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4.5 out of 5
ISBN/ASIN : 0006716784
Manufacturer : Collins|
Release data : 02 October, 2000
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C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast in 1898. He was Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, where he counted J.R.R. Tolkien among his friends. "The Horse and his Boy", the third book of the Chronicles of Narnia, was first published in 1954.
Although the series is known as the "Chronicles of Narnia", much of the action takes place in the neighbouring countries of Calormen and Archenland. Shasta, the boy mentioned in the book's title, is introduced first - he's been brought up in Calormen by a fisherman called Arsheesh. One evening, a local prince stops with the pair and demands hospitality. Later, when Shasta overhears the prince and his father bartering for Shasta himself, he decides to run away. Luckily for Shasta, the prince's horse is a captured Narnian horse called Bree - and, as a Narnian, Bree can talk. Bree has also set his heart on escaping and returning home and agrees to take Shasta with him - recognising the boy as either a fellow Narnian or an Archenlander, rather than being native to Calormen. The pair make off together that night and, before long, they are joined on the road by another fleeing pair : Aravis and Hwin. Aravis is a Calormen princess being forced to marry against her will while Hwin, like Bree, is a captured Narnian horse. The four escapees must make their way through Calormen's capital, Tashbaan, and then across the northern desert to safety.
It's possible I'm seeing more in this book than was intended, and I know it's supposed to be a kid's book - but I'd have to describe the portrayal of Calormen's people as not only the book's big flaw but also very questionable. Physically, they're described as having dark faces and wear turbans, while their favoured weapon is the scimitar. As individuals, only Aravis is portrayed in anything vaguely resembling a positive light. Arsheesh, Shasta's foster-father, had no qualms about selling him into slavery, while Aravis' father was apparently happy to arrange her man to the Grand Vizier - someone old enough to be her grandfather. Meanwhile, the Tisroc - Calormen's ruler - is the sort of cheap and easy villain others have tried to fabricate again more recently : he actually sneers at the concept of freedom. Narnia's King Edmund and Queen Susan also appear briefly - Queen Lucy's appearance is barely even fleeting. Edmund, who didn't exactly cover himself in glory in "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe", maintains his low standards when his refers to Prince Rabadash as Susan's "dark faced lover". He isn't long in adding that Rabadash is "proud, bloody, luxurious, cruel and a self-pleasing tyrant". (From only a slightly different perspective, of course, the very same thing could be said about Peter - Narnia's High King and Edmund's brother). All of which is a great pity, as the bones of this story are much stronger than those of "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe".
The Horse And His Boy
Its an interesting book but there are some boring bits in it.
But its a brlliant book but to understand the book you have to read the boring bits
A good story, albeit with some difficulties...
I had no intention of writing a review until I saw the number of readers who responded indignantly to the first reviewer's mention of "racism." Look, I've read "A Horse and his Boy" more times than I can count- in fact, it used to be my favorite Narnia book- until I slowly came to the conclusion (probably when I was about 13 or so) that I had some problems with the way that the Calormenes was portrayed in this book. There is a definite patronising tone in the descriptions- Calormenes are described as "cruel" and "ruthless," as opposed to the "free" and tolerant Narnians, their religion is blasphemy (the worship of Tash is revealed to be the worship of the devil in "The Last Battle"), they are under the rule of despots like the Tisroc (may he live forever), they are vain and overdressed, and even the good token Calormenes, i.e. Aravis, find aspects of Calormene culture to be inferior to Narnian- for example, when she is in hiding in the Tisroc's palace, she suddenly thinks, out of the blue, how Narnian men's fashions are much "nicer" than what Calormene men wear. Huh? After a while, this all gets to be a bit tiresome, especially when Calormen is contrasted, over and over again, and never in a positive light, to good, green, hardy, Aslan-loving Narnia. If one has heard of Edward Said, and his book "Orientalism," one realises (as I did) that C.S. Lewis was really working out of a very old European tradition, of using Middle Eastern cultures merely as a mirror, the dark side, of all that is allegedly good and true in western societies. This doesn't make the Narnia series bad, or not worthy of being read. On the contrary, C.S. is still one of of my favorite writers. His children's stories have a depth and a delicacy unsurpassed by anything else on the comtemporary market. I can only wish his Calormenes weren't quite so... two dimensional. But, "The Horse and his Boy" is still worth a read- but IMHO it should be approached with a little bit of caution.