In reading this book, I realized that, no, I’ve never actually read the whole thing before. For many, this is their favorite of the Chronicles of Narnia series. It was an enjoyable read, and pretty funny in parts, although I though the latter part dragged a bit, but then I always tend to think that about many stories.
The story largely takes place in Calormen, a neighboring country to Narnia with a strip of a country called Archenland between them. If Narnia represents English/Western culture, Calormen represent Arabia or Middle Eastern culture. As Narnia is our hero country, its culture is of course portrayed as superior to Calormen’s. This essentially connects to C.S. Lewis’s allegory that runs throughout the series that the lion Aslan who created Narnia is a stand in for Jesus. Because Calormen doesn’t follow Aslan, their culture is thus inferior. As a Christian, I can agree with then. Generally, cultures rooted in Christianity have more regard for human life, for example. Sadly, my own county and culture has been in hot pursuit of ungodly things for a long time.
The whole clash of countries and cultures really stood out to me in this book, as we have both our hero, Shasta, and his friend, Aravis, trying to espcape the country and culture they grew up in, desiring the peace and freedom that Narnia offers. We eventually find that Shasta is from Archenland by birth, and is royalty to boot. Although Archenland isn’t Narnia, their culture is closer to Narnia than Calormen’s and Aslan walks there. Calormen revolves around tyrants and slaves, forcing people to do things, etc., so it’s not surprising that those enslaved or forced to do things against their will would want to escape. Also, got a kick out of the Calormen’s referring to Narnian King Edmund as the “White Barbarian King,” and the ridiculous way Edmund and Susan talk.
The names in this book are spot on, especially Shasta–kept thinking of the soft drink–and the villain Rabadash. I had sympathy for the latter, the handsome, young prince, who for once couldn’t get his way. Aravis was great as well, smart and athletic, and of course she becomes BFFs with Lucy. Yes, that is the really cool part of The Horse and His Boy – we get to see Peter, Edmund, Susan, and Lucy in their time as the reigning kings and queens of Narnia. It’s great to see them as young adults and to think eventually they will go back to England and become children again. It’s great also to see Aslan show up at the end and see how defiant Rabadash is to the end, even against the great lion. He is to be pitied.
The talking horses Bree and Hwin were great and, for me, a lot more interesting than some of the talking animals in Narnia thus far. Their interactions and statements were often hilarious. And how clever to frame the story with the title The Horse and His Boy, rather than the Boy and His Horse. Gives us great insight into the talking horses and how they view themselves.
The desert trek was great, as was the mixup with Shasta and Corin, as was the whole thing with Queen Susan being wooed by Rabadash. She must have been so disappointed to find he wasn’t someone she could marry and only wanted to get control of Narnia. I suppose that’s a major drawback of being royalty, you’re not wanted for yourself much of the time. The whole journey through Archenland was where I kind of lost interest, and I didn’t quite get the purpose of the Hermit. Perhaps I will have to read it again sometime and start in the middle and keep my focus going. Again, the ending was great with Rabadash and Aslan and I love how Shasta and Aravis quarrel so much they end up getting married. Some couples really find enjoyment in arguing with each other.
All in all, I can see why for some this is their favorite Chronicles of Narnia book. It has a lot of adventure involved and we get to see many familiar faces. It’s also full of humor that both kids and adults can grasp and enjoy, and the allegory isn’t too overbearing.