Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (1947)

Misty of Chincoteague Book Cover

Marguerite Henry (1902–1997) was an American children’s book author who wrote some fifty-nine novels inspired by true stories of horses and other animals. Her most famous novel, Misty of Chincoteague (1947), was the first in a series of six stories centered around a wild palomino pony named Misty.

Set in the island town of Chincoteague, Virginia, the novel stars Misty and her mother (Phantom) along with brother and sister Paul and Maureen Beebe. While the book is a work of fiction, the story is based on real people and ponies of Chincoteague Island.

In 1948, Misty of Chincoteague received the Newbery Honor Award and went on to become a classic children’s horse story, right up there with Black Beauty. The book was a bestseller, reprinted numerous times, and is still in print.


A brief introduction

Misty of Chincoteague tells the story of Paul Beebe and his sister, Maureen, who live with their grandparents Clarence and Ida Beebe on Chincoteague Island. Paul and Maureen work on their grandfather’s farm to help him train and breed ponies while always dreaming of having a pony of their own someday.

Finally, after working numerous jobs, Paul and Maureen earn enough money to purchase a pony at the Pony Penning auction. The mare they purchase is named Phantom, and she has escaped the roundup men on Pony Penning Day for two years. Much to everyone’s surprise, Paul captures Phantom and her newborn foal Misty on the roundup.

Paul and Maureen decide to purchase Phantom and Misty at the auction. They spend the next year training Phantom to ride and keeping Misty out of trouble. The following year, Paul rides Phantom in the main race on Pony Penning Day.

Phantom wins, but she becomes upset when she sees the herd she used to belong to being released to swim back to Assateague Island. She is released by Paul and gallops to join the herd as they return to their ancestral island in search of freedom, while Misty stays behind with Paul and Maureen.

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Marguerite Henry and Misty

Marguerite Henry with the real Misty
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Original 1947 review of Misty of Chincoteague

From the Chicago Tribune, November 16, 1947: “A wild, ringing neigh shrilled up from the hold of the Spanish galleon,” and we’re off to a fine start in this beautiful horse story from the talented author-artist combination who gave us Justin Morgan Had a Horse. The neigh came from one of a band of Moor ponies sent to Peru long years ago and shipwrecked off the Virginia coast. Legend has it that the wild ponies who, alone, inhabit Assateague Island today, are their descendants.

This is the story of two children, Paul and Maureen, who lived on their grandpa’s pony ranch on the nearby island of Chincoteague, and whose great desire was to own and tame one of these ponies, a mysterious wild mare names the Phantom, who had never been captured in the annual roundup.

By a miracle it fell to Paul this year, on his first roundup ride, to help bring in not only the Phantom but her little colt, which he and Maureen named Misty because in the woods she had seemed like a bit of “white mist with the sun on it.”

The story tells how, after working hard to earn the money to buy both ponies, they almost lost them; how they cared for and trained them to the islanders’ amazement; and how Phantom won a race and was given her freedom. It all makes a fine tale for seven to fourteen-year-olds.

Based on true incidents and people on little-known Chincoteague, stories and pictures race along as light and as free as the wild ponies themselves, and the characters—with a special bow to Grandpa Beebe—are as salty and as real as the island life they lead and the sea air they breathe.”

Misty's Hoofprints

The real Misty’s hoofprints. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
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The Real Misty of Chincoteague

Marguerite Henry’s inspiration for the novel, Misty of Chincoteague, came from her personal travels to Chincoteague Island to see the annual Pony Roundup and Swim.

Misty was a twelve-hand palomino pinto pony owned by Clarence and Ida Beebe when Henry first met her. At first, Clarence denied Henry’s request to buy Misty from him and take her back home as the model for her new book. After Henry promised Clarence that she would include his grandkids, Paul and Maureen, in her manuscript, Misty was sold for $150 and delivered to Henry after being weaned from Phantom.

Misty remained with Henry for several years and appeared with her at numerous events for fans at schools, museums, and horse shows. Misty passed away in her sleep on October 16, 1972, at age twenty-six. As of 2015, there are two hundred known descendants of Misty.

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Misty Film Poster. . . . . . . . . .

1961 Film Adaptation

Misty, the first and only cinematic adaptation of Henry’s novel, was released on June 4, 1961. The film was directed by James Clark and written by Ted Sherdeman. Actors David Ladd, Arthur O’Connell, and Pam Smith starred in the film.

With a budget of $705,000, this 20th Century Fox film remains the same family classic it was in 1961 when it was one of the highest-grossing non-Disney family films of the year. On Rotten Tomatoes, 63 percent of audience members awarded it a 3.7 out of 5 rating, while a top critic called it a “faithful adaptation of the iconic children’s book.”

The majority of the movie was shot on the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague. While the events of Misty of Chincoteague are depicted in the film, Misty herself was not in the film, as she was too old to play the role of a young foal.

Misty did, however, make an appearance at the Island Theater in Chincoteague, VA, where she left her front hoofprints in cement in front of the theater’s entrance when the film initially premiered. Her hoofprints are still visible on the sidewalk today, where Henry inscribed Misty’s name in the cement beneath them.

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Miss Molly's Inn

Miss Molly’s Inn at Chincoteague. Photo: Mistysheaven.com
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Remembering Misty

After their deaths, Misty and her foal Stormy were taxidermized and put on display at the Museum of Chincoteague Island. They are the centerpieces of the display on Misty, which also includes artifacts and memorabilia from the Beebe Ranch.

