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THE HORSE AND HIS BOY

A novel by C.S. Lewis
(2005, Publisher [first published in 1954])

The Chronicles of Narnia, book 3
 
 

A slave boy about to be sold to a Prince meets up with a Talking Horse who offers to take him to Narnia for freedom.

 
 
 
   

-- First reading (paperback)
March 31st to April 16th, 2020

 
   

A very excellent story, told with drama, mystery, good characterization, and adventure. This is so far the best Narnia book by far. It had a purpose, the characters reacted to situations, but forced decisions of their own, as well. Three of the main characters, except for one of the horses, had strong personalities, though all knew the right thing to do in all situations. Even when they were observing global events, like the planned attack on Narnia, Susan’s planned escape, and the battle at the end, it was gripping enough that it didn’t feel like simple exposition. I’m now hoping the rest of the series is more like this.

Spoiler review:

For the first time in Narnia, I wanted to return to the story night after night. It was engaging, and characters who were distinct and who grew.

It’s obvious that Calormene isn’t a very nice place to live. Shasta was adopted by his father when he found a boat with the baby near shore, and has worked him near to death ever since, and is now willing to sell him to one of the Princes of Calormene. Aravis runs away when her father forces her to marry another Calormene Prince. Susan and Edmund need to create a distraction so they can get to the docks and sail away before the son of the Tisroc forces her to marry him.

Bree, who was the warhorse of the Prince Shasta was being sold to, engages in conversation with Shasta, and convinces him to escape to Narnia. They meet up with Aravis and her talking horse, Hwin, after being chased by lions. It’s obvious that the Lion must be Aslan, which is the only interference I don’t like in the story. Aslan also interferes by teaching Aravis a lesson later on, scratching her back with his claws, as retribution for the punishment her maid suffered so she could escape. It’s a religious message that comes out of nowhere, and isn’t relevant to the story.

As the first part of the book is their journey to the capital city of Tashbaan, it’s about getting to know them. The second part takes place as they cross Tashbaan, and Shasta and Aravis are separated. Shasta ends up with Susan and Edmund, learning about the prince’s obsession with Susan, and how they plan to create a great distraction with a feast, to get to their ship and sail away. They also let slip a secret path to Archenland and then to Narnia, across the desert. While Shasta and Aravis end up taking that path, it seems that Rabadash also knew about it, because he didn’t take his troops through the oasis as the dwarf said he would, and which would have caused half his army to die on the journey.

Aravis meets up with a friend of hers in the convoy in the main street of Tashbaan, who is the epitome of superficiality. She keeps getting distracted while agreeing to help Aravis, and I was very surprised that she didn’t betray her in the end. As it is, they go to the garden in the palace, are intercepted by the Tisroc and his son, so they hide, in exactly the room where Rabadash explains to his father his plan to attack Archenland and Narnia in his hunt for Susan.

So when Aravis, Shasta, Bree and Hwin take off across the desert, through the not-so-secret passage, they are armed with the knowledge of what’s been going on through the lands. Since Aravis was injured by Aslan, Shasta continues on alone. He meets the king, who thinks Shasta is his son, as they are splitting images of each other (Shasta met Cor, who was visiting with Susan on their trip to Calormene). But he can’t keep up with the king on the return to the castle, and takes the wrong path, so ends up in Narnia. Based on the map, I have a lot of trouble believing that Shasta could walk all that distance in one night.

Fortunately, he meets up with several Narnians, who get the word to Cair Paravel, and Edmund, Peter and Lucy show up with an army.

The battle is told in strange fashion, from the hermit’s magic mirror where Aravis is recovering, and where Bree is having a crisis of conscience, as he ran from the lion instead of helping Aravis, like Shasta did. It’s a fascinating way to describe the battle, since Shasta was knocked out of the battle right at the start. I find it hilarious that Rabadash is defeated by a hook on the wall, and ends up hanging there, unable to get down as his soldiers are slaughtered around him. Eventually, though the King offers him a way home, he ends up being cursed because he’s so full of anger. Aslan turns him into an animal, except when he’s within a short distance of a special temple in Calormene.

In the end, Shasta ends up being Prince Corin, lost son of the king, and twin of Prince Cor. He of course ends up marrying Aravis. Rabadash ends up being the nicest Tisroc of Calormene while he lives.

The author captures the sense of wonder without having everyone being completely na´ve and developing unusual knowledge and abilities, as in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It made the book much more enjoyable, and we got to discover three lands, from Calormene to Archenland and Narnia. The two main characters were interesting and had unique characteristics. I liked the way Aravis couldn’t escape her haughtiness at the apparently-lower-class Shasta, and grew to like him anyway. Bree learns that there are many types of courage, and Hwin helps him do that.

 
   

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