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The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis
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13,863133150 (3.89)236
Title:The Horse and His Boy
Authors:C. S. Lewis
Info:HarperCollins (2005), Paperback, 304 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (1954)

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"Of all the Narnia books this one will ever be my favorite. The story takes place during the time of the Golden Age of Narnia, when the Pevensies were still reigning in full and incontestable power. Unfortunately, there is actually not much of them in this book either, but the few parts when they do appear are quite entertaining. To be honest, this is a little grudge I hold against these books: the little information I got about the events that happened during the reign of the Pevensies, in majority, was given by scattered conversations between some random characters here and there, through all the books. I wish Lewis had written at least one book about the Golden Age. Sadly, it’s not the case when it comes to The Horse and His Boy. This story is set in the countries to the south of Narnia, which provides a totally different scenario.

Also, differently from the other Narnia books, it doesn’t begin with some kids randomly being kidnapped to the magical land; the main characters are already there. One of them is Shasta, a young boy who was found as a baby by a Calormene fishermen who adopts him. The second is Aravis, a young Calormene aristocrat. The Calormenes… the reason why some literary critics consider The Horse and His Boy the most racially prejudiced of C.S Lewis’ oeuvre; the reason for that lies on the portrayal of them as aggressive, bad and, sometimes, evil people, plus the fact that they come from a land with cultural and geographical features which resemble the Middle East. Granted that giving all those characteristics to the poor Calormenes is somewhat questionable, but I don’t see the point of such a fuss. There are portrayals of evil characters in each of the other installments: the narrow-minded Englishmen from The Magician’s Nephew; the Telmarines from Prince Caspian, which, as I see it, resemble people from the Iberian Peninsula; Jadis, the White Witch, who is clearly Caucasian. Moreover, not all the Calormenes introduced are bad. For instance: Aravis herself and other characters that end up helping her on her attempt to escape Tashbaan - the town that serves as a political and trade center for the Calormenes.

Still, coming back to the actual review, by the works of destiny, Shasta and Aravis meet during their separate attempts of escaping their insufferable lives. Along with their talking Narnian horses, Bree and Hwin, both decide to join each other on their journey to escape Calormene territory. The horses suggest they could lead a way better life were they in Narnia, so getting there becomes their dream. From this point forward there is a lot of riding across forests, mountains and moors at midnight; hunting for food and small talks around campfires; sleepless nights on the unforgiving sands of the deserts. To this day I have really vivid memories of all that. I guess Lewis was just a genius when it came to writing scenes of characters interacting with the environment.

Speaking of characters and their interactions, here is one more point that makes me love this story: more than any of the characters on this series, Shasta and Aravis are not plain black or white; they commit mistakes, some of them really bad; both of them have done things which they regret. Such complexity turned out to be good, mostly, for two reasons. First of all, it turns the whole experience of reading much more entertaining, since the characters are way more believable than a plain good guy or a predictable villain. Secondly, on this particular story, the fact of Shasta and Aravis having committed, sometimes unintentionally, acts unexpected from good guys, allowed Lewis to display the varied facets of Aslan’s personality – being that he, as everyone should know at this point, is Narnia’s version of God, it falls onto his shoulders to punish people who he finds deserving. It was a very different experience to see Aslam guiding Shasta and Aravis through their endeavor, directly and indirectly; punishing and comforting them at alternate times, until the time for them to acknowledge his existence comes.

The final few chapters of The Horse and His Boy are just everything anyone could expect from a Narnia book: shocking twists and turns, great battles, timeless lessons on human nature. Overall, it is a super tight book, packed with adventure, constant displays of hopefulness and understanding of the motivations that drive humanity to keep living a normal life – for this is, for certain, the book on which Lewis less takes advantage of “the magic factor” to get his point across. Some cool new characters were introduced, including the new good royal family of Archenland. The action scenes are extremely well-executed, the chase scenes leave you breathless, the lessons are meaningful and powerful and the end left me with a deep feeling of longing for an opportunity gone which I never actually had: the opportunity to travel to those magical lands and meet all those awesome characters.

Interesting quotes that I didn't include in the review:
Do not dare not to dare.
When things go wrong, you'll find they usually go on getting worse for some time; but when things once start going right they often go on getting better and better.

