The story takes on a middle-Eastern flavour and we travel to the lands beyond Narnia.
Publisher: (Numerous, the one pictured is the Harper Collins 1998 edition)
First Published: 1954
Date Reviewed: 14th May 2010
The second of the lesser-known books, The Horse And His Boy has been as equally forgotten as The Magician’s Nephew, though it’s easy to see why as the story bares hardly any relation to the others.
Shashta doesn’t want to become the slave of the man who turns up at his father’s house in Calormen so he steals away with the man’s talking horse (a Narnian who was captured as a foal) with the aim of reaching Narnia. In trying to escape a lion their paths cross with Aravis, a Calormen princess on the run, and her own talking horse, Hwin. All four decide to carry on their journey together. But when they reach the capital things don’t go according to plan, the Narnian royal family are visiting and mistake Shashta for someone else. And Queen Susan’s suitor has created a problem for everyone.
The Horse And His Boy is the simplest of the chronicles, being very much a spin-off. It’s not necessary to read it and this is a pity, one gets a sense that Lewis felt he had to write some more rather than he wanted to. The land of Calormen destroys the setting of Narnia – Narnia is so different to our world with it’s talking animals, but Calormen is more the regular exotic dream, in keeping with reality from our history books. It’s also hard to accept, perhaps, that Narnia isn’t in it’s own world, that there are other lands surrounding it, because the way Lewis wrote it in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, although it was hinted at, the feeling was that it was by itself.
The story is ok, but as the majority of it takes place outside of Narnia there is little for the reader to relate to. It does a good job in showing us the everyday life of the kings and queens of Narnia during the period of their reign at Cair Paravel – perhaps this book ought to have focused on them more.
There isn’t so much a Biblical theme to The Horse And His Boy as there are the others, Aslan is still Jesus, but the only Biblical story I can relate to it is the road to Damascus after Jesus resurrects. There is, however, an overall theme of Jesus helping his followers, one could compare part of the book to the Christian poem Footprints.
The Horse And His Boy is a nice short read but not as compelling as the rest of the series. Fans will devour it but otherwise it’s possible to skip it in favour of Prince Caspian.