By Alexis Record
“And he didn’t get to do war anymore so that was the worst punishment of all.”
“Awww, poor guy. Aslan is so mean!”
“No war for you! And war is great so you’re missing out!”
“No killing for you!”
Shasta made it to Narnia and runs into a Talking Hedgehog and tells him (not her, random people are never usually a her in such androcentric stories) the news of the attack at Anvard and that King Lune needs help. A bunch more Talking Animals show up (all male) who also get the news. Finally a stag (not a doe) runs the news to Cair Paravel so they can mount an army licky split. A few dwarves (all male) see that Shasta is starving and serve him breakfast.
Shasta’s breakfast was “all new and wonderful to Shasta for Calormene food is quite different.” It says he didn’t know what toast was, and then it says he didn’t know what butter was because in Calormen they use oil. Oil on what if he didn’t know what toast was? Bread I assume, and what is toast but bread! Also, why would a boy raised in a different country his whole life not like the food there and prefer foreign food? That’s unusual. This negative comparison with Calormen seems stretched. Even their food is subpar? Really?
Shasta got to sleep a ton, finally, and woke up to the sound of the Narnian army coming. Among them was Edmund and Corin who had arrived back from Calormen already. King Edmund finally learns who Shasta is, and gives him his first ever lesson that eavesdropping is morally wrong. (Never mind it’s been heavily relied upon up to this point and pretty much saved everyone multiple times.)
And Queen Lucy is there, too! And decked out in armor! Maybe we’ve come a long way from the first book when Lucy is told it’s bad when women fight. Although they make it clear she’ll be with the archers away from battle. (And they imply Queen Susan is a better archer, but she’s also a proper lady so knows her place is not in a battle. Yuck.) Then it’s said that Queen Lucy is not as good as a man, but “at any rate as good as a boy.” Yes, because boys, not even men, are above women, so elevating Lucy to a child (but a male one!) is some sort of backwards complement. Ugh. Anyone else choking on all this sexism?
Anyway, having Lucy fight made Little Bit very happy so I’ll take it.
Almost immediately Corin gets into a violent fight with a dwarf (who was ordered to keep him out of the fight and Corin didn’t like that) and the dwarf’s ankle is broken. Corin then takes the dwarf’s armor and horse and gives it to Shasta. Corin thinks war is “splendid” and when Shasta asks what the armor is for, Corin tells him it’s for fighting in the war, because, “Don’t you want to?” So they sneak into the army (after being ordered not to) to kill some folks. Yay! This is supposed to show how valiant they are!
It’s clear Edmund knows what Corin is up to. When Lucy asks where he is, Edmund tells her to shut it (literally “leave well alone”). Boys will be boys and want to fight in wars. Silly women will just want to protect them and that’s the real crime.
Birds are circling, and Corin has a huge war boner and is talking about how the birds will get fed some dead people soon. Then the Narnians finally arrive and see the Calormen army using a battering ram on King Lune’s gate. They charge the enemy and everyone is praying for their lives. Shasta thinks to himself, “If you funk this, you’ll funk every battle all your life. Now or never.” (I accidentally might have miss read that first “funk.” Bitsy didn’t seem to notice.)
Shasta is just confused and scared and does nothing much in the battle. We actually get the details of the battle from our sports-announcer-like hermit back in the Southern Marsh. Aravis and the two horses are also there looking into his magic looking pool as he tells them what’s happening. The book describes a lot of glorified violence and death like a giant taking a weapon through the eye and dying horribly. Five Calormene soldiers die from arrows. Corin, the child, slaughters a man. A bunch of Talking Leopards and other cats kill the horses by ripping them up. King Edmund takes one of the named Calormen dudes’ head off. (All the random Calormene guys killed or captured are given names even though we only know them for a page. But what was the name of the main enemy in our last book? Oh right, SHE DIDN’T GET ONE.)
At the end of the battle the Calormenes are all dead, dying, or captured. Rabadash is hanging on the gate by a hole in the back of his hauberk. He did this by jumping down from the gate screaming, “The bolt of Tash falls from above.” But then he got stuck. Everyone starts laughing at him. Baddy is crying.
Corin gets lectured about sneaking into battle by his dad, the king, but “everyone, including Corin, could see that the King was very proud of him.” Boys will be boys. (Babycakes just killed a guy and loved it. Like, maybe have him see a therapist?) Then King Lune reached out to give Shasta a bear hug and kissed him. Shasta is really confused, until the king asks the court to witness the twin brothers (Corin and Shasta) standing together. Shasta is royalty! (Surprise!)
Back at the Hermit’s place, Bree doesn’t want to leave until his tail has grown out that they cut off to disguise him in Tashbaan. He is worried because he’s entering “the best society” (as opposed to Calormen) and wants to make a good impression. Aravis says he’s as “vain as that Tarkheena” referring to Lasaraleen. (Leave my girl alone, people!) So Bree responds, “By the Lion’s Mane, Tarkheena, I’m nothing of the sort.” That makes Aravis ask about the lion he keeps swearing by since she knows he hates lions. He starts proselytizing about Aslan when Aslan jumps the green wall behind him and silently stalks him. Aravis and Hwin see the lion but are too shocked and frightened to warn Bree about him.