The Last Passage
Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid, even fights) with Cor, but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarreling and making up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently. And after King Lune’s death they made a good King and Queen of Archenland and Ram the Great, the most famous of all the kings of Archenland, was their son. Bree and Hwin lived happily to a great age in Narnia and both got married but not to one another. And there weren’t many months in which one or both of them didn’t come trotting over the pass to visit their friends at Anvard. "
( )
  AdemilsonM | Sep 2, 2015 |
I really enjoyed this as a read-aloud! I enjoyed it as much as I may have enjoyed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe had I read it before seeing the movie. The plot events inspired interesting conversations with my son: about religion, recurring themes in literature, politics, morality, etc. I'd have to say that these were some of our best religion conversations we've had so far, and I'm so thankful to have read this (thanks, Ami!).

Unfortunately, there were some outrageously boring chapters, such as 20 pages describing the monotony of a trip across the desert. Bravo, I guess, for so effectively getting us into that place where we can so identify with the main character's desire to end it all, but really, I could've lived without it. Twice, I ended the chapter with my own commentary, "And that, thank goodness, is the end of that dreadful chapter!," to which my son would respond, "Thank god!"

Fortunately, the book was long enough to include many exciting and/or interesting chapters to make up for it, but I do have to warn you that I don't mean "exciting" as in the Percy Jackson type of exciting (which isn't really that captivating to an adult), but the kind that is more akin to real life excitement, such as overhearing an important conversation not intended for your ears that could change everything and deciding what to do with that information....you know, real life exciting.

I don't know that I would've valued this book as just an adult read, so my recommendation is definitely to the parent of a 10-year-old (or kids equivalent to mine in terms of maturity and vocabulary), and definitely as a read-aloud.

This line cracked me up: "...so that years later, when they were grown up they were so used to quarreling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently."

Should I read the next one? I'm not sure....I'd appreciate some guidance on that. ( )
  engpunk77 | Aug 10, 2015 |
I feel really guilty about loving this book as much as I do. I loved it as a kid and I love it now, and there is just so much wrong with it.

The xenophobia is positively racist -- by page 5, we're already hearing the first of many references to the fact that the residents of Narnia are considered by the residents of their southern neighbor, Calormen, to be "fair and white...accursed but beautiful barbarians."

The Calormenes, on the other hand, are nothing but walking Middle Eastern stereotypes. They wear turbans and have long beards and speak in overblown wise old sayings like, "Has not one of the poets said, 'Natural affection is stronger than soup and offspring more precious than carbuncles?'"

This aspect of the story is ridiculously, inexcusably bad. As I've mentioned in reviews of other Narnia books, Lewis seems to take great pride in backing the wrong horse at every possible social and/or historical point, and boy howdy, does he blow it here. He puts his last dollar down on good old colonialist "Hey, look! Savages! If only they had a civilized country to tell them what to do!"

(This should not be taken as me buying into moral relativism and excusing the very real sexism and lack of democracy running rampant through the real Middle East, by the way. It's me thinking that those weren't exactly the things that bothered Lewis about that region.)

So: knowing all that, how can I possibly enjoy this book?

I cringe at times, but I do. Lewis has some of his most memorable lines and greatest moral triumphs in this story.

For instance, I once wrote an article and later created an e-card featuring this terrific line:

"If you do one good deed, your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one."

It's true. It's one of the horrible unfairnesses of life, but there it is. And when you see life in those terms, you're better able to bow your head to the deeds that are your lot. It isn't fair. It just is.

I also love when Hwin, the gentle nervous motherly talking horse, speaks up to Bree (another talking horse) when he insists they should take a break before setting out on a march. Time is short and the enemy is almost at the gate, but he wants a snack and a rest and a rubdown first. More than that -- he thinks he needs them.

"'P-please,' said Hwin, very shyly, 'I feel just like Bree that I can't go on. But when Horses have humans (with spurs and things) on their backs, aren't they often made to go on when they're feeling like this? and then they find they can.'"

