Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Horse and His Boy by C S Lewis

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 2007, first published 1954  

We have a familiar fairy tale trope here:  a prince is abducted and brought up by a poor family. Shasta meets talking horse Bree.  They set out for Narnia, meeting another talking horse Hwin and her rider, the runaway princess Aravis.

Eventually, Shasta is mistaken for the Prince Corin. Later we establish that Shasta is really Corin’s twin brother,  Cor.  Cor is the rightful heir to the throne and he is the one that was born first. Corin is full of fun and often takes unnecessary risks that land him in trouble. Cor is more cautious but less experienced in battle.

Edmund, Lucy, Peter and Susan are still kings and queens in Narnia.  Susan escapes marriage to Rabadash.  Lucy, Peter and Edmund are active in the battle with the Calormens. Susan waits behind at the castle. Is this a hint that she is already growing too grand for Narnia?

Aslan appears again.  He guides Shasta along a ledge and protects him from falling and he scratches Aravis’s back to show her how a slave girl who was punished because of her would feel.

The four children use a strange language. Are they as Susan will claim in a later novel just playing some sort of fantasy game about Narnia? Also a little odd, they  freely drink wine and sometimes stronger alcohol. There is much talk of marriage. Can we interpret this as an archetypal fairy tale?

The book is 240 pages long, in an adult font that is slightly larger than normal. The text is blocked.  There are some line drawings which illustrate.  There is a map at the beginning of the book.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Last Battle by C S Lewis


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2009, first published 1956

In this novel we met all of the people from our world who have travelled to Narnia – except for Susan who dismisses  the earlier adventure a s child’s play and who is now more interested in stockings and lipstick. Narnia‘s world ends and they enter a new world. We should feel sorry for Susan. It seems that her brothers and sister have been killed in a train accident and gone to - heaven?

Before that happens, though, first Jill and Eustace, later joined by Peter, Edmund and Lucy, have to have a real adventure in the original Narnia. They have to a battle with the perhaps unfortunately named Darkies –a brown-skinned race who attack Narnia and try to deforest it.

The story starts off in a comic way.  A talking ape and his friend, a donkey, find a lion skin. The ape dresses the donkey in this and pretends it is Aslan and that Aslan approves of what he is doing with Narnia’s enemy.

There are echoes of Plato; the dwarves are enclosed in a stable and can’t see the wider world beyond the stable. Even when they are let out they still seem to be in the dark. They are offered splendid food but only understand it as basic roots and tasteless mush.  Fine wine becomes to them polluted water.

Adult readers, even Christian ones, may find some of the religious symbolism troubling.  Younger readers may find it puzzling.

Nevertheless this is an engaging adventure with an upbeat ending.

The book is 268 pages long, printed in blocked text in an adult font. There are several monochrome illustrations and maps at the beginning of the book.           

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