First edition dustjacket
|Author||C. S. Lewis|
|Cover artist||Pauline Baynes|
|Series||The Chronicles of Narnia|
|Genre||Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature|
|6 September 1954|
|Media type||Print (hardcover)|
|Pages||199 pp (first edition)|
48,029 words (US)
|ISBN||978-0-00-671678-5 (Collins, 1998; full colour)|
|LC Class||PZ7.L58474 Ho|
|Preceded by||The Silver Chair|
|Followed by||The Magician's Nephew|
The Horse and His Boy is a novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1954. Of the seven novels that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia (1950-1956), The Horse and His Boy was the fifth to be published. The novel is set in the period covered by the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe during the reign of the four Pevensie children as Kings and Queens of Narnia. Though three of the Pevensies appear as minor characters in The Horse and His Boy, the main characters are two children and two talking horses who escape from Calormen and travel north into Narnia. On their journey, they learn of the Prince of Calormen's plan to attack Archenland, and warn the King of Archenland of the impending strike.
A boy named Shasta overhears Arsheesh the fisherman negotiating to sell him to a powerful Calormene feudal nobleman. He is relieved to discover that Arsheesh is not his real father, since there was little love between them. While Shasta awaits his new master in the stable, Bree--the nobleman's stallion--astounds Shasta by speaking to him. Bree is a Talking Horse from Narnia who was captured by the Calormenes as a foal. He tells Shasta that the nobleman will treat him cruelly, and Shasta resolves to escape. The horse suggests that they ride north together to the land of Narnia. On their journey, Shasta and Bree meet another pair of runaways: Aravis, a young Calormene aristocrat, and Hwin, a Talking Horse. Aravis is running away to avoid being forced to marry Ahoshta, the Grand Vizier of Calormen, while Hwin's story is much like Bree's.
The four runaways travel through Tashbaan, the great capital of Calormen. There, they encounter Narnian visitors who mistake Shasta for Corin, a prince of Archenland, who went exploring earlier that day. Obliged to accompany them, Shasta overhears the Narnians' plans to escape from Calormen to prevent a forced marriage between Queen Susan and Rabadash, son of the Tisroc (or king) of Calormen. Shasta escapes when the real Prince Corin returns.
Meanwhile, Aravis has been spotted by her friend Lasaraleen. She asks Lasaraleen to help her escape from Tashbaan. Lasaraleen cannot understand why Aravis would want to abandon the life of a Calormene noblewoman or refuse marriage with Ahoshta, but she helps Aravis escape through the garden of the Tisroc's palace. On the way, they hide when the Tisroc, Rabadash, and Ahoshta approach. Aravis overhears the Tisroc and Rabadash discussing the Narnians' escape. Rabadash wants to invade Narnia to seize Queen Susan. The Tisroc gives Rabadash permission to conquer Archenland before making a quick raid into Narnia to kidnap Queen Susan while High King Peter is away battling giants in the north.
Aravis rejoins Shasta and the horses outside Tashbaan and tells them of the plot. The four set out across the desert taking a hidden valley route in the hope of outrunning Rabadash's cavalry. Shasta arrives in Archenland in time to warn Archenland and Narnia of the approaching Calormenes. When Rabadash and his horsemen arrive at the castle of King Lune in Archenland, they find the defenders alerted. A siege ensues. There is no clear outcome until reinforcements from Narnia, led by Edmund and Lucy, arrive. The Calormenes are defeated, and Rabadash is captured.
Rabadash rebuffs King Lune's offer of a conditional release. Aslan the Lion, the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia, arrives in Archenland. After Rabadash insults Aslan, he is transformed into a donkey. Aslan informs him that his true form will be restored if he stands before the altar of Tash at the Autumn Feast; thereafter, however, the prince will become a donkey permanently if he ever ventures more than ten miles from the Temple of Tash. For this reason, Rabadash pursues peaceful policies when he becomes Tisroc, as he dares not cross the ten-mile boundary by going to war.
The victorious King Lune recognizes Shasta as his son Cor, the long-lost identical twin of Prince Corin and--as the elder of the two--the heir to the throne of Archenland. Cor had been kidnapped as a baby in an attempt to counter a prophecy that he would one day save Archenland from its greatest peril. Shasta's timely warning of the Calormene attack has fulfilled the prophecy. Aravis and Shasta live in Archenland thereafter and eventually marry. Their son, Ram, becomes the most famous king of Archenland.
After meeting King Lune of Archenland and warning him of the impending Calormene invasion, Shasta becomes lost in a fog and separated from the Archenlanders. While walking in the fog, he senses a mysterious presence nearby. Engaging in conversation with the unknown being, Shasta tells of his misfortunes; one such misfortune is his experience of being chased by lions on two separate occasions. His companion, who turns out to be Aslan, responds as follows:
"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."
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 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 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.
Researcher Ruth North has noted that the plot element of a sinful human being transformed into a donkey as a punishment and then restored to humanity as an act of Divine mercy is reminiscent of The Golden Ass by Apuleius. This work is a classic of Latin literature.
Walden Media made movie adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Walden Media obtained an option to make The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy in the future.
The BBC dramatised The Chronicles of Narnia, including The Horse and His Boy, in 1998. The dramatisation is entitled "The Complete Chronicles of Narnia: The Classic BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisations".