The Horse and His Boy

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The Horse and His Boy
First edition dustjacket
AuthorC. S. Lewis
IllustratorPauline Baynes
Cover artistPauline Baynes
CountryUnited Kingdom
SeriesThe Chronicles of Narnia
GenreChildren's fantasy novel, Christian literature
PublisherGeoffrey Bles
Publication date
6 September 1954
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages199 pp (first edition)[1]
48,029 words (US)[2]
ISBN978-0-00-671678-5 (Collins, 1998; full colour)
LC ClassPZ7.L58474 Ho[3]
Preceded byThe Silver Chair 
Followed byThe 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; it is also one of four of the novels that Lewis finished writing before the first book in the series had been published. In recent editions of The Chronicles of Narnia that are sequenced according to the history of the fictional land of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy is the third book in the series.[a] Like the other novels in The Chronicles of Narnia, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes; her work has been retained in many later editions.[1][3] The Horse and His Boy is the only novel within The Chronicles of Narnia that features children from the imagined world of Narnia (rather than English characters) as the main characters. It is also the only novel within The Chronicles of Narnia that takes place entirely in the fictional Narnian world.

The novel is set in the period covered by the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which was the first of the Narnia books to be published), 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 pass through Calormen's capital city; while there, they learn of Calormen's plan to invade Archenland. When they reach Archenland, they warn the king of the impending invasion.

Plot summary[edit]

A boy by the name of Shasta is found as a baby and raised by Arsheesh, a Calormene fisherman. As the novel begins, Shasta overhears Arsheesh negotiating to sell him to a powerful Calormene feudal nobleman, Anradin. 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 Anradin will treat him cruelly, and Shasta resolves to escape. The horse suggests that they escape a life of servitude by riding north together to the land of Narnia. Shasta and Bree meet another pair of escaping travellers, 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.

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 goes with the Narnians and overhears their 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 not to betray her, and 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 preoccupied 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, and a lion (whom they later discover to be Aslan) frightens them into fleeing swiftly enough to outrun 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 a relief army from Narnia, led by Edmund and Lucy, arrives. 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. When Rabadash still refuses Lune's offer, 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 Cor, the long-lost identical twin of Prince Corin and--as the elder of the two--the heir to the throne of Archenland. Cor was kidnapped as a baby in an attempt to counter a prophecy that he would one day save Archenland from its greatest peril, and Shasta's timely warning has fulfilled the prophecy. Aravis and Shasta live in Archenland thereafter and eventually marry. Their son, Ram, becomes the most famous king of Archenland.

Main characters[edit]

  • Shasta, a boy who was kidnapped as a baby and enslaved in the land of Calormen. Shasta escapes from his abusive master Anradin with the Talking Horse Bree. At the end of the novel, Shasta discovers that he is actually Prince Cor, the long-lost elder twin of Prince Corin of Archenland. During the course of the novel, Shasta saves Archenland from a great disaster; in so doing, he fulfills a prophecy that his kidnapper had attempted to thwart.
  • Bree, a Talking Horse who was captured by the Calormenes as a foal. Bree warns Shasta that his master Anradin (who proposes to buy Shasta) will not treat him well, and he and Shasta resolve to run away together.
  • Aravis, a female youth from a noble Calormene family who runs away with Hwin to avoid being forced into marriage.
  • Hwin, a mare who is a friend of Aravis. Hwin was born as a free talking beast in the Land of Narnia, but was captured as a foal by the Calormenes and has spent much of her life concealing her true identity.

Themes and motifs[edit]

"Narnia and the North!"[edit]

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 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. (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 identifies the objects of Sehnsucht-longing as God and Heaven. (Bruner 2005, pp. 135–140)

Divine providence revealed[edit]

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 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."

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. (Bruner 2005, pp. 141–146) (Rogers 2005, p. 122)

Created proverbs[edit]

In two conversations, both between adults, Lewis has speakers use a number of proverbs that he created; one way to convey the flavor of Calormene culture (Unseth 2011). The proverbs are found at the very beginning (as Shasta's foster-father and a Calormene nobleman haggle on a price for Shasta) and later in a scene where the Tisroc, the Vizier, and Prince Rabadash have a secret council. Proverbs in Calormene culture (as in so many real cultures) are the domain of adults, especially older, wiser adults. As a result, Prince Rabadash is the recipient of many proverbs, but is only able to use one, the only proverb in this exchange which is originally drawn from English, "Women are as changeable as weathercocks."

