Elyne Mitchell (1913-2002) was a writer whose books were all based firmly in the
Australian landscapes she loved. She started writing during the Second World War,
when there was an upsurge in literature based in Australia as the threat of invasion
by the Japanese threw Australians back on realising the beauty and strength of their
land. Elyne Mitchell, in an interview with Jeff Prentice, said: “we thought we
might lose Australia...”
Elyne Mitchell herself lived in the Snowy Mountains area
of the Australian Alps, which is where her most popular series, The Silver Brumby,
is set. She started writing the Silver Brumby books to give her daugher, Indi, something
to read: books were hard to get, and Elyne wanted her daughter to read books with
a strong Australian content.
The early Silver Brumby books blend their descriptions of the wild Australian mounties
effortlessly with the adventures of the Brumbies. Talking horses can often be an
awkward literary device, but Elyne Mitchell’s behave like horses, and their lives
are portrayed vividly and realistically: Bel Bel’s bones bleach on the Ramshead.
Brumby Whirlwind was described on its publication as the last of the series, as Thowra
dies, but the following books are connected, with Thowra’s sons appearing. Moon
Filly, which is chronologically after Silver Brumby Kingdom, does not involve the
Silver Brumby horses, but is a connector, as Thowra meets the Moon Filly horses’
offspring in Silver Brumby Whirlwind. The later books, which move the Brumby history
on after Thowra’s death, I found over-written and almost alien: instead of being
effortless the writing seems uncomfortable and the horses peculiar. Not I know
an opinion that many of my mailing list share, but I think her first four books,
and Moon Filly, are her best.
The Silver Brumby has been made into both a cartoon series (1994), and a film (The
Silver Brumby/The Silver Stallion, 1993), starring a young Russell Crowe. The film
has had Elyne Mitchell and her daughter Indi written into it, so it’s rather a different
thing to the book.
Links There is a lot of information on Elyne Mitchell on the net. There is an excellent
Elyne Mitchell site, with details of covers and plots. Accessed 27 Feb 2014 Wikipedia
entry. Accessed 27 Feb 2014 Elyne Mitchell, biography, artefacts, Matthew Higgins,
accessed 27 Feb 2014
This articlehas a photograph of Elyne Mitchell, Austlit, accessed 27 Feb 2014.
Bel Bel gives birth to Thowra on a dark, stormy night. Thowra grows up with his friend
Storm, under the leadership of the stallion Yarraman. The Brolga fights and kills
Yarraman, and Thowra, Storm and a group of other colts leave the herd. The colt Arrow hates
Thowra, and tries to fight him, furiously jealous once Thowra and Storm take some
of the Brolga’s fillies. Arrow is defeated, and Thowra then takes the creamy mare
Golden from man
Kunama is the Silver Brumby’s daughter, whose mother is the mare
Golden. Kunama is enchanted by the black stallion Tambo, and goes after him, but this
gets her into terrible trouble when she encounters men. Not only does she have to
try and avoid the men, particularly after they have captured her and she has escaped,
the stallion Spear wants her too. At last, she is captured again, but the boy who
rides her understands her true nature, and in the end he lets her go.
Silver Brumbies of the South Hutchinson, 1965, illus Annette Macarthur-Onslow Dragon
Books, London, 1969, Peter Archer cover, 2nd left 1977, 1983, 156 pp. Armada, 1988,
pb Lions, 1992 (Griffin Paperbacks, SA, 156 pp. Pb)
Thowra now has a grandson, Baringa, son of Kunama, another silver horse like his son
Lightning. Baringa has inherited his sire’s wisdom: Lightning has not. Baringa wins
the lovely filly Dawn, and eventually a lovely filly owned by a mad stallion. Despite
the threat to him that Lightning provides, after he gets himself and his herd into trouble
during the snow, Baringa rescues him.
Silver Brumby Kingdom Hutchinson, 1966, illus Annette Macarthur-Onslow Dragon Books,
London, 1968, Peter Archer cover, 2nd left, Dragon Books 1973 (2nd right), 1977,
139 pp. Armada, London, 1988 pb (right) Lions, 1992 (Griffin Paperbacks, SA, 139 pp.
Lightning steals some horses, and Baringa loses Dawn in a flooded river. While he
is looking for her, he encounters the filly Yarolala, and the killer stallion Bolder.
Baringa and Bolder fight until they collapse, leading Yarolala to think they are
dead. Thowra hears this, and sets out to look for Baringa and Dawn.
Moon Filly Hutchinson, 1968 illus Robert Hales Children’s Book Club, 1968 Dragon, pb,
1975, 1976. Illus Robert Hales, Cover Gordon Crabb Lions, 1992 (Griffin Paperbacks,
SA, 141 pp. PB)
The little brown filly Ilinga, loses her mother, and is brought up by Wurring’s
mother. Between the colt and the filly there grows up a great loyalty, but then Iron
Grey returns to avenge the theft of the brown filly’s mother.
Son of the Whirlwind
Hutchinson, 1976, illus Victor Ambrus Dragon Books, London, 1976, 1979 (left) Lions,
1992 (Griffin Paperbacks, SA, 158 pp. PB)
“This is the story of Wirramirra, the last born son of Thowra, the Silver Brumby,
who sets off to the mountains of the south with his dam Yuri, determined to find
his fabled sire. Their search for the magnificent silver stallion is beset by death
and disaster. Other wild horses want Yuri for themselves. The two searchers are also
chased by men and endangered by fire, lightning and blizzards as they make their way
Silver Brumby Whirlwind Hutchinson, 1973, illus Victor Ambrus Dragon Books, London,
1973, 1976, 1978, 126 pp. Lions, 1992 (Griffin Paperbacks, SA, 126 pp. PB)
Thowra sees a filly dancing, and has to go after her. She is the daughter of Ilinga
and Wurring, and his hunt for her leads Thowra to some very strange country indeed.
