The Horse and His Boy

The Horse and His Boy

infobox Book |
name = The Horse and His Boy
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Cover of first edition (hardcover)
author = C. S. Lewis
illustrator = Pauline Baynes
cover_artist =
country = England
language = English
series = The Chronicles of Narnia
genre = Fantasy, Children's Literature
publisher = HarperTrophy
release_date = 1954
media_type = Print (hardcover and paperback)
pages = 199 pp
isbn = ISBN 0060234881
preceded_by = The Silver Chair
followed_by = The Magician's Nephew

"The Horse and His Boy" is a novel by C. S. Lewis. It was published in 1954, making it the fifth of seven books published in Lewis' series "The Chronicles of Narnia". The books in this series are sometimes ordered chronologically in relation to the events in the books as opposed to the dates of their original publication. In this alternate ordering, "The Horse and His Boy" is the third book, being a midquel of "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe". Although it was published after "The Silver Chair", it was written before it, so in written order it is fourth. The story is also referred to as a story-within-a-story in the fourth published book, "The Silver Chair". "The Horse and His Boy" is the only Narnia book which does not feature children from our world as the story's main characters, although the adult Queen Lucy, Queen Susan, and King Edmund, (all of whom first appear in "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe") do appear in the book, and the dynamics of the story develop from Susan's interactions. Peter, the High King, does not appear in the book but is mentioned.

Plot summary

A young boy called Shasta is found as a baby and raised by Arsheesh, a Calormene fisherman. As the story begins, Shasta overhears Arsheesh agreeing to sell him to a powerful Calormene feudal noble. Shasta has never really loved the fisherman and is relieved to discover that he is not really Arsheesh's son, and awaits his new master in the donkey stable outside the fisherman's house. The noble's stallion, Bree, astounds Shasta by speaking to him, and suggesting that they escape a life of servitude together by riding north for Narnia. They meet another pair of escaping travellers, Aravis, a young Calormene aristocrat, and her talking horse, Hwin. Aravis is fleeing a forced marriage to the Tisroc's grand vizier.

The four must travel through Tashbaan, the bustling capital city of Calormen. There they encounter a procession of visiting Narnian royalty, who mistake Shasta for Corin, a prince of Archenland, who has disappeared from their group earlier that day. Shasta is too scared to protest, and goes with the Narnians. He overhears them discussing their escape from Tashbaan and Calormen in order to prevent Rabadash from forcing Queen Susan to marry him. When Shasta is alone, the real Prince Corin reappears and Shasta escapes.

Meanwhile, Aravis has been spotted by her noblewoman friend Lasaraleen and must ask Lasaraleen to not only keep silent about Aravis's identity but help her escape. Lasaraleen agrees, although she cannot understand why Aravis would want to leave the life of a Calormene princess. She helps Aravis to escape through the palace, but they are forced to take refuge when the Tisroc, Rabadash and the Grand Vizier approach. Unfortunately, they've hidden in the very room in which the men are about to meet. Aravis overhears the Tisroc and Rabadash discussing the Narnians' escape and the Tisroc giving Rabadash permission to invade Archenland in preparation for attacking Narnia.

Outside the city, Aravis rejoins Shasta and the Horses. The four of them make an unpleasant journey across the desert and a pursuing lion (later revealed to be Aslan) frightens the travellers into fleeing swiftly enough to outrun Rabadash's army, allowing Shasta to reach King Lune in time to warn him of the approaching Calormenes. The Archenland army prepares their defenses against the Calormenes until a second army from Narnia can arrive. King Lune of Archenland recognizes Shasta as Cor, the long lost elder twin of Prince Corin and therefore heir to the throne. Aravis and Cor live in Archenland thereafter and eventually marry years later. It is stated in tongue-in-cheek manner that the marriage enables them to argue more efficiently.

Series continuity

The adventures are mentioned twice in "The Silver Chair." Corin, Cor (or Shasta), Aravis, Bree and Hwin all appear in the great reunion in "The Last Battle".

Themes and motifs

"Narnia and the North!"

