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The Horse & His Boy: Chapter 3 - moonspinner
moonspinner
moonspinner
The Horse & His Boy: Chapter 3
This is the chapter where we learn Aravis’s and Hwin’s (but chiefly Aravis’s) story and it’s straight out of the best of the Arabian Nights: the beautiful motherless princess, with the evil stepmother, neglectful father and beloved but belated elder brother, forced into a marriage with an old, evil, base-blooded man and forced to run away from home for that reason.

To understand Aravis’s suicide attempt, one has to take into account the culture in which she grew up: privileged, aristocratic and rather naive. From Bree’s statement - “they’re always married at that age in the great Tarkaan families” - arranged marriages were common amongst the Calormen elite: like in old India, child brides and grooms being married. Aravis must have half-expected this especially as her contemporary, Lasaraleen, was already a married woman. In Calormen culture, Aravis was ‘of age’. This is important because it indicates that it’s not so much that Aravis was against getting married young at all. Aravis’s depression stems from the nature of her prospective husband: Ahoshta Tarkaan.

“…this Ahosta Tarkaan is of base birth… won the favour of the Tisroc by flattery and evil counsel… moreover he is at least sixty years of age… his face resembles that of an ape…”

Ouch!

So taking the order of mention as the order of priority in How To Win Aravis Tarkeena’s Hand Heart: Looks come last and blood comes first. And this is remarkably consistent with every portrayal of Aravis’s character in the books. She is a literal snob. It explains why she finds the company of pedigree charger, no matter how odd his ability to talk is, better than that of a slave boy. It will take a lot more chapters of plotting and traveling together before she looks past Shasta’s ‘bad’ blood to see that he passes the other points in her Test.

Just how ‘evil’ was Aravis’s stepmother anyway? Assuming as I always have, that her younger brother was her full blood brother, her mother hadn’t long been dead when her father took on a second wife. I can only imagine how traumatic that must have been to Aravis. Also going by the trend of marrying young, her father’s wife was probably closer to her own age than her mother’s. I can’t help but suspect that the animosity between the two women was contributed from both sides. Aravis would have resented the impostor trying to supplant her mother’s place, and as the two women are closer in age, she would have also resented her stepmother trying to supplant ‘her’ place in her father’s heart/eyes. The malicious streak that caused her to set up her maid for a beating would have led her to set traps for her stepmother. There was meanness in Kidrash Tarkaan’s wife’s scheme to marry Aravis off to a man she found so repulsive, but I don’t think the meanness was all there was to it. It could also have been self-preservation.

It’s interesting to contrast Aravis’s runaway story against Shasta’s, especially in terms of what both were running away from – fates worse than death (which may or may not be of a similar nature) – and how they left their families behind. Shasta does so with a twinge of regret. Aravis does so by enacting one last vengeance against her maid. She also could have got her father’s secretary, the slave who wrote the fake letter from Ahoshta, into terrible trouble. (I’m assuming she didn’t since Aslan did not mention this later but she might have). She certainly doesn’t seem to show any remorse about the worry that her father and her younger brother will feel at her absence. Quite from the start it’s established that Aravis’s flaw isn’t the fact that she is a snob: it’s her ‘hardness of heart’ or unforgiving spirit.

By the way, I keep finding more reasons to love Shasta. Even on a second reading, I barely take note of the maid – and I’m sure Hwin and Bree don’t either. But Shasta not only does take notice, the maid’s fate is the first thing he asks about when Aravis’s story is ended. Which again, makes perfect sense because it would be the maid, as close to an almost-slave like himself, that he will be interested in. I wonder just how bad this maid of Aravis’s really was. I don’t doubt that she did serve as a spy for the evil stepmother but how much of this was spite against Aravis and how much of this was a simple girl not wanting to go against the mistress of the house?


The group dynamic changes with Aravis and Hwin making them a foursome. Shasta feels snubbed by Bree and is actually snubbed by Aravis. Heh. (By the way, isn’t it a pity that The Fight of Zulindreh, and the western wars where Aravis’s elder brother fell will be stories that will never be told?) As usual, team building takes off when they need to start planning. Hwin’s common sense comes into play here. She acts as a foil to Bree and for the first time, we start seeing that he is quite an egocentric horse. Hwin shines in this chapter but she more or less shines in the whole book. She’s sweet, gentle, wise and almost too good to be true if not for the fact that her timidity is presented as a real failing and not a pseudo-flaw. Contrasting Hwin’s traditional feminine character (gentle and motherly) to Bree’s traditional masculine character (proud and aggressive), and the fact that it’s Bree who gets punished for his nature, it’s hard to understand why the Chronicles are criticized for being anti-feminist.


By the way, cutting horse-tails sounds impossibly painful no matter how many times I read it!


I’ll continue the next chapter where Shasta falls in with the Narnians next week Monday. In the meanwhile, here’s a shipping moment to thrive on until then:


And then Shasta said he wasn't a Calormene either and didn't care a straw about these old stories of ghouls. This wasn't quite true. But it rather impressed Aravis (though at the moment it annoyed her too) and of course she said she didn't mind any number of ghouls either.



I need Aravis icons! Does anyone know where I can get hi-res scans of the Pauline Baynes illustrations?

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Comments
jump2narnia From: jump2narnia Date: February 28th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) (Link)
So taking the order of mention as the order of priority in How To Win Aravis Tarkeena’s Hand Heart: Looks come last and blood comes first.

Wow, I must be an HHB n00b, 'cause I've never payed attention to that part of her character. =O

Also going by the trend of marrying young, her father’s wife was probably closer to her own age than her mother’s.

Holy crap, you're probably right! O__O .....awkward.

She certainly doesn’t seem to show any remorse about the worry that her father and her younger brother will feel at her absence.

It's been so long since I read this book, but is it ever explained what happens to Aravis' father and brother? D: I mean, do they know that their daughter and sister becomes Queen of Archenland?
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 28th, 2009 01:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
Wow, I must be an HHB n00b, 'cause I've never payed attention to that part of her character. =O

Or maybe I'm just over-analyzing the text to death. ;)


Holy crap, you're probably right! O__O .....awkward.

It would have been so commonplace there that it might not have mattered...

It's been so long since I read this book, but is it ever explained what happens to Aravis' father and brother? D: I mean, do they know that their daughter and sister becomes Queen of Archenland?

Not in a story. We never know what happens to her family and they never appear to find out what happened to her. But I think it's logical to expect that they would have found out eventually. She was a Calormen runaway girl who became the Queen of Archenland. That would have made news across the desert.
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