The Colt at Taparoo Hutchinson, 1976, illus Victor Ambrus
Dragon, pb, 1978. Cover Gordon Crabb, illus Victor Ambrus, 140 pp.
The fastest foal born that spring at Taparoo is Fire, Gay’s beautiful chestnut colt.
When they ride out into the plains and mountains, they are often attacked by the
bad tempered mare Queen and her colt, but can’t understand why. Then they remember
the mystery surrounding Fire’s birth, and start to wonder just which horse was his
The Colt from Snowy River Hutchinson, 1980, illus Victor Ambrus Dragon, London, 1981
“Buzz, the thoroughbred colt from the Snowy River homestead, is the favourite of
Mary Anne Reid and her brother James. One wintry night the colt disappears. The
Reid family spend days looking for him, camping out at night under the stars. They
search for a year in all seasons, without success. The following Spring, Mary Anne
and James set out again.!
Snowy River Brumby Hutchinson, 1981, illus Victor Ambrus) Red Fox, 1984, pb
The stallion Buzz and the filly Yarrawa now have a son, Nooroo, who is thought to
be even faster than his father. Then, whilst running away from a pursuer, Nooroo
is terribly injured. Buzz heads for Mary Anne, sure she will look after his son.
Mary Anne and her father and brother then face the task of rescuing and nursing
a brumby in the snow, with all the dangers of the wild weather and other, warring
stallions. In the end, Mary Anne and Nooroo face the dilemma of whether it is better
to let him go back to the wild, or stay where he is safe.
Brumby Racer Hutchinson 1981, illustrated by Victor Ambrus
Nooroo is the son of Buzz, who featured in Snowy River Brumby. His life is divided
between racing, and living free as a Brumby. Nooroo has conflict in his life: there’s
the siren call of Babila, a red-bay Brumby mare, but then at the ranch lives the pony
mare he loves, Honey.
A ferocious storm parts the foal Tiarri from his mother, fortuitously dumping him
next to an orphaned dingo pup. Then the dingo is threatened by an eagle, but is saved
by Tiarri. After this, the three creatures: horse, dingo and eagle, form a bond, and
fight to survive together as the two young creatures try and find their mothers.
Dancing Brumby Angus & Robertson 1995
Choopa is a little blue roan foal with mis-shapen legs, who nevertheless dances like
an angel. His dam, Dandaloo, fears for his safety, and leads him up into the mountains,
away from ham. However, there is one man who will not give up his search: he once
trained Lippizaners at the Spanish Riding school, and is determined to search for Choopa.
Brumbies of the Night Angus & Robertson, 1996
The blurb: “Burra knows this foal will bring trouble. It cannot be Coolawyn’s foal
- none of the herd has seen a snow-white foal with such strange red eyes before. Who
is he really? Why is it now that the drumming hooves of galloping horses are heard
in the deepest dark of night? In the beating storms of winter, a mare cries out
in desperation... A stallion callls, searching...”
The Thousandth Brumby Angus & Robertson, 1996
What an achievement it would be to catch 1,000 brumbies: man is in the mountains
again, and hunting horses. The stallion who is the hunter’s aim does however have
help, in the unexpected form of a working dog, and a dingo.
Silver Brumby Stories Vol 1 PB, Diamond, 1993
Contains: The Silver Brumby Silver Brumby’s Daughter Silver Brumbies of the South
Silver Brumby Stories Vol 2 PB, Diamond, 1993
Contains: Silver Brumby Kingdom Silver Brumby Whirlwind Son of the Whirlwind
The Silver Brumby Movie Book (1992) by Peter Oliver Budget Books, Melbourne 1993.
PB. 138 pp.
“The behind-the-scenes-story of the making of 'The Silver Brumby'- a
film inspired by Elyne Mitchell's classic of Australian children's literature. And
the story of the movie based on the screenplay by John Tatoulis and Jon Stephens in
consultation with Elyne Mitchell.
Dancing Brumby's Rainbow Angus & Robertson, 1998
Choopa is threatened again: this time by Old Strawberry, a roan stallion who takes
against the ugly little horse, and hunts him down. Choopa however decides to mock
the older, bigger stallion, who has a beautiful miniature daughter Choopa wants for
The Silver Brumby and The Silver Brumby's Daughter Collected Edition. John Ferguson
Ptd Ltd, Sydney, NSW, 1982. 407 pp. HB
Kingfisher Feather describes a year in the life of the Dane family. They live on
a cattle station right up near the Australian Alps. This book is a departure from
the Silver Brumby stories, in that the focus is on the people, rather than the horses. The
landscape still plays a vivid part, particularly the changes that Mitchell saw altering
her beloved Alps. The two Dane children meet a lubra who foretells their future,
and says they have challenges to face before they can find the Dragonfly Cave.
Mainly this tale shows off the countryside and nature of the south west and it also
Light Horse to Damascus Hutchinson, London, 1971, illus Victor Ambrus Sun Books, 1987
Told from the horse’s point of view, this is Karloo’s story, which starts in August
1914 as he and his master Dick are loaded onto a troopship, with the rest of the Australian
Light Horse on their way to war. They landed in Egypt, where victory is short lived.
Wild Echoes Ringing (published with The Silver Brumby) Angus & Robertson, 2003