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 mountains effortlessly with the adventures of the Brumbies. Elyne Mitchell’s horses all talk, something which can often be an awkward literary device, but the horses do behave like horses, and their lives are portrayed vividly and realistically: Bel Bel’s bones bleach on the Ramshead. The Brumby series is a lengthy one. The fifth book, Silver 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, whose action 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.
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 article has a photograph of Elyne Mitchell, Austlit, accessed 27 Feb 2014.
The film The Silver Stallion, accessed 27 Feb 2014
A guide to the cartoon series, accessed 27 Feb 2014
Sadly there no longer appears to be internet access to the interview Jeff Prentice did with Elyne Mitchell.
Victor Ambrus: for copyright reasons, I don’t use Victor Ambrus’ pictures.