shot out underneath him and that he had been scared to ever ride a horse again. Though Warren looks after Joey "with great devotion", Joey secretly wishes somebody else would ride him in the battles.
In the winter, Joey and Tophorn keep each other company. Warren receives letters from his mother but not from his girlfriend Sally, who can't write -- "well not very well, anyway." They are able to make it to the spring, ready to face the war again.
"Do me proud, Joey," said Trooper Warren, drawing his sword. "Do me proud."
In the ensuing battle, Trooper Warren is horrified when he realizes that the field is surrounded by barbed wire. Several horses run into the wire, and one trooper, just before dying on the wire himself, is forced to shoot his horse when the wire impales it. Joey follows Topthorn as he jumps over the lowest portion of the wire, and they all find themselves surrounded by the enemy.
"Throw down your sword, Trooper," says Captain Stewart to Warren. "There's been enough useless slaughter today. No sense in adding to it." They look back and watch as the Germans begin shooting the horses still impaled on the wire, one by one. Warren and Stewart are forced to give Joey and Topthorn to the enemy since, after all, they are POWs just like them.
There was no time for long farewells -- just a brief last stroke of the muzzle for each of us and they were gone. As they walked away, Captain Stewart had his arm around Trooper Warren's shoulder.
"Two nervous soldiers" lead Joey and Topthorn away before they are tied up to a hospital tent, as several wounded soldiers "gawk" at them. A limping German officer in a gray coat with a bandage around his head orders the soldiers to stop staring at the horses, commanding them to find the horses some blankets. The man's name is Herr Hauptmann.
Hauptmann is outraged when a doctor in a bloody white coat reveals that the horses will be put to work pulling carts. The doctor understands, but reminds Hauptmann that the horses need to be put to work in order to help all the Germans and English who are already dying on the battlefield. Hauptmann is still annoyed: "When noble creatures such as these are forced to become beasts of burden, the world has gone mad. But I can see that you are right." The importance of this scene is that it shows the nobility between the Germans who fought in the war.
What the doctor does ask, however, is that Hauptmann volunteer to manage the two horses while they pull the carts. Hauptmann accepts. Noticing that Joey and Topthorn pulls the carts with ease (they've obviously done this sort of thing before), Hauptmann remarks, "I always knew the British were crazy."
Impressed, the doctor allows Joey and Topthorn to have "the luxury of a stable." That night, while they are trying to sleep, Joey is frightened by the sight of somebody coming into the barn -- it reminds him of Albert's father -- but it is actually just "a bent old man in rough clothes and clogs, and beside him stood a young girl, her head and shoulders wrapped in a shawl."
"There you are, Grandpapa," she said. "I told you they put them in here. Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? Oh, can they be mine, Grandpapa? Please, can they be mine?"
The German soldiers take a liking to Joey and Topthorn because they are helpful in pulling carts of those who are wounded. One soldier hangs an Iron Cross around Joey's neck in admiration. The Iron Cross is hung on a nail outside their stable door.
In the evenings of the summer, Joey and Topthorn are visited by the little girl and her grandfather. The little girl's name is Emilie. She dreams of riding them through the fields when the war is over. Come winter, however, she stops coming to see them, and the grandfather eventually reveals to them why. Emilie is only 13, but her parents were killed only a week after the war began and her brother was killed at 17. She prays for them all despite the fact that she is dying of pneumonia herself. Primarily, however, she prays for two things: that Joey and Tophorn survive the war and lived into old age, and that Emilie can grow up with them. "If you can understand anything of what I said," the grandfather says, "then pray for her to whatever horse god you pray to -- pray for her like she does for you."
On Christmas night, the grandfather feeds them extra mash, telling them that Emilie has been trying to get out of bed to see them.
"The only way that German doctor could get her to stay in bed was to promise to go on with them as long as the cold weather lasted. So go inside, my beauties, and eat your fill. We've all had a Christmas present today, haven't we? All's well, I tell you. All's well."