This is true both morally and physically. How often do we get to what we think is the breaking point -- the point where we simply Can. NOT. Go on. And then, if we don't give in but push ourselves a little harder, we learn the difference between what we think we need and what we're really capable of. Because of course Hwin turns out to be right, and Bree's wrongness almost ruins everything.

I didn't understand this when I read it for the first time, but I remembered it. And now I think about it all the time, whether I'm running a hill or writing a few more words (or any words at all on a day I could have sworn I was too tired to get some writing done).

There are too many outstanding examples like this to resist. And as always, Lewis nails the little moments we can all relate to, even if we've never quite experienced them. Like when Shasta, waiting anxiously for his friends alone in the dark among some ancient tombs, hears a terrible noise. After almost jumping out of his skin, he realizes it's a distant horn blowing for the closing of the city gates:

"'Don't be a silly little coward,' said Shasta to himself. 'Why, it's only the same noise you heard this morning.' But there is a great difference between a noise heard letting you in with your friends in the morning, and a noise heard alone at nightfall, shutting you out."

And then, later, when the two main character children (Shasta and Aravis) are riding across the desert:

"On again, trot and walk and trot, jingle-jingle-jingle, squeak-squeak-squeak, smell of hot horse, smell of hot self, blinding glare, headache. And nothing at all different for mile after mile."

Such brilliantly understated word-painting.

Oh, and one last passage, a short one and one of my favorites ever:

"One of the drawbacks about adventures is that when you come to the most beautiful places you are often too anxious and hurried to appreciate them."

So, yes, this book is bad. And yes, I love it. Because it's great, too. ( )
  Deborah_Markus | Aug 8, 2015 |
I think this book, and all the other books in the series, are most appealing to those who can pick out the Christian allegories in the story. Christian or not, if you can see more depth to a story than what appears at face value, the story becomes all the more beautiful. Although, CS Lewis insisted that his stories weren't allegorical, but rather a supposal - "suppose" there were a savior in an entirely different world, what would that look like? All the same, the figure of Aslan, riding along the horse through the forest - side by side -- I got chills reading that as a child, because I was thinking of the allegory of the side by side relationship Christians have with Jesus. ( )
  glanecia | May 24, 2015 |
Shasta, a poor boy living with his father on the seashore. He rarely goes to the market in town, usually he stays at home to do chores. In the beginning, he finds out that a rich man wants to buy him away from his father, who he dosn't connect with much. He meets Bree, a talking horse who longs to return to Narnia. On their way they find new friends like Aravis, but many problems concerning the Empire located next to them. Will they make it to Narnia with deathly news? Or will the Empire have something to say about it? Read and find out. I really enjoyed this book, since i think the author used great detail to grab the attention of readers. It uses skills and synonmys of common words to make you want to read more. Overall, i think it is a very good book. I reccomend it to anyone who wont have trouble reading it, if they like the fantasy genre, or if they enjoyed the previous Chronicles of Narnia books. ( )
  Alec.CB | May 11, 2015 |
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In the opinion of this admirer, "The Horse and His Boy" is relatively unispired. It does not glow as much as the incomparable first book of the series, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe." It has not as much gay satire and plain excitement as several of the others. Just possibly the Narnian fields are suffering from overcropping, and could stand lying fallow while other fields are put back into cultivation.
added by Shortride | editThe New York Times Book Review, Chad Walsh (pay site) (Oct 17, 1954)

» Add other authors (21 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
C. S. Lewisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Baynes, PaulineCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baynes, PaulineIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Georg, ThomasIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hammar, BirgittaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hane, RogerCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Helakisa, KaarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lavis, StephenCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Neckenauer, UllaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nielsen, CliffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Van Allsburg, ChrisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To David and Douglas Gresham
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This is the story of an adventure that happened in Narnia and Calormen and the lands between, in the Golden Age when Peter was High King in Narnia and his brother and his two sisters were King and Queens under him.
And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do NOT combine "The Horse and his Boy" with "The Chronicles of Narnia".

Unabridged. Please do NOT combine with any abridged edition.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0020442009, Paperback)

original CS Lewis classic!

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:20:16 -0400)

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A boy and a talking horse share an adventurous and dangerous journey to Narnia to warn of invading barbarians.

(summary from another edition)

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