In the Footsteps of Monty

The Lewis Legacy-Issue 81, Summer 1999 The C.S. Lewis Foundation for Truth in Publishing

A horse-training memoir that is mostly horsefeathers?

The Horse Whisperer (Dell, 1995), an enormously popular novel by British author Nicholas Evans, hit number one on the New York Times bestseller list. In 1996 Robert Redford made the movie.

American horse trainer Monty Roberts’ The Man Who Listens to Horses (Random House, 1996) presented him as “a real life horse whisperer.” He claimed in interviews that the Evans novel and film were based on him. Dateline made him a national celebrity, and by the end of 1998 he had sold 800,000 hardcovers.

In 1997 Evans protested in the London Daily Telegraph. “Monty, no doubt to promote his own book (whose cover bears an uncanny similarity to my own), has been claiming that I talked to him through the night, came to see his demonstrations, modeled my main character on him, even ‘paraphrased his life.’ None of these things is true. Monty’s claim to have turned down Robert Redford’s offer to be the horse consultant on the film is untrue. He pestered Redford’s office with calls and they didn’t want him.” Evans based his novel on three horsetrainers whom he names.

Among other exploits, Roberts tells of enduring brutality from a savagely violent father, taming wild horses in Nevada, becoming a close friend of James Dean, riding in 100 Hollywood films, doubling for Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet, and fathering 47 foster children. Research shows these claims and others to be totally false, and his relatives and past associates in the horse world are outraged. In terms of horsey satire by Jonathan Swift, it seems that Roberts is a Yahoo in a Rolex.

Nancy-Lou Patterson, Distinguished Professor Emerita, University of Waterloo, is Reviews Editor of Mythlore.

An internationally recognized scholar, author and liturgical artist, she publishes frequently on C. S. Lewis.