Ah, the Golden Age…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

The Horse and His Boy is a peculiar Narnian tale, for one important reason: it is the only one that takes place during Narnia’s “Golden Age”, that mythological time during the four Pevensies’ reign. It is also one of only two tales to focus more-so on a native of the region (Shasta/Cor in The Horse and His Boy and King Tirian in The Last Battle) versus a son of Adam or daughter of Eve. The tale instead follows Shasta and Bree, Aravis and Hwin, an orphan, a Tarkheena, and two Talking Horses of Narnia attempting to escape Calormen for the wonderful land of Narnia.

Needless to say, it’s not a simple adventure. Along the way, the Talking Horses have to disguise themselves as poor slavehorses in the city, Shasta gets confused for Archenland royalty, and they all stumble on a plot by the Tisroc’s son Rabadash to forcefully wed Queen Susan and conquer Narnia and Archenland.

The story follows Shasta almost exclusively, though there is a moment or two where C. S. Lewis takes a step back to show us Aravis and the Talking Horses’ perspective when necessary. Aslan is woven into this tale a bit differently than before, in that he appears many times, but does not make this known until events are coming to an end. After all, Shasta and Aravis are not Narnians and had not known of or believed in Aslan prior. He spurs them onwards in haste so that they may warn the King Lune of Archenland in time, he protects Shasta from the lonely night amongst the tombs. He even exacts even pain upon Aravis so that she may understand what pain she caused her slave for involving her in her escape so selfishly. (But, of course, we do not know of anything else happening to this slave girl, for we are not to know anyone’s story but our own.)

What I particularly loved about this story was the fact that we got to see the Narnians from the “outside”. Their procession in Tashbaan was a lovely contrast to the rest of the city, and beloved characters were involved, so what’s not to love? Edmund has always been my favorite, and he is dominant in both sections of the story that features the Narnians. It’s the only time in the breadth of these stories that we see him acting as an experienced king, and it always makes me smile (even when he goes and beheads an enemy! He was never particularly shy about battle, was he?). There’s two things I sorely wish were written by C. S. Lewis, the first being the story of the day the enchanted tree protecting Narnia from Jadis died, and the second being a longer glimpse into Narnian lifestyle during the Golden Age. I’ve always been fascinated by it.

Despite its peculiarities compared to other tales, The Horse and His Boy is just as good as the rest and deserves its place in the chronicles. As a follow-up to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I think it handles the task beautifully. We experience a longing for a magical, peaceful land when we visit these tales, and that’s precisely what Shasta is going through, so it’s easy to slip this on like a glove and enjoy the ride.

Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? It can be purchased here.

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~Lils

It began with a wood…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

Now, there’s an interesting aspect to reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Do you read via publication order, or chronological order? Personally, I was too young to have known there was a difference when I first read the series, so I continue to read by chronological. That makes The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe book two, in my world. And boy, is it magical.

This particular journey is very special to me. I still have no clear memory of the first time I read it. What I do remember is this old, freaky-looking production VHS of it that was two parts long. The freakiest part of it for me was introduced at the very end of tape one, Maugrim the wolf! His makeup was the first time I’d see a human dressed as an animal (that I’m able to remember). I watched this VHS at my grandmother’s every time I visited. As far as I’m concerned, this was the first time I believed in magic. At some point, someone had the book and I read it. I didn’t personally own a copy of it until about 2001. I’m pretty sure I picked it up when my aunt began this magical tradition of taking me out on Tuesdays to Barnes and Noble for a book and a coffee/hot chocolate. Many things started with that. I started regularly visiting book stores, more frequently drinking coffee, and had a return to the magic of reading that I’d lost for a couple of years. Tuesdays have since become my favorite of days.

But, to the novel! It’s a story about magic, faith, and doing what’s right, brought to the reader via talking animals and new worlds. If you’ve read The Magician’s Nephew, then you are familiar with the country of Narnia itself, as well as Professor Kirk. The Pevensies are introduced here (though not as the Pevensies, but rather, their first names–Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy), and they are arguably the most important of all the children of Adam and Eve that visit Narnia. Peter may be the high king above all kings, but Lucy is easily argued to be Aslan’s favorite. Who is Aslan? Not a tame lion, to be sure. For religious readers, he is allegorical Jesus, but for others, he is enjoyable without this connection. He is a symbol of all that is good about Narnia, and his struggle against the White Witch is aided by the Pevensies, who must reclaim Narnia for the Talking Beasts.

