Review: “The Horse and His Boy” by C.S. Lewis

For the love of books

… For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made-up) is a thing you’re taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay writing.  The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.

~excerpt from Chapter 2: A Wayside Adventure in The Horse and His Boy

The Horse and His Boy, chronologically the third volume in The Chronicles of Narnia, is different from the other volumes in the series.

The storyline, the setting of Calormen, and the overall tone are reminiscent of the Crusades, Palestine, and the Middle Ages, respectively.  Set when Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy have been kings and queens of Narnia for several years, the story mainly focuses on a boy named Shasta living in Calormen by the sea with his father.  After eavesdropping on a conversation between his “father” and a passing stranger, Shasta makes the bold decision to run away to Narnia with the stranger’s charger, a Talking Horse named Bree.  The whole enterprise becomes a complicated adventure beyond their expectations.  They are joined by unexpected companions, and ultimately must race to warn a nearby kingdom of an impending attack.

C.S. Lewis broadens the existing boundaries of the world of Narnia by introducing the country of Calormen and including further details concerning the kingdom of Archenland.  The descriptions of the Calormenes themselves and their god Tash are strikingly similar to Arabians and Islam, respectively.  The Tisroc, ruler of all Calormen and resident in the capital city of Tashbaan, could be compared to a sultan.  The author’s personifications of the two horses Bree and Hwin still maintain definite horse-like traits in the horses’ speech and behavior, making these main characters very realistic and believable despite their capabilities as Talking Horses.  The Horse and His Boy has more realism than fantasy, and it is the only volume in the series in which the plot takes place entirely in the world of Narnia without any crossings between it and the real world depicted by Lewis.  Nevertheless, this novel is an original adventure with action-filled, graphic battles and more importantly, emphasis on the qualities of a true king as opposed to those of a tyrant.

Original review: Part 3: ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ by C.S. Lewis, Examiner.com

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