The Horse and His Boy

The third book in the Narnia series is about Shasta, a young slave, and his escape from Calormen to freedom in the north. That Calormen is so clearly based upon middle eastern, Islamic countries, is remarkable. Led by an autocrat called the Tisroc, his land is one of heat and deserts, his capital, Tashbaan, a city of ‘domes and pinnacles…and minarets’. It’s a land of slavery and oppression, which enviously eyes Narnia, the land ‘of the white barbarian kings’. They worship a god called Tash, and regard The Lion of Narnia as a demon.

The protagonists effect their escape, but not without encountering Aslan, the Christ-like lion. When Aravis, the Calormene noble, first meets him, she says “Please, you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else’.

“Dearest daughter”, the Lion replies, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours”. Earlier in the tale, he wounds her with his claws, but I shall not spoil the story by saying why.

As usual with Lewis, witty comparisons with the real world are sometimes drawn. When Aravis is about to recite a story, Lewis remarks it ‘is a thing you are taught, just an 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.’