The Horse and His Boy
Harry Potter and the Twilight Series are prominently stacked in the all the bookstore windows, perhaps helping you realize that adults can and often do enjoy the same novels as their children or their younger siblings. It might make you think back to your own childhood favorites – and maybe you’d like to pick up a copy of those beloved books for your kids, or even yourself. But there are even more gems hidden in the Children’s Section of the bookstore – and now is a great time to picked them up and let them transport you to another world.
Among them, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis should be at the top of your list. Many people have heard of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first in Lewis’s series The Chronicles of Narnia. Even if you’re not an avid reader of Children’s Literature or Fantasy, you’re probably aware of the many film adaptations of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which include a BBC production in the 1980s and the Disney/Walden Media movie released in 2005. There were two follow-up movies that didn't perform very well in theaters, Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But the rest of Lewis’s Chronicles enjoy less fame, and The Horse and His Boy is often over-looked by mainstream readers.
Among the rest of the series, the novel may seem less important because the story does not impact the overall fate of Narnia, yet readers will enjoy (re)discovering The Horse and His Boy. It is a story of numerous harrowing escapes and mistaken identity. The main character Shasta is one of Harry Potter’s many antecedents, in good company among all the orphans in Children’s Literature who discover that they are somehow special. Shasta, his fellow runaway Aravis and their talking horses Bree and Hwin may not be particularly complex characters, but the way that Lewis weaves together the story of their getaway with the tale of another escape will hold readers’ attention – almost as much as Shasta’s fearsome encounter with the great Lion Aslan.
Be aware that the novel isn’t exactly P.C. – Lewis contrasts the fair and noble Narnians with the swarthy, proud and selfish Calormenes, depicting the tensions between the West and the Middle East in very cut-and-dried terms. The white guys are the good guys here, without question, although there are some sympathetic Calormenes. If you’re giving this to your children to read, that is an important subject for discussion. But keep in mind that what Lewis probably thought was the most important element of his story: that ultimately Narnians and Calormenes alike had to submit to the authority of Aslan, who is wiser than even the most gentle and good of the Narnian kings and the most humble and beloved of the Narnian talking horses.