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The Horse And His Boy Further Up and Further

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					Further Up and Further In: Narnia Explored                                 Dr. R. Kevin Murphy

                                  The Horse and His Boy
                                      By C. S. Lewis

         C. S. Lewis’ struggle with book titles may have been most extreme in the number
of titles suggested for the book that ultimately was titled The Horse and His Boy. Lewis
sent the transcript for a story he called Narnia and the North, the publisher Geoffrey Bles
wrote back to say he didn’t like the title. In a letter dated April 13, 1953 Lewis wrote:

        What are your reactions to any of the following? The Horse and the Boy (which
        might allure the “pony-book” public) – The Desert Road to Narnia – Cor of
        Archenland – The Horse Stole the Boy – Over the Border – The Horse Bree.
        Suggestions will be welcome.

Bles wrote back, “I like best The Horse and the Boy, but what about The Horse and His
Boy, which is a little startling and conveys the idea of your other title The Horse Stole the
Boy?”1

        Pauline Baynes did the illustrations for the entire Narnia series and I believe her
best work is in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader and The Magician’s Nephew.2 Lewis
was disappointed with some of her drawings of the children in the earlier books, and
even wrote to her after seeing the drawings for Prince Caspian, “I know you made the
children rather plain – in the interests of realism – couldn’t you pretty them up a bit.” But
after seeing the illustrations for The Horse and His Boy, Lewis wrote her again (January
21, 1954):

        It is delightful to find (and not only for selfish reasons) that you do each book a
        little better than the last….Shasta among the tombs (in the new technique which
        is lovely) was just what I wanted. The pictures of Rabadash hanging on the hook
        and just turning into an ass were the best comedy you’ve done yet. The Tisroc is
        superb: far beyond anything you were doing five years ago. I thought your human
        faces – the boys, King Lune, etc. – were, this time, really good.3

       The Horse and His Boy is a true adventure story, “a pure Narnian story,” Lewis
would say. Stories from the Middle East became very popular in England in the
eighteen century, and it is not hard to see the influence of The Arabian Nights tales had
upon this story. Though there is no genie in a bottle, there is an Islamic, fatalistic and
desert-dry tone in this story of the boy Shasta and his talking horse from Narnia, Bree.
Some critics have suggested that these books border on racism. I believe Lewis simply
conceived them to be of a literary “type.”4




1
  Roger Lancelyn Green and Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: A Biography, p. 245.
2
  The quality of her illustrations in some of the reprinted paperbacks is unfortunately poor, and
many of the original illustrations are left out of the paperback editions.
3
  Green and Hooper, C. S. Lewis, p. 246.
4
  Maybe because I read this book first of all the Chronicles, it is my favorite. In the modern era,
too many critics seem to think that “criticism” needs to be largely negative. This has done a
disservice to literary criticism on the whole, but nowhere more than Biblical literary criticism.
       I’d like to begin by simply reading you the opening lines of The Horse and His
Boy, which I believe is second only to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader in its beginning.5
We learn that this story takes place during the reign of the original children who have
come into Narnia through the wardrobe. Though we are doing our studies in the order in
which these books were originally published, this book is the third in the new series,
done in chronological order.

       This opening scene gives us a flavor of the ornate, and sometimes insufferable
language used by the Calormen. I don’t believe this is done to prejudice us against
them, as much as it contrasts with the plain speaking language of the Narnians (which
any child, and most adults, would prefer).

        This story is about the identity of the boy Shasta. Lewis begins by telling us that
he calls the fisherman “Father,” but by this very description, we sense that this is not the
truth of the matter. It becomes even clearer yet when the fisherman and the Tarkaan
lord begin to bargain for Shasta.6

        This sets up Bree, the Tarkaan’s horse, who convinces Shasta that they should
run away to the North, a place where Shasta has always dreamed of, and where Bree is
from (though his memory of it is as a young foal). Bree teaches Shasta to look good in
the saddle (but never to Bree’s satisfaction), but will neither let him touch the reins nor
use any spurs. In their escape, they are chased by lions and they join with a girl named
Aravis and her [Narnia talking] horse named Hwin. We learn that Aravis is running away
from an arranged marriage. Aravis is an interesting blend of courage, intelligence and
pride. Lewis tells us, “She was proud and could be hard enough but she was as true as
steel and would never have deserted a companion, whether she liked him or not.”

        As the foursome approaches the capital city of Tashbaan, they make the horses
dirty, cut their tails (which Bree hates), and Aravis takes off the armor she is wearing
(stolen from her brother) and puts on rags so she matches Shasta and the newly shorn
and dirty horses. Remember that this is a story about identity, and three of the four
travelers have to hide theirs. That Shasta is a person of no repute is no problem. We all
think he can be invisible in the city.

