Who wrote this book and when?
C. S. Lewis published this in 1954.
Has there been a film version?
No, but Walden Media and Disney retain the rights to make it into a film. They have tentatively announced they will not be adapting it to film because of the supposed racial discrimination themes in it.
Who are the main characters?
Shasta – a young boy from the north who was raised by a fisherman from the southern country of Calormen.
Aravis – a Calormene Tarkheena (royalty) who is trying to escape an unpleasant marriage
Bree – a Narnian talking horse who was captured and trained as a Calormene warhorse
Hwin – another Narnian talking horse who was captured and given to Aravis
Arsheesh – a fisherman who raised Shasta
Prince Rabadash – the eldest son of the Tisroc (kind of like a Sultan’s son)
Ahoshta Tarkaan – Aravis’ intended and the Grand Vizier to the Tisroc
Lasaraleen – another Tarkheena
Corin – the Archenland prince
Aslan – the Lion
The Tisroc – the ruler of Calormen
What’s it about?
Shasta is a boy who lives on a creek which flows into the sea with a fisherman named Arsheesh. Arsheesh is not his father, although Shasta calls him that. Shasta longs to travel beyond the grassy slope to the North of his home and see what is there. But Arsheesh is constantly making him work and beating him.
One day, a Tarkaan (or Calormen lord) comes through their village and demands food and a place to stay. He determines that he wants to buy Shasta as a slave after Arsheesh tells the story about how he got Shasta in the first place. Apparently, a boat floated up to the beach with a dead man and a baby in it. The baby was Shasta. The two men begin to barter about how much the Tarkaan should pay for the boy so Shasta goes to visit the donkey and the Tarkaan’s horse. He is terribly surprised to discover the Tarkaan’s warhorse is actually a captured horse from Narnia and is able to talk. They decide to escape together to the North and Narnia. The horse, whose name is Bree, teaches Shasta how to saddle him and they set off. They head South first to throw the Tarkaan off, and then North and walk through the creek so they don’t leave tracks.
The pair meet up with another talking Horse named Hwin, and her rider is a Tarkheena named Aravis. Together, the four of them make the long journey towards Archenland and Narnia, running into a lot more along the way than they bargained for.
Why is this book a classic?
It is part of the Chronicles of Narnia series, one of the greatest children’s fantasy series ever written.
Why should I read this book?
Because everyone should read this series. And this book specifically because of the portrayals of Aslan and the insight into just how big the world of Narnia is.
Has it won any awards?
Why did this book make your list?
I have read it before and it’s my favorite out of the entire series of the Chronicles of Narnia.
“When he had thought all this, he did what I expect you would have done if you had been up very early and had a long walk and a great deal of excitement and then a very good meal, and were lying on a sofa in a cool room with no noise in it except when a bee came buzzing in through the wide open windows. He fell asleep.” – p163
Some people believe Shasta is a representation of the Biblical figure Moses…but I don’t really see it very much.
This is my favorite book out of the Chronicles of Narnia. I love both of the characters of Shasta and Aravis, and I think that C.S. Lewis was spot on in his interpretation of how horses would really act. I love the changes in scenery; from the water bank where Shasta grew up to the desert, to the forests of Archenland, the palace of the Tisroc, mountains and valleys, streams and beaches. You really get a grasp on just how large and varied the world of Narnia is, as compared to the land of Narnia.
Many literary critics say this is the most racially prejudiced of C.S. Lewis’ works because of his portrayal of the Calormenes as evil or bad and they are supposedly from a similar land to the Middle East. I personally don’t see this. There are portrayals of evil characters in each of the other Chronicles of Narnia, otherwise there would be no plot. There are evil Narnians in “Prince Caspian” and evil Englishmen in “The Magician’s Nephew.” And nobody can argue that any character in the Narnia series is portrayed as more evil than Jadis, the White Witch, who is represented as a caucasian. Not all the Calormenes we come across in this story are evil – just look at Aravis. The Tisroc is no more evil than many other power hungry kings.
The biggest reason that I love this book more than any other in the series is because of the varied portrayals of the nature of Aslan. Throughout the story, you can see Him in different guises. He works throughout both Shasta and Aravis’ journey to bring them to a point where they can acknowledge Him. He is equally just and punishing as He is comforting and protective. He is frightening and peaceful, awe-inspiring and loving. I think that Aslan throughout this story is a beautiful illustration of Christ, whether you are a Christian or not. Jesus just wasn’t a healer, he was also the one who broke the taboo of healing on the Sabbath, who ripped through the temple like a tornado in holy anger, and who sent a terrified demon possessed herd of pigs to a bloody watery death. The character of Aslan in this book especially out of all seven, captures this dichotomy.