The Horse and His Boy is the third book of the series though it was published as the fifth book, originally.
The book takes a rather more grown-up storyline as compared to The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. It could be startling when you get to see how grown Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have become.
This book gave me a different kind of feeling compared to the first two books. Narnia had seemed too real and not just some magical place.
This book in itself has a different story and you won’t even have to read the first two books to understand Narnia though, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a book is mentioned in the story.
It narrates the story of Shasta who learned one night that the father he lived with is not his real father at all and that he is going to be sold as a slave to their guest, a Tarkaan lord of Calormene. He then discovered the horse of the Tarkaan is a Talking Horse from Narnia who was kidnapped when he was still young. They planned their escape together towards Narnia and meet another Talking Horse and her rider, Aravis, a daughter of a wealthy Tarkaan, who is also running away. Together, they go on a journey to Narnia but along the way, they each encountered circumstances that made them race with time towards Archenland and Narnia to warn them of impending danger.
The story is rich in themes that made the book, not just a mere storybook. It teaches that those who humble themselves are exalted while those who exalt themselves are humbled down.
The example of this is how Aravis has looked down on Shasta being a mere fisher boy and snubbing him while thinking highly of herself as he told him, “What would you care about Tashbaan? But I ought to be riding in on a litter with soldiers before me and slaves behind, and perhaps going to a feast in the Tisroc’s palace (may he live for ever) – not sneaking in like this. It’s different for you.”
And as they were getting into the city of Calormene and she saw soldiers around, she thought, “They’d all jump to attention and salute me if they knew whose daughter I am.” But later on, she realized her folly and then the mere fisher boy was suddenly the exalted one in everyone’s eyes.
Another theme also is how events are orchestrated for a greater purpose.
This happens when Aslan revealed to Shasta how when he thought he was very unfortunate, Aslan was really working behind the scenes to help him.
“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. 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 midnight, to receive you.”
-Aslan to Shasta, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
As with the other Narnia books, this book is also underlined with biblical references and admonitions like the themes I mentioned. It is also interesting to note that Calormene culture and scenes make you think of the Arabian Nights Stories. The contrast of the description of Nanian culture and landscape with those of Calormene provides an aesthetic wonder to the book.
I surely recommend this book for your school-age children. They will surely enjoy the adventures of a boy and a girl with their horses (or rather, the horses and their boy and girl) and learn something along the way.
Rating: 4/5 stars
Author: C. S. Lewis
Age Level: 9+