Bree and Shasta use the phrase "Narnia and the North" as their "rallying cry" as they make their escape from their life in Calormen. They are both motivated by a deep longing to find their way to the place that is ultimately their true homeland. In the setting of "The Horse and His Boy", the reader finds a departure from the landscapes, culture, and people of the Narnian realms which have become familiar in the other books. The placement of the action in the more alien realm of Calormen helps to convey a sense of "unbelonging" on the part of the characters and the reader, which reinforces the motif of longing for a true home. Harvard citation|Gresham|2000

In other works, Lewis uses the German word "Sehnsucht" to encapsulate the idea of an "inconsolable longing" in the human heart for "we know not what." C. S. Lewis, as a Christian, identifies the objects of Sehnsucht-longing as God and Heaven. Harvard citation|Bruner|2005|pp=135-140

Character transformation


Through a series of "lessons" and encounters, Aravis's character is transformed. Always a strong character, confident and brave, her arrogance and self-centeredness are revealed to her, and she acquires humility and empathy.


Living as the only talking beast among "dumb and witless" horses, Bree has come to be both proud and vain. His belief in his own superiority leads him to speak as an authority regarding subjects of which he knows little. Until Bree meets Aslan, he believes that Aslan cannot possibly have a physical body and that the representation of him as a lion must be an abstraction or poetic symbolism, and no more. His experience of the physical reality of Aslan as an actual lion with real paws, tail, and whiskers, convinces Bree that he has been foolish. Harvard citation|Rogers|2005|pp=xiv-xv When Bree learns to face up to, and surrender, his pride and vanity, he can truly enter into a free life in Narnia.




Divine providence revealed

After meeting up with King Lune of Archenland and his hunting party, and warning them of the impending Calormene invasion, Shasta becomes lost in the fog and separated from the King's procession. After continuing blindly for some way, he senses that he has been joined in the darkness by a mysterious presence. Engaging in conversation with the unknown being, Shasta confides what he sees as his many misfortunes, including being chased by lions on two separate occasions, and concluding with "If nothing else, it was bad luck to meet so many lions." His companion then proclaims himself as the single lion that Shasta has encountered in his travels:

"I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the tombs. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at night, to receive you."
Thus it is revealed to Shasta, that, in the incidents which he perceived as misfortunes, Aslan, in his Divine Providence, has been orchestrating events for his greater purposes. Harvard citation|Bruner|2005|pp=141-146 Harvard citation|Rogers|2005|p=122

Allusions and references

Allusions to other works

Shasta's journey across the desert (and into other wilderness areas) may be intended to be reminiscent of the Israelites' Exodus from Egypt. For example, at one point in the mountains Aslan produces water from his footprint in the turf, similar to Moses drawing water from the rock.

Furthermore, Shasta's story draws parallels with the story of Moses: both are sent away from their families at birth, both turn away from the country they are raised in, and both eventually end up being the saviour of their true countries (Israel and Archenland). Note that in one aspect, the roles are reversed: Moses was raised in nobility and wealth and eventually became a shepherd. Shasta was raised in a poor fisherman's home, and eventually became a King (although Moses also eventually became the leader of the Israel nation.)

The association of Cor with horses, and his twin brother Corin with boxing, recalls the traditional associations of the Spartan twins Castor and Pollux of Greek mythology.Harvard citation|Ward|2008|p=153-154

The relationship between Aravis and Lasaraleen is similar to the dynamic between the sisters Antigone and Ismene in Greek tragedy.

Film, television, or theatrical adaptations

Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media currently retain the option to make "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy" in the future.


*Harvard reference|Surname1=Bruner|Given1=Kurt|Surname2=Ware|Given2=Jim|Year=2005|Title=Finding God in the Land of Narnia|Place=|Publisher=Tyndale House |ID=ISBN 0-8423-8104-X|URL=
*cite book |last=Downing |first=David C. |title=Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles |year=2005 |publisher=Jossey-Bass |location=San Francisco |isbn=0-7879-7890-6

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