My absolute favorite of Narnia is Edmund Pevensie. He has the most growth of the four English children, and I probably identified with the concept of being rotten for rotten’s sake, and what he did to overcome this behavior. Without him, one could argue that the battle would have been lost, because only he had the sense to strike Jadis’ wand, shattering it. One could also argue that Aslan would have defeated the enemy anyway, but he does not ever do anything of great significance without it being an act of aid of those who place their faith in him and act on their own in his name.

This was the original tale of Narnia, and it is very much its own story and feels very complete. Other tales include a sort of aside that alludes to another tale, or at least, the potential of one. If I’m not mistaken, this story is also mentioned in some small way (and in some cases, in some not-so-small) in every other book. It is the story of Narnia, of the start of the Golden Age. Its citizens are quite fond of this battle, of the Pevensies. You can’t help but feel the same. Narnia was won here, as was my heart.

If you wish to stir an imagination to life, a love of reading, and perhaps even goodness for the sake of being good, I say The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is the place to start. It’s not a particularly modern tale, but it is an everlasting one. The artwork, should you choose a publication that features it, is gorgeous and encourages the imagination to flourish. I cannot recommend this story enough. Even if you never read the other books in the series, this is certainly the one.

Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? It can be purchased here.

~Lils

At the birth of a New World…

S-BOMB warning. That’s SPOILER-ALERT, for those less crude than I.

Now, truthbomb, I’m technically reading from The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, but I’m reviewing the books individually as I read them. The reason I’m reading a complete edition is because this particular thick book is very special to me. I own each story separately, but I managed to get the hardcover edition of the complete set with all the original art that I grew up loving for a $1 on a gift card (in particular, this gift card came from Kelly Baker for helping her with her first novel, so it was all-around special).

Now, these reviews may be on the lighter side, but that’s mostly because I believe in the magic of these books. They’re touted as a great Christian tale, but I’m not religious, so what I can say is this is the series that made me believe in magic and goodness for the sake of being good. The books are arranged in chronological order, according to time in Narnia, so while The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe was written first, The Magician’s Nephew is catalogued as book one. As such, we do not yet meet the Pevensies, the Golden Age’s kings and queens, but rather, Digory Kirke and Polly Plummer.

Digory’s primary motivation behind most of his actions is his mother’s health (she is dying of cancer, from what I can tell). Polly’s is mostly to experience adventure and not to abandon Digory in his rum poor situation as the story progresses. It is a friendship that lasts, as you find out at the end of the series. Their actions weigh heavily on the fate of Narnia. Digory’s poor behavior leads to Jadis, Queen of Charn (the infamous White Witch), being unleashed upon Narnia at its very birth. This ties into important events throughout the series.

Personally, I find the introduction works beautifully, knowing that this was not truly the first book. It’s a visually stunning book, the word choice guiding one along from London attics to the desolate Charn to the first sunrise of Narnia. It’s a great start to the magic of the series, and lays the foundations for most of the themes that appear in the other books. Visually-speaking, if I were to option any of the books for an immediate movie or other visual representation, I’d go with this one. To hear the great song of Aslan as the stars appear, singing in the sky, to the boiling earth erupting with animals, to the secret garden atop the hill far to the west… I just think this one would be stunning.

It’s worth mentioning that C. S. Lewis utilizes a specific technique, where he does not specifically and strictly write out the details to scenes, characters, and the like. He sort of gives a general blueprint and allows the reader to fill in the gaps, which is amazing for a children’s book. It especially allows children to create their own Narnia, to become the main characters, and to live in that world, an impressive and useful thing when encouraging one to use their imagination. As with the Narnian tales, it’s not all pristine and beautifully perfect in the end. Digory’s mother is saved, Uncle Andrew the deviant magician becomes nicer for the rest of his years, and the wardrobe the Pevensies use to get to Narnia is built, but Jadis is free in the northern countries, fated to return to Narnia and attack… when, as Aslan said, it will be sons of Adam and daughters of Eve to protect Narnia, as it was they who first brought evil to this new world.

Honestly, this book leaves me with just one story I wished was written–what happened to the silver apple tree Digory planted to shield Narnia from the witch? As long as it stands, she will not approach Narnia, but it eventually is gone. There is never again mention of it, which leads me to believe the people of Narnia eventually forgot to care for the tree, forgot of its protection. The passage of time and what it does to traditions, histories, and beliefs is often visited in this series. But boy do I wish there was a short story detailing the fall of that great tree.

Interested in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician’s Nephew? It can be purchased here.

~Lils