Author: C. S. Lewis
Paperback: 767 pages
Publish Date: 1998
Miscellaneous: This edition is part of a complete collection in one book copy. It was chronologically published fifth but is meant to be read third in the series.
He was just going to run for it when suddenly, between him and the desert, a huge animal bounded into view. As the moon was behind it, it looked quite black, and Shasta did not know what it was, except that it had a very big, shaggy head and went on four legs. It did not seem to have noticed Shasta, for it suddenly stopped, turned its head towards the desert and let out a roar which re-echoed through the Tombs and seemed to shake the sand under Shasta’s feet. The cries of the other creatures suddenly stopped and he thought he could hear feet scampering away. Then the great beast turned to examine Shasta.
“It’s a lion, I know it’s a lion,” thought Shasta. “I’m done. I wonder, will it hurt much? I wish it was over. I wonder, does anything happen to people after they’re dead? O-o-oh! Here it comes!” And he shut his eyes and his teeth tight.
But instead of teeth and claws he only felt something warm lying down at his feet. And when he opened his eyes he said, “Why, it’s not nearly as big as I thought! It’s only half the size. No, it isn’t even quarter the size. I do declare it’s only the cat!! I must have dreamed all that about it being as big as a horse.”
And whether he really had been dreaming or not, what was now lying at his feet, and staring him out of countenance with its big, green, unwinking eyes, was the cat; though certainly one of the largest cats he had ever seen.
-The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis, page 246
The Horse and His Boy, though published fifth, is meant to be read third in the series. It is an interim book telling a story that takes place within the time of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and features the adults Kings Peter and Edmund and Queens Susan and Lucy.
The book begins, “This is the story of an adventure that happened in Narnia and Calormen and the lands between, in the Golden Age when Peter was High King in Narnia and his brother and his two sisters were King and Queens under him.” And then opens on a poor fisherman’s hut where a cruel middle-aged bachelor and his foundling son, Shasta, live. When a Tarkaan (something like a lord or baron) stops at the house and offers to buy Shasta, the boy is relieved to be leaving the man he’d always thought was his father but had never loved.
However, his relief is short-lived when the Tarkaan’s horse turns out to be one of the talking Horses of Narnia who tells him that he’d be better off lying dead on the roadside than as the slave of the Tarkaan. Bree, the Horse, tells Shasta he was kidnapped as a Foal and is really a Freeperson of Narnia. He further tells the boy that he himself is not a Caloremenian, but is a Narnian (or Archenlander) as well.
The two devise a plan of escape, and when the men are sleeping in the house, the Horse and the boy set off for Narnia and the North. Along the way, they meet up with another Narnian Horse, a mare named Hwin, and a young girl named Aravis, who is a Tarkeena running away from an arranged marriage to a horribly wicked and hideous old man.
As they set out to pass through the capital city, though, the four are stopped by a procession of the Narnian Royals and Shasta is snatched out of crowd by Edmund who mistakes him for the missing Archenland Prince in their company. This turns out to be a blessing, as Shasta learns of a hidden path that greatly shortens the trek through the desert that lies between Calormen and the lands of the North.
Throughout this book, there is a force leading, guiding, and protecting the four. Of course, anyone who’s read the previous Narnia book knows this is Aslan, who has been working behind the scenes for the past 10-15 years (Shasta’s age is never given) to ensure that Archenland and Narnia will be safe from the attack of the Calormenian Prince Rabadash.
The Horse and His Boyis also Christian allegory, this time expressing the steadfastness and ever-present nature of Christ, even when we don’t realize he’s there (as Shasta was unaware of the true identity of the cat that protected and comforted him in the Tombs), and even before we know Him or follow Him (as neither Shasta nor Aravis new of Aslan, and in fact served other gods). You cannot help but love Aslan as he reveals himself, and how he has been watching after them throughout their lives. It’s very comforting to know He is always with us and caring for us, even when we’re stubbornly going our own way and resisting His hand.
Though I can’t say I liked The Horse and His Boy more that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I definitely liked it more than The Magician’s Nephew (though I still love the Creation of Narnia), and thoroughly loved and enjoyed it. I absolutely give this book 5 out of 5 stars
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Filed under: Book Reviews | Tagged: Archenland, arranged marriage, aslan, battle, C. S. Lewis, Calormen, Christian allegory, Edmund, escape, good versus evil, Lucy, Narnia, Peter, run away, slavery, Susan, talking animals, Tumnus | 7 Comments »