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Overview of The Red Pony: A Story of Love between a Boy and his Horse that Transcends Species

 A young boy stands next to a pony in a field with hills in the background.
A publicity still from the movie of The Red Pony (1949), featuring Peter Miles (Tom, aka Jody Tiflin).

Set in the valley just outside of Salinas, California between the Santa Lucia and the Gabilan Mountains, John Steinbeck's The Red Pony is a collection of four short stories: The Gift, The Great Mountains, The Promise, and The Leader of the People. Traditionally viewed as a bildungsroman, or a story that follows the psychological maturation of a young protagonist, the collection dramatizes several significant events in the life of the young boy Jody as he learns important lessons about nature, life, and death from interactions with his mother Ruth Tiflin, his stern father Carl Tiflin, the wise ranch hand Billy Buck, old Gitano, his grandfather, and several animals. The Red Pony is marked by Steinbeck's clear and engaging prose and several vivid descriptions of the Salinas Valleys beautiful landscape, which serves as the setting for many of Steinbeck's most well known works.

The Gift and The Great Mountains first appeared in The North American Review in 1933. The Leader of the People was published by Argosy in 1936. The Promise appeared in Harpers Magazine in 1937. The first three stories were eventually collected and published in a limited, autographed edition in 1937. The Leader of the People was included along with the other three stories when they were published together at the end of The Long Valley by The Viking Press in 1938. The Red Pony, containing all four stories, was finally released as a separate edition for the first time in 1945.

The Red Pony film, directed by Lewis Milestone, was released in 1949. A TV adaptation of The Red Pony was released in 1973 starring Henry Fonda as Carl Tiflin.