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.