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National Velvet is a novel by Enid Bagnold (1889 - 1981), first published in 1935.

Plot summary

National Velvet is the story of a 14 year old girl, Velvet Brown, who rides her horse to victory in the Grand National steeplechase. The fictional horse which Velvet trains and rides in the Grand National is named The Pie because of his piebald coloration (in the film adaptation, Velvet names him the Pie when she disputes Mr. Ede's, the horse's owner, description of the horse as a pirate after the horse had escaped from his pasture and run amuck).

Velvet is a teenager in the late 1920s, living in a small Englishmarker coastal village of Sewels in Sussex, dreaming of one day owning many horses. Her mother is a wise, taciturn woman who was once famous for swimming the English Channelmarker; her father is a butcher.

Meeting her father's future assistant, Mi Taylor, on the road to Sewels, they both watch a fast, magnificent piebald gelding, running in a field. Velvet is immediately taken by the horse. But suddenly, he jumps the stone fence. Mi says, in passing, that a horse like that could win the National. Velvet becomes obsessed with winning the horse in an upcoming raffle and riding him to greatness.

Velvet actually does win the dream horse she has fallen in love with. And together with Mi, she starts dreaming of winning the Grand National steeplechase at Aintree racecoursemarker.

After being given her mother's winnings (in gold) from swimming the English Channel for the entry fee, Velvet and Mi take the trip to compete in the race. She gets through the jockeys' changing and weighing rooms, disguised as a Latvian jockey, and actually wins the race, but is sadly disqualified.Velvet unfortunately slips off The Pie after the winning-post due to exhaustion, and her gender is discovered in the first-aid station. The racing world is both dismayed and fascinated by a young girl's winning its toughest race and Velvet and The Pie become a nine-day wonder, with Velvet and her family nearly drowning in notoriety (which echoes her mother's unsought fame after swimming the English Channel). The National Hunt Committee exonerates all involved, and Velvet and her family return to their ordinary lives as she declines all appearance offers for fear The Pie will be uncomfortably "stared at."

Film Adaptation

The novel was made into a faithful, highly successful film version in 1944, starring twelve-year-old Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney. In June 2008, AFI revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. National Velvet was acknowledged as the ninth best film in the sports genre.


Television Adaptation

From 1960 to 1962, there was a half-hour B&W American television series, with her horse named King, airing on NBC for 54 episodes.


  • Velvet Brown - Lori Martin
  • Martha Brown - Ann Doran
  • Mi Taylor - James McCallion
  • Herbert Brown - Arthur Space
  • Edwina Brown - Carole Wells
  • King - "Blaze King"

Film Sequel

A 1978 film sequel, International Velvet, was made starring Tatum O'Neal as Sarah Brown, a young orphaned American living in England with her aunt Velvet Brown. Sarah and her aunt purchase the offspring descendant of the horse Velvet rode years ago in The Grand National Steeplechase. They name him Arizona Pi after Sarah's home state. Working with the horse, Sarah is selected to represent Britainmarker in the equine Three Day Olympic Event. While working with the horse with trainer Capt Johnson (Hopkins), she falls for an American competitor, Scott Saunders . Though distracted by him, she wins the event. Later, after marrying Saunders, Sarah returns to England and presents the medal to her aunt Velvet as a keepsake and remembrance.



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