book review

A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back

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I have this collection of beautiful red dala horses from Dalarna Sweden. I’ve always wondered why they originated and if there is a folkloric story behind them.

The wait is over! Ursula Le Guin, my college english professor, has crafted a brilliant tale about a little girl who goes searching for her brother who has been stolen by trolls.

Author Ursula K. Le Guin writes:

“When I visited Sweden a couple of years ago, a friend there gave me as a parting gift a little red wooden horse, a Dalarna (or Dala) Horse, a symbol of Sweden. I then bought myself a very little one, a colt, to give my granddaughter Lyra.

I thought perhaps there was some story about them. But there seemed to be no legend. The furniture-makers of Dalarna carved little wooden horses from their scraps of wood, and painted them red, with flower garlands – and everyone who saw them loved them!

As a child I had a book about a wooden horse that comes to life. The book was missing some pages – and it was in German! I would only make up the story by looking at the charming pictures. Perhaps it was memories of that half-told tale that made my little red mare begin to come to life in my mind. But the tale she told me was a new one.”

A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back by Ursula K Le Guin, illustrated by Julie Downing.

Having no one to guide her except for a little red toy horse pointing the way from inside her coat pocket, a young girl goes looking for her brother who was taken by trolls. As they approach a bridge, a troll jumps out from underneath. Springing to life, the red horse becomes the girl’s protector. For one night the horse is alive to help her find her brother.

Coming to a cave they find the young brother among many rude and ugly trolls. Using her knitting needles, wit and bravery, the young girl brings happiness back to her family by returning home with her brother.

Perfect for read aloud time, this captivating story and beautiful illustrations has become a favorite which we read over and over again.

Something To Do:

Your own little Red Mare.

Would you like a little red mare to be your friend or to ride along in your pocket? Here’s one to make of your very own.

The Red Mare

The Simple Scarf

The scarf and knitting play a big part in this book. The little girl brought a scarf she had knitted for her brother to keep him warm once she found him. To outsmart those trolls and to bring her brother back, she left them with some yarn and needles. As they tried to figure it out, she snuck out with her brother. Try a simple scarf of your very own.

A Simple Scarf

Make your own knitting needles

photo: Disney Family Fun

Nothing says special than originally designed knitting needles. This is so easy to do and we passed a very fun morning crafting these.

Knitting Lessons For Kids

From Daily Knitting:

Download How to Knit for Beginners: Easy Knitting Instructions to Help You Learn to Knit!

This free eBook is full of tips and tricks for beginning knitters, including lots of illustrations. A great resource for learning how to knit.

Enjoy “A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back”


The Sharing Corner:

Shortly after I posted about “A Ride on a Red Mare’s Back”, blogging friend Heidi sent me a quick e-mail excitedly saying that just the day before she had discovered this book. She kindly has shared some wonderful links that will enrich all of our experiences with A Ride on a Red Mare’s Back. Please enjoy and a huge thank you to Heidi.

Listen to author Ursula K. Le Guin read “A Ride on a Red Mare’s Back” 

There is a long music intro by  Third Angel New Music Ensemble and composed by Bryan Johanson, which really sets the mood. We listened to this while we sat by the fire crafting. Such a jewel of an experience.

Tears of Joy Puppet Theater

The Tears of Joy Puppet Theater has made a play of “A Ride on a Red Mare’s Back“. Here is a wonderful curriculum download to go along with the performance. If you have a chance to see it please go.

Dala Horse Embroidery Pattern

Blogging friend Lily Boot from Block-A-Day was also inspired by this lovely story and created a beautiful stitch pattern to remember it by. You can find it here.

Again thank you Heidi for sharing all of these links. Interested in Ursula Le Guin? You can find out more about her here.











1 thought on “A Ride on the Red Mare’s Back

  1. This looks like such a fun read Valerie, I’m wondering just how she uses her knitting needles to return her brother. 🙂

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