       The scene where Shasta first sees the visitors from Narnia reflects Shasta’s life-
longing for “the North” (and Narnia).7 This sets up a scene of mistaken identity, when
Shasta is mistaken for Prince Corin, who has snuck away from the Narnians for an
adventure. Finally, Shasta comes face-to-face with Prince Corin and this gives him a
way of escape.

       Shasta spends the night in a graveyard and finds the whole experience terrifying.
What gets him through it is a kitty cat that seems to comfort him, but who also
disappears at the same time a lion (or some fierce beast) chases off jackals who are
howling at Shasta from the edge of darkness.8



5
  C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, pgs. 1-2.
6
  The Horse and His Boy, pgs. 4-6.
7
  Ibid. pgs. 46-47.
8
  Ibid. pgs. 70-74.


                                                  2
       The two children and the horses rendezvous in the morning as planned and
begin their arduous desert journey, but now they have more than their own escape in
mind. They have learned in Tashbaan of the plans of Rabadash to attack King Lune of
Archenland, and ultimately to destroy the Narnians as well. They are riding to warn King
Lune of this impending attack.

       They make it across the desert and finally to a river where they can be refreshed.
But though the children have a sense of urgency, the proud horse Bree insists on taking
a break.9 Now they must ride on again for several hours, and though the terrain has
changed and they are no longer in the desert, they still seem to have a long way to go.
Suddenly they see Rabadash’s army and have to get going as fast as they can (or as
Lewis says, as fast as they thought they could). Out of nowhere, lions arrive and chase
them, and Aravis is wounded by the swipe of one of the lion’s claws. This chase gives
them all the fear they need to reach the home of an old Hermit. The Hermit tells Shasta
how to run to reach King Lune quickly, which he does.

         After reaching King Lune, there is a call to arms; then everyone rushes off to
fortify the castle and prepare for battle. There is only one problem. Shasta has been
given a fresh horse, but he doesn’t know how to make that horse go, and so he gets left
behind. Night falls and Shasta begins to again feel sorry for himself. This is when he
meets the “Unwelcome Fellow Traveler” and hears his story told from the perspective of
the great Lion.10 Shasta finally learns the truth that Aslan has been present in all of the
crucial events of Shasta’s life. Shasta also begins to learn the difference between “fate”
(as taught by the Calormen by whom he was raised) and providence (where everything,
down to the smallest concern, is known and guided by a God who is completely good).11

        Meanwhile, back at the Hermit’s house, Bree is ashamed of his behavior (in
comparison to Shasta’s valor) and his cut tail is a reflection of his loss of self-respect.
Bree has always sworn “by the Lion” and “by the Lion’s mane,” but he doesn’t believe
the stories saying that Aslan is a “real lion.” Bree would rather hold to an idea[l] of the
Lion, than submit to the reality and beastliness of Aslan. I believe this scene is Lewis’
reaction to all the speculation about the “historical Jesus” that is going on at this same
time (and still rages today).12 Bree is the conversion story of The Horse and His Boy,
though Shasta learning his true identity, being the lost Prince Cor, twin of Prince Corin,
sons of King Lune of Archenland, really is the point of the whole adventure.

         Lewis fashions a classic end to the story in which great lasting friendships have
been forged, brothers will always be brothers and fight some, and girls and boys (and
women and men) who didn’t like each other at first meeting can sometimes end up
falling in love and marrying each other.13

Some Biblical parallels:
   • Exodus 1:22 – 2:10, Moses is placed in an “ark” where he is rescued by
      Pharaoh’s daughter so he can ultimately fulfill his destiny and God’s calling.


9
  Ibid. pgs. 112-115.
10
   Ibid. pgs. 136-139.
11
   See “providence” in Paul F. Ford’s Companion to Narnia, pgs. 233-234.
12
   Ibid. pgs. 168-171.
13
   Ibid. pg. 191.


                                               3
•   Exodus 3:1-10, Moses meets the mysterious God in a burning bush and this God
    reveals that “I am that I am, “or “Myself.”
•   Deuteronomy 8:11-20, God tells the nation of Israel their story from God’s
    perspective.
•   Psalm 42, the Psalmist discovers God’s presence throughout his entire life,
    especially in times of adversity.
•   Psalm 46, “God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble”
    (46:1).
•   Proverbs 3:5-6, we should always trust God and God “will make our paths
    straight.”
•   John 20:24-29, Thomas cannot believe in Jesus until he has a personal
    encounter with the risen Christ.
•   John 21:20-23, Peter asks about John’s future, but Jesus tells him in effect, “I tell
    no one any story but their own.”
•   Philippians 2:3-11, Jesus is truly human, and in his humanity becomes our Savior
    and Lord of all.




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