Earlier in the pandemic, I had grand plans of reading to my children chapter books of my childhood every day. We read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe and a couple of other books. But the reading came to a stop with The Horse and His Boy. My children never engaged well with the story. They were becoming bored with nightly reading. And I was losing my motivation to read while trying to manage my work from home job, managing virtual schooling of what was then a Pre-K and Kindergarten student, and trying to keep the house somewhat organized.
We finished about fifty pages last spring. Last Friday night, as the chaos of the election ensued, put down my phone and picked up my kindle, and read the last 75 pages in a single sitting. The Narnia books really are short. So many children’s books that I think of as fairly long can be read in an hour or two and really only have a couple of main plot points.
For the Horse and His Boy, the story is basically six scenes. 1) Background and introduction to Shasta (the boy). 2) The escape of the horse (Bree) and Shasta from their enslavement. 3) Finding and getting to know Hwin (another talking Horse) and Aravis (the girl). 4) Getting through the big city and the two side threads happen during that task. 5) The race through the desert and to tell the King of the secret attack. 6) Shata’s introduction to the other Narnian animals and creatures and the battle. And then there is a short conclusion.
The Horse and His Boy is the only of the books that does not involve travel from our world to Narnia. It is slightly different. It has the common problems on the Narnia books of not really having good female characters, or playing up their stereotypes. And the other significant problem of the kingdom of Tash where Shata, Bree, Hwin, and Aravis are escaping from are plays on stereotypical Muslim cultures. They have to escape north to the cold land of the (White) people from the land of darker-skinned people that enslave one another and who practice worship of a false god. That critique is overly broad because it is undercut by some events in The Last Battle and there are some good female characters in other books. But generally, Lewis does not have great female characters in Narnia and there are some really problematic descriptions in the Horse and his Boy.
But it was a perfect distraction for me on a night when I knew that doomscrolling on my phone was going to do no good.
The Horse and His Boy by CS Lewis Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition, Audible.com Audiobook. Note, there is a box set of the whole Chronicle of Naria, all seven books. That is an especially good value if you are an audible customer that uses credits because the whole box set is one credit. Credits range from just over $9 to $14.99 per credit depending on your plan.