On a desperate journey, two runaways meet and join forces. Though they are only looking to escape their harsh and narrow lives, they soon find themselves at the center of a terrible battle. It is a battle that will decide their fate and the fate of Narnia itself.
Title: The Horse and His Boy
Series: The Chronicles of Narnia #5
Author: C.S. Lewis
Source: Personal library
Published: (first published 1954)
In this book we find Shasta, a young boy who has overheard two terrible things, first, that the man who raised him is not his father but merely the man who found him as a toddler and kept him as free labor, and second, his father is in negotiations with a Calormen lord who wishes to buy him as a slave. Discovering that the lord's horse, Bree, is actually a talking horse from Narnia who was captured as a foal and used as a war horse, is just as desperate to escape, they decide to team up and flee northwards to Narnia.
Along their way, they meet a young girl named Aravis. Aravis is also running away to escape being sold into marriage to a man she detests and with her is Hwin, another talking horse captured as a foal and taken from Narnia. The four meet up and together they make the journey northwards carrying a secret that they must convey to King Lune of Narnia, a secret so dire that failure would bring total destruction to the land. This is primarily a story of that journey and the adventures they encounter along the way.
I wasn't sure how I felt about this one at first but the more I thought about it, the more I liked it. I loved Hwin for her quiet courage and loyalty, Bree, despite his bravado, for his determination to do what was right, and Shasta for his bravery and moral courage.
The character that most appealed to me though was Aravis whose courage was unbelievable. For a girl in those times to defy her father, refuse an arranged marriage, and to run away to strange lands was amazing. This girl had what it took.
One thing that I've learned in reading The Chronicles is that C.S. Lewis wrote about very strong women, there were no timid, helpless damsels in distress characters, but rather women who were smart, capable and leaders in their own way. They were brave in battle, had integrity and a fierce loyalty to others without losing their femininity or gentler side.
These books are not without controversy as the religious theme becomes more obvious and stronger with each book as does his anglocentric treatment of the Islamic or Calormen people. His feelings of Christian superiority are becoming more prevalent.
Per Wikipedia: Inspiration for the series is taken from multiple sources; in addition to adapting numerous traditional Christian themes, the books freely borrow characters and ideas from Persian, Greek, Anatolian and Roman mythology as well as from traditional British and Irish fairy tales. The books have profoundly influenced adult and children's fantasy literature since World War II. Lewis's exploration of themes not usually present in children's literature, such as religion, as well as the books' perceived treatment of issues including race and gender, has caused some controversy.
Overall, I'm enjoying The Chronicles and think this book might be one of my favorites.
Originally published on www.chapterofdreams.com