The Vizier delights in the use of proverbs, boasting that Calormene culture is "full of choice apophthegms and useful maxims." Rabadash, on the other hand, has no such appreciation and complains, "I have had maxims and verses flung at me all day and I can endure them no more." When the Vizier begins yet another proverb, "Gifted was the poet who said...", Rabadash stifles him with a threatened kick.

Lewis also uses the proverbs to subtly make fun of the Calormenes. For example, the fisherman cites a proverb, "Natural affection is stronger than soup and offspring more precious than carbuncles" (p. 4). Myers wryly notes “Soup, of course, varies greatly in its strength; 'carbuncle' means 'a red jewel' in medieval romances, but its modern meaning is 'a red sore'" (1998:162). Later, as the Vizier addresses the Tisroc, he refers to part of the same proverb, saying “sons are in the eyes of their fathers more precious than carbuncles" (p. 112), (but he rephrases it into a longer, wordier form; verbosity being one of the hallmarks of Calormene speech (Myers 1998:162)). The relationship between the Tisroc and Prince Rabadash is nicely paralleled by the "carbuncle" meaning of "red sore".


No studio has yet produced a filmed adaptation of this book. However, Focus on the Family produced an audio dramatization in 2000 (along with adaptations of the other Narnia books around the same time).[4]

Walden Media, having already made movie adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, also retains the option to make The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy in the future.[5]

The BBC Dramatised the entire Narnia stories, adapted by Brian Sibley in 1998, including "The Horse and His Boy", and this is included in the "The Complete Chronicles of Narnia: The Classic BBC Radio 4 Full-Cast Dramatisations".[6]

Allusions and references[edit]

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. (Ward 2008, pp. 153–154)

Researcher Ruth North 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 similar to that of The Golden Ass by Apuleius — a classic of Latin literature with which Lewis was certainly familiar.[7]


  1. ^ The story takes place during the period covered by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and was the fourth to be written, as Lewis completed it before The Silver Chair. It was published after The Silver Chair because Lewis wanted the three books involving Caspian (the "Caspian Triad") to appear together[citation needed]. The events of The Horse and his Boy are mentioned briefly in The Silver Chair as a story within a story.


  1. ^ a b "Bibliography: The Horse and His Boy". ISFDB. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  2. ^ "Scholastic Catalog - Book Information". Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b "The horse and his boy". (first edition). Library of Congress Catalog Record.
    "The horse and his boy". (first U.S. edition). LCC record. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Jensen, Jeff. "The Family Business". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-03-22.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Ruth North, "Classical and Medieval Themes Re-Surfacing in Twentieth Century Literature", London, 1978


  • Bruner, Kurt; Ware, Jim (2005), Finding God in the Land of Narnia, Tyndale House, ISBN 978-0-8423-8104-8
  • Downing, David C. (2005). Into the Wardrobe: C. S. Lewis and the Narnia Chronicles. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 978-0-7879-7890-7.
  • Ford, Paul (2005), Companion to Narnia, Revised Edition, SanFrancisco: Harper, ISBN 978-0-06-079127-8
  • Gresham, Douglas (2000), Focus on the Family Radio Theatre: The Horse and His Boy (audio dramatization), Prologue, Hong Kong: Tyndale House, ISBN 978-1-58997-294-0
  • Markos, Louis (2000), The Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis (audio course), Lecture 10: Journeys of Faith-The Chronicles of Narnia II, Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, ISBN 978-1-56585-316-4
  • Myers, Doris T. (1998.) C.S. Lewis in Context. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press.
  • Rogers, Jonathan (2005), The World According to Narnia: Christian Meaning in C. S. Lewis' Beloved Chronicles, Time Warner, ISBN 978-0-446-69649-4
  • Schakel, Peter J. (1979), Reading With the Heart: The Way into Narnia, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-8028-1814-0
  • Schakel, Peter J. (2005), The Way into Narnia: A Reader's Guide, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, ISBN 978-0-8028-2984-9
  • Unseth, Peter. (2011.) A culture “full of choice apophthegms and useful maxims": invented proverbs in C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy. Proverbium 28: 323-338.

Further reading[edit]

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