Each year, there is still a Pony Penning Day and an auction in Chincoteague, VA. It takes place in July and attracts approximately 50,000 visitors who come to watch the ponies swim across the channel and parade down the street to the pony pens. You can even stay at Miss Molly’s Inn in Chincoteague, VA, where Henry penned part of her novel.

The time capsule buried alongside Misty’s statue at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, will be opened on the 100th anniversary of her birth in 2046.

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Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry
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Quotes from Misty of Chincoteague

“The ponies were exhausted, and their coats were heavy with water, but they were free, free, free!”

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“‘If you look close,’ he whispered, ‘you can see that wild critters have ‘No Trespassing’ signs tacked up on every pine tree.’”

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“Facts are fine, far as they go… but they’re like water bugs skittering atop the water. Legends, now — they go deep down and bring up the heart of a story.”

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“With Phantom and Misty things happened the other way around. Misty accepted human beings right from the start. Their hands felt good to her.”

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Misty of Chincoteague Quote. . . . . . . . . .

“The roundup, the discovery of Misty, the swim across the channel-they all melted into this. The moments rushed on. The storm quieted.”

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“Maureen saw Misty stretched out at her mother’s feet. Her heart warmed at the sight of them.”

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“When they could eat no more, they pawed shallow wells with their hooves for drinking water. Then they rolled in the wiry grass, letting out great whinnies of happiness. They seemed unable to believe that the island was all their own. Not a human anywhere. Only grass. And sea. And the wind.”

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“This was it! This was the exciting smell that had urged them on. With wild snorts of happiness, they buried their noses in the long grass. They bit and tore great mouthfuls- frantically, as if they were afraid it might not last. Oh, the salty goodness of it! Not bitter at all, but juicy-sweet with rain.”

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Contributed by Anna Fiore: Anna is a 2021 graduate of SUNY-New Paltz, majoring in Communications, with a concentration in Public Relations and a minor in journalism.

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3 Responses to “Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry (1947)”

  1. There is a Crisis happening on Chincoteague Island VA – the Birthplace of ( Misty of Chincoteague ) made famous by the award winning series of books by Marguerite Henry – The historic Ranch is endanger of being developed- It has been offered to the Museum of Chincoteague at a reduced price – but they are struggling to raise the money in the time allotted- if there is anyway for your organization to pass this information on to concerned parties. I know first hand how this simple book has impacted so many young horse lovers, who have grown to be, owners, riders, breeders, groomers and Equestrian enthusiasts.
    Here is their official press release:

    Help Save the Beebe Ranch
    Home of Misty of Chincoteague :

    Press Release
    For Immediate Release
    Chincoteague Island is fortunate to have visitors come from around the world to enjoy the untampered seashore, amazing wildlife, and quaint historical downtown. Many of those visitors also come because of “Misty of Chincoteague” a book published in 1947 by Marguerite Henry that inspired millions. “Misty of Chincoteague” tells the against-the-odds story of two siblings Paul and Maureen Beebe.
    These two children lived on the ranch with their grandparents, Clarence and Ida Beebe (affectionately called Grandma and Grandpa Beebe in the story). The charming story centers on the children’s desire to buy the wild pony of their dreams and the challenges they faced to make that dream a reality. It is a heartwarming tale that made the Beebe family, Misty and the Beebe Ranch a beloved part of the literary world.

    After 100 years, the Beebe family need to sell the ranch. The demands of maintaining the ranch plus the desire to use the funds to help their aging family is certainly a good enough reason to sell. We appreciate all they have done to preserve the remaining 10.3 acres of the ranch. This property is where Misty spent most of her life, and the original home still stands.

    The Beebe family has reached out to the Museum of Chincoteague in the hopes that the museum could acquire the property and maintain it as the ranch. Allowing it to be incorporated into the museum, would help protect it for many years to come. Because of the circumstances, the museum has been given one month to see if they can generate the funds to purchase the property.

    The mission of the Museum of Chincoteague Island is to preserve, collect and protect the history of Chincoteague and Assateague Island. It is with this mission in mind that we would like to ask the public to join us to save the Beebe Ranch. If we can raise the funds in what can only be called a colossal, grassroots effort, we can preserve the ranch for future generations, keep a treasured part of Chincoteague intact and support the mission of the museum to protect our history, making the Beebe Ranch an officially an extension of the museum. Since we have been given one month to generate the funds, please understand that this can’t be done without you!

    We are asking you to consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Museum of Chincoteague Island. The family has already been given an offer by a developer for that amount. If we are not successful in raising our goal, the donor will be able to decide if they would like their donation returned.

    The Museum of Chincoteague Island’s mailing address is PO Box 352 Chincoteague, Va 23336 if you are interested in sending a check. Donations can also be made through our website http://chincoteaguemuseum.com or Go-fund-Me: https://gofund.me/bd12d625
    ******Please note that our info might say “Oyster Museum dba Museum of Chincoteague Island” but that is still accurate*****
    Together we can make this happen!!!!


    Thanks so much

  2. How do you know if you have an original of this book Misty of the Chincoteague? and what is its value for insurance purposes?

    • On the copyright page, see if it says “First Edition.” However, this likely isn’t a rare book in any case, as it was quite popular. I’m not in a position to know valuations, but you might try going to https://www.abebooks.com/ and putting the title in the search bar; try to find editions that are similar to yours and you’ll get a sense of what they’re going for. I hope that helps!

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