Edwina J. Cruise, Mt. Holyoke College
Among the well known equine heroes in Russian literature, two lead the field in expressing their ideas and their feelings: Tolstoj's eloquent talking horse Strider and Kuprin's no less eloquent Emerald. Both writers draw energy for their narratives from the near mythic reputation of the Orlov Trotter. Both fictional horses are based on real-life horses who owe their enduring fame to their horse-loving creators.
Kuprin explicitly acknowledges his debt to Tolstoj in his dedication to "Emerald": "Dedicated to the memory of the incomparable pie-bald trotter Strider." Unrecognized among the connections between these two horse stories is the reverse face of homage: Kuprin, the young and newly famous kid on the literary block, seems to be testing himself against the near octogenarian Tolstoj. That is to say, in "Emerald" Kuprin challenges Tolstoj to a horse contest. Kuprin's innovations and departures relative to Tolstoj's story translate into essential features of the "Znanie" School of neo-realism.