Growing up, The Horse and His Boy was my least favorite Narnia book. I don’t remember why—maybe because it’s not about Narnians or because it takes place when the Pevensies are grown up—but I never connected to the story like I did with almost all of the other books. So I was excited to finally reread this one and see if my thoughts have shifted.
There are obvious problems with The Horse and His Boy in regards to C.S. Lewis’s depiction of the Calormenes. I wish I could talk to C.S. Lewis about why he chose to depict them in such a harsh way. I don’t know enough about his life and beliefs, but I can’t believe that someone with such great wisdom and knowledge about life and love would be blatantly racist in his books. It doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what C.S. Lewis writes. I wish I could know what inspired him to write the Calormenes as terrible people and the others (Narnians, Archenlanders, etc.) as so perfect and wonderful. I wonder if I’m missing something because of culture and time period differences.
But beyond that obvious flaw, The Horse and His Boy contains so many powerful moments and important truths. And at the heart of it all, again, is Aslan. The scenes with Aslan and his great wisdom grip my heart and won’t let go. I love that throughout the story as Shasta and Bree are being chased by lions or comforted by a great cat, that it’s Aslan. He is with them from the beginning, guiding them along their journey. Again, it reminds me of my faith and how Jesus is always there, by my side, guiding me along my path. That during the good and the bad, when I feel as if I’m being chased by lions or when I find a bit of rest and comfort, Jesus is with me.
And I love how blunt Aslan is about stuff, too. Whether he’s reprimanding Aravis for her poor decisions or explaining to Shasta that he tells “no one any story but his own,” Aslan’s words nudge the characters toward a better way of life, even if it might hurt at first. His actions and words help them grow and change for the better.
But the most important line in this book and possibly in the entire Narnia series comes from Edmund. After Narnia and Archenland defeat Rabadash and his army and they are discussing what should be done with Rabadash, Edmund makes an important point about traitors. He says, “But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did.”
As I stated before, during my reread of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I appreciate Edmund and his story so much more now that I am adult and understand life and forgiveness and grace. Edmund didn’t deserve grace or mercy for his betrayal, but Aslan granted it to him anyways. And because of that, Edmund became a just and wise king. When I was younger, I didn’t want to read a story where the Pevensies were old and grown up, but now, I love that C.S. Lewis gave us a glimpse of Edmund as a fair and just ruler. That despite what Rabadash did and how terrible of a person he is, King Edmund wants to offer grace just like Aslan offered it to him.
This is so powerful because like Edmund, none of us deserve grace and mercy. But because we’ve been granted it, we should turn around and show that same grace and mercy to our fellow humans, no matter how they wrong us.
So even though The Horse and His Boy has some problematic issues with depictions of people, there are such powerful moments in this story that we can’t just toss the book out. We need to understand it’s not a perfect book and C.S. Lewis was not a perfect human, but we can still learn and grow from his words.
For Narnia and the North!
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