The Horse and His Boy

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The Horse and His Boy
First edition dustjacket
Author C. S. Lewis
Illustrator Pauline Baynes
Cover artist Pauline Baynes
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Chronicles of Narnia
Genre Children's fantasy novel, Christian literature
Publisher Geoffrey Bles
Publication date
6 September 1954
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 199 pp (first edition)[1]
48,029 words (US)[2]
ISBN 978-0-00-671678-5 (Collins, 1998; full colour)
OCLC 2801054
LC Class PZ7.L58474 Ho[3]
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. It was the fifth published of seven novels in The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956) and one of four that Lewis finished writing before the first book was out. It is volume three in recent editions, which are sequenced according to Narnia history.[a] Like the others it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes and her work has been retained in many later editions.[1][3]

The Horse and His Boy is the only book of the Narnia series that features native rather than English children as the main characters, and the only one set entirely in the Narnian world. It is set in the period covered by the last chapter of the inaugural book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, during the reign of the four Pevensie children as Kings and Queens of Narnia. Though the Pevensies appear as minor characters, the main characters are two children and two talking horses who escape from Calormen north into Narnia. En route they pass through Calormen's capital city, where they learn of Calormen's plan to invade Archenland, Narnia's southern neighbor. When they reach Archenland, they warn the king of the impending invasion.

Macmillan US published an American edition within the calendar year.[1][3]

Plot summary[edit]

A boy by the name of Shasta is found as a baby and raised by Arsheesh, a Calormene fisherman. As the story begins, Shasta overhears Arsheesh agreeing 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. He 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 Narnia. They meet another pair of escaping travellers, Aravis, a young Calormene aristocrat, and her talking horse, Hwin. Aravis is fleeing a forced marriage with Ahoshta, the Tisroc's grand vizier.

The four must travel through Tashbaan, the great capital of Calormen. There they encounter a visiting Narnian party, 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 of Queen Susan with the Tisroc's son, Rabadash. 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 is still determined to have Queen Susan and wants to invade Narnia to seize her. The Tisroc gives Rabadash permission to seize Archenland before making a quick raid into Narnia to kidnap Susan, while High King Peter is preoccupied battling giants to 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, and 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. Anradin is among those who fall in the battle.

Rabadash rebuffs King Lune's offer of conditional release, and is transformed by Aslan into a donkey. His true form will be restored if he stands before the altar of Tash at the Autumn Feast. However, the prince will become a donkey permanently if he ever goes more than ten miles from the Temple of Tash. For this reason, Rabadash pursues peaceful policies when he becomes Tisroc, as he dare 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 barely the elder of the two, the heir to the throne. He was kidnapped as a baby to counter a prophecy that he would one day save Archenland from its greatest peril, but 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]

Series continuity[edit]

The adventures are mentioned twice in The Silver Chair, which was released before Horse but which takes place chronologically after that story. At this point, Lucy and Edmund still retain their memories of their time on Earth, as evidenced by Lucy's retelling of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, although by the end of their time in Narnia, none of the Pevensies remember Earth until crossing back through the wardrobe (as seen in Lion). In the later book The Last Battle, Corin, Cor (or Shasta), Aravis, Bree and Hwin all appear in the great reunion.

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 more alien 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). [1]

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.[4]

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.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The story takes place during the period covered by The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and it 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 figure in The Silver Chair as a story-within-a-story.


  1. ^ a b c "Bibliography: The Horse and His Boy". ISFDB. Retrieved 2012-12-08.
  2. ^ "Scholastic Catalog - Book Information". Retrieved 23 June 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c "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. ^ Jensen, Jeff. "The Family Business". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-03-22. 
  5. ^ 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]

External links[edit]