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The Horse & His Boy: Chapter 8 - moonspinner
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The Horse & His Boy: Chapter 8



Our first (and I think last?) glimpse of Ahoshta Tarkin is the fulfillment of four chapters of speculation of the man whose hideous visage and personality drove Aravis from her land. And it really does not disappoint. He plays the role of Iago very well – literally crawling on his belly like a snake, slithering when kicked, and hissing with a forked tongue as he eggs Rabadash on to a suicide mission.

Although on paper alone, Prince Rabadash’s plan does sound brilliant – absolutely villainous and completely against all rules of engagement – but brilliant all the same. The story itself confirms its feasibility: Cor’s Prophecy hinges on his intervention being the only thing that saves Archenland from Rabadash and his two hundred horses. And this is a plan that the Prince apparently comes up with in less than a day. It certainly excuses Susan (and Peter and Lucy?) being initially taken in by him. Heck, maybe Ahoshta isn’t far off the mark thinking that she might have been moved by his passion for her. Although a lot of that passion seems less that of a young man for a beautiful woman and more of a spoilt brat who is being denied a toy he wants. His very first words are spoken with the undertones of ‘tantrum’ in them. Knowing what eventually happens to Rabadash in the story, I wish I could know what kind of person he’d have been if he had been brought up with a great deal less indulgence.

Of all the Narnian books, I suspect that this one has the greatest number of villains. Even after taking out the lesser menaces like Anradin, it’s hard to decide who the Arch-Villain of this story really is. Rabadash is the most obvious threat – with his two hundred horses and bloodthirsty lust. Yet Ahoshta is the puppet-master in the shadows, as slimy as a snake and just as poisonous. But then I consider the Tisroc as villain and I have pause.

As an antagonist, the Tisroc is at once the most unthreatening and the most deadly you can encounter in a story book. For all that he goes on about the sun being darkened in his eyes every day; he doesn’t mind enough to do anything about it. He doesn’t seem to care for much beyond his throne, his head, and his stomach (if the recalled pardon to the third chef is any indication). He’s capable of just about anything to secure those three comforts: even fratricide. Even patricide, if his speech about trigger-happy Crown Princes is anything to go by. This would explain his extreme wariness of Rabadash.

I strongly suspect that the Tisroc knew exactly what the Narnians were up to when Rabadash first ran to him, crying for pursuit; and he delayed his son on purpose because he just couldn’t be bothered.

The Tisroc’s definition of “Free”- Idle, disordered and unprofitable – makes me wonder about the economics of Narnia. Archenland plays a big role in