This is a work by C.S. Lewis, whom you may know as the man behind the Chronicles of Narnia. And, indeed, The Horse and his Boy take places within the Narnia mythos, but not within the land of Narnia itself.
I don’t know whether it’s common knowledge, but I’ve always felt that most people know The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but the other Narnia books always seemed to have fallen by the wayside with people I’ve met. As a kid, no one knew a thing except Wardrobe, and throughout life as my social circle has changed and shifted – eventually finding myself in a country where books in English are kind of rare – I’ve found fewer and fewer people who are familiar with Narnia.
Don’t think I’ve met a fellow soul who’s read The Horse and His Boy.
This is the second time I read this book, the first time being maybe when I was less than half the age I am now, so something like early teens. Revisiting this as an adult was rather a joy, a treat, in between heavier reads about economics and management and entrepreneurship, and I found that only could I read speedily enough through it. Not only because it is, indeed, a young-person’s book that is profoundly easy to grasp, but because I simply enjoyed reading through it. Watching the percentage go up is, as a side note, rather motivating for me to see whenever I read something, because regardless of how much I enjoy a book, I always derive comfort and accomplishment from completing them.
Thus The Horse and his Boy has been read, again, and I hold it in higher regard than the other Narnia books.
Having watched the film adaptations (which I felt grew progressively less interesting), I was both curious how they’d depict the characters and afraid how they’d screw up The Horse, and with the book now so fresh in my memory I don’t feel it would be necessary to have a film adaptation. I’m fine the way it is, even though Wikipedia states that Walden Media still retains rights to make that movie in the future.
Shasta makes a good MC, he’s humble and simple and while initially in denial about some responsibilities thrust upon him, you close the book feeling like he’ll be just fine.
Spoilers for a 50 year old book?
They say that the ending to an experience is the most impactful means of coloring it in your memory. The journey you’ve seen characters undergo in either a movie or a book is all useless if the ending doesn’t tie up loose ends or make good on the character growth experienced during said journey.
This is why Game of Thrones fell flat so hard. Nearly a decade of character growth got cast to the four winds in favor of subverting expectations,
Aravis and Shasta as a pairing feel more real to me than a lot of other storybook romances, surprisingly unforced and never actually taking place in ‘real time,’ only being expressed during the epilogue. The foundation of their relationship is essentially bickering and making up afterward, and in the words of the author, “so they decided to get married so as to make this cycle more convenient.” Something about that warms my heart in a way I cannot quite describe, and I wonder whether this formed a sort of fundamental mortar in my psyche that’s helped me push through hard parts of past relationships I’ve had in the past.
Or it just made me stick around for too long in toxic.
Let’s take a quick gander over at Calormen, the country from which the characters ventured to get to ‘Narnia and the North.’ This is what, fantasy-Arabia? Look, these books were written in the 50s, and there are numerous treatises on the religious symbolism within the writings of C.S. Lewis. Are the Calormenes Muslim? Not explicitly, but if Aslan is a friendly representation of old Yeshua, then Tash might represent the god of a certain religion that’s been rivaling Christianity for, you know, the entirety of either’s existence. It’s not really rocket science to figure that out.
What’s more interesting to me is representation of said nation and culture. It’s obviously modeled after Persian and Turkish cultures, and there’re some pretty scathing accusations sent at Lewis for writing characters and cultures in a decidedly mocking portrayal.
However, I rather like the following, as written by Kylie O’Conner:
The man who wrote this book wrote a lot of great stories. But they were great when they were complicated and magical, when his imagination took him into places and stories that were close to his heart.
In his time, people thought it was amusing to make fun of other cultures. We don’t. Read the stories, ask questions, and remember that the person who wrote this story was altogether too human.
That is the best thing any of us can really do, I think, when learning how to better tell stories.
The same goes for any author from ever, even the likes of Robert E. Howard or H.P. Lovecraft, whose respective legacies have transcended the viscous racism that oozed from their stories. Not to lump Lewis, Howard and Lovecraft together, but I should like to hear the opinion of someone quite different from myself, about this book.