Bree obviously doesn’t say exactly the right thing about Aslan (mentioning he’s not really a lion, but a god) which makes Aslan come to freak him out because Aslan is a dick. Bree “shot away like an arrow to the other side of the enclosure.” (It’s important that Aslan say he really is a lion because Jesus gets credit for being a stand-in sacrifice for humanity only by actually being a human, even though he’s supposedly, at least by our faith tradition, actually God. It doesn’t sound as good to say that Jesus “had a bad weekend for your sins” even though that is more accurate with the additional doctrine that he’s also a god and can’t really be killed.) Because Bree focused on Aslan’s deity he’s punished, and when Shasta focuses on Aslan’s lion-ness, Aslan gets all deity-afied on him and shakes the earth and gets worshiped. It’s like when someone has you guess which hand behind their back has a coin, and whichever one you pick they just switch it to the other one.
Hwin, our role model, goes and submits herself to Aslan to be eaten. Yes eaten. For real.
“Please, you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.” (Ugggggggggggh. Problematic!!! Please do not teach your children that their deity can eat them for his pleasure!!! Or that this kind of submission is a good thing and should be rewarded!!!!!!)
Hwin is rewarded for this with a feeling of joy. Aslan says “I knew you would not be long in coming to me” and is all proud of Hwin for being what the Bible calls “a living sacrifice.” It’s gross. Just like when Eustace and Jill are supposed to die for Aslan in the last book and be happy about it.
Aslan makes Bree calls himself a fool which is what Aslan wants to hear. “Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young. Or the Human either.” That’s a direct message to our young reader: You are a fool! Know it well!
Proverbs 22:15 was used as an excuse to beat me from when I was a tiny child. It says, “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.”
In 2007, the year Little Bit was born, fundamentalist Christian parents beat their three children, one of which they beat to death, for foolishly not studying properly and misspelling a word.
In 2010 a little girl was killed by Christian parents trying to discipline her the biblical way. They knew children were foolish and what to do with them.
In 2013 another child was found dead after she had been punished by her Christian parents the biblical way.
In 2015 parents beat their son to death for trying to leave their church.
In 2017 a Christian mother beat her daughter for not knowing Bible verses well enough. She was memorizing them and recited them incorrectly.
The book To Train Up a Child teaches Christian parents how to discipline foolish children using verses and chapters straight from the Bible. This book is responsible for SEVERAL deaths of powerless children.
So if you think I’m being too critical of the idea that young ones are foolish and must submit themselves to abuse (from deities or those claiming to do what the deity wants) then sit with those stories a while, and know there are thousands more like them.
Aravis is told that Aslan ripped into her skin to teach her a lesson about being more careful with which servant (evil spy in this case) she drugs when fleeing for her life. She responds, “Yes, sir.” So that’s, ugh, not great.
Aslan disappears and Prince Cor arrives. Not Corin, but Cor, formerly Shasta. (No one is supposed to call him Shasta anymore, because that’s a dirty Calormene name.) He invites Aravis to stay with him at Anvard and she accepts. Shasta more than once moans that he will get an education now. If you remember the first book, you’ll know just how horrid education is. At least how it’s presented here makes education come across more as something children may not like as they’d rather play. (School is the worst, kids. Am I right? See, I’m hip with the groovy kiddos. Word.)
Once at Anvard, they had to get Queen Lucy to come make Aravis’s rooms pretty because King Lune’s wife had died and royal women do that sort of work. All Lewis says of Aravis and Lucy’s interaction is that they talked “about Aravis’s bedroom and Aravis’s boudoir and about getting clothes for her, and all the sort of things girls do talk about.” Here’s a salute to… GENDER STEROTYPES!
Next they were at the grand banquet, all dining together and talking about what to do with Prince Baddy. Head chopping is suggested. Finally they bring him in to give him their list of conditions he must meet in order to be freed. He just curses them instead of listening. (Corin asks if he can hit him while chained. That’s in keeping with his lovely character.) All the menfolk jump to their feet ready for a fight (with a guy in chains?) as Rabadash keeps yelling at them.
Then Aslan enters the room. He gives Baddy a chance to be humbled and lose his self-worth like his followers have, but Baddy won’t do it. (Don’t make me cheer for Baddy, guys.) So Aslan turned him into a donkey and everybody laughs. (There has been a LOT of post-war laughing, y’all.) Aslan said that he would be turned human again in Tash’s temple back in Calormen but he’d be turned back into a donkey permanently if he left the city. At least not being able to leave the city meant that as long as he was Tisroc (after his father died) he didn’t go to war. Since war is just the greatest, this really was a curse of Aslan. This, along with his brief term as a donkey, resulted in the people forever calling him ridiculous behind his back.
Cor and Aravis go to a great feast to celebrate their victory when Cor learns he will become the next king. At the feast the children both prepared to be bored because Calormen has boring poetry and boring feasts, but were delighted everything was better in Archenland.
Cor (Shasta) went on to have quarrels (“and, I’m afraid, even fights”) with Aravis until they became so used to this arrangement that they got married “to go on doing it more conveniently.” (That’s a great view of marriage.) Corin became a great fighter who beat up a bear once. Everybody gets married. Aravis has a son, so whew. We avoid an icky girl as high queen. (Haha, there’s no such thing as high queen in Narnia so it’s not like that was a worry.) I guess this is about as happily as these things end. We’ll see more of Calormen in the last book and they are even more evil than in this one.
March 10, 2018
P. S. That’s it for The Horse and His Boy! Our next Narnia book is my absolute favorite! I’ve been waiting for this one, and am a little nervous that it is likely to be, well, as problematic as the other ones. (Especially since I really want Little Bit to like it, too.) But if it’s even a tenth the story I somewhat remember, then we’ll have a magical time!