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Book review: The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia, #3)The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This has always been my least favorite book in The Chronicles of Narnia. It’s partially because of the characters; instead of the familiar Pevensie children (visitors magically transported from our world), the main characters are natives of that world. In this story, the Pevensies are adults during their Golden Reign, and only appear briefly in Calormen and later in Narnia.

Calormen isn’t as interesting a place as Narnia, and C.S. Lewis meant it that way, as it represents a culture based on slavery and a false religion. The country is mentioned in a couple other books, but appears most prominently in this one and The Last Battle.

The main theme of this story is providence: the way God (portrayed by Alsan) directs events and supplies for the needs of His people. At one point, Aslan reveals the role he’s played in Shasta’s life from his infancy to the present: he pushed Shasta’s boat to shore when he was a baby, caused Shasta and Bree to meet Aravis and Hwin, comforted Shasta and scared away the jackals by the Tombs, terrified the horses into running to the Hermit, and kept Shasta from falling off the precipitous trail.

Aslan shows how he’s been guiding, protecting, and comforting Shasta all along, without Shasta even being aware of it. Not all of the events seemed good to Shasta at the time, and some were even injurious, but they all worked to his benefit. I’m reminded of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose.”

The concept of providence is further reinforced by the Hermit of the Southern March, who says, “I...have never yet met any such thing as Luck. There is something about all this that I do not understand; but if ever we need to know it, you may be sure that we shall.”

A recurring theme in The Chronicles of Narnia is that people are only told about their own lives, not others’. When Aravis asks what happened to a servant girl, Aslan says that “no one is told any story but their own.” Elsewhere, he says that they can know only what has happened, not what would have happened under different circumstances.

There’s a Doubting Thomas scene near the end. Bree is telling Hwin and Aravis that Aslan isn’t a real lion, but simply a metaphor that Narnians admire. In response, Aslan approaches Bree and says, “You poor, proud, frightened Horse, draw near...Do not Dare not to dare. Touch me. Smell me. Here are my paws, here is my tail, these are my whiskers. I am a true Beast.” Notice the similarity to this excerpt from John 20:24-29:

But he [Thomas] said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

After reading The Chronicles of Narnia several times, I see how this book fits into the overarching plot and theology of the series, but it still feels like a misfit to me, and I read it reluctantly.

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