Book #41

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and his Boy is a stirring and dramatic fantasy story that finds a young boy named Shasta on the run from his homeland with the talking horse, Bree. When the pair discover a deadly plot by the Calormen people to conquer the land of Narnia, the race is on to warn the inhabitants of the impending danger and to rescue them all from certain death.

This was a much needed and refreshing change from the world of Narnia. Set in the nearby kingdom of Calormen, we’re treated to a tale of mistaken identities, nurturing bonds, and escaping turmoil.

My interest in Narnia’s surrounding kingdoms was piqued in Dawn Treader with the first idea of these being planted. Although in the same world as Narnia, these kingdoms are significantly less magical, with a lack of talking animals and no big king lion to keep them all on track. In Calormen, it’s believed the Narnians are barbarians - odd and mystical, yet not respected.

We meet Shasta and his father, and soon find out his father found him washed up on the shore as a baby, in a weather beaten rowboat. Questions immediately began to swim around in my mind about who Shasta really was, but it doesn’t take too long to work out. He meets a talking horse, and since his adopted father is a cruel taskmaster, both horse and boy decide to escape to Narnia - the horse’s home kingdom, and Shasta’s life dream.

Of course there is adventure, there’s danger, there’s a thousand and one magical and exciting moments. But best of all for me was seeing new places and new cultures, and how these interact and scratch against the Narnian values we’re used to. It was a very welcome change for me, and boosted my engagement considerably.

An interesting point here is Lewis introducing a young female character running away from an arranged marriage. He’s not widely known for his feminism, and most of the previous books have real ‘just a girl’ vibes. Although he didn’t delve into this plot point deeply, nor did I think he did it well, he didn’t do it badly either. It was definitely something which surprised me, and made me wonder.

And once again, a lack of Pevensies. Although they do make short appearances in this once, they weren’t too brutally chaste and the story focused rightfully on Shasta. It seems by now Lewis has realised that his four angels have served their purpose, and we’re now looking to more realistic children to serve his purposes. And thank Aslan he came to that conclusion.

Now for my penultimate journey into Narnia, with the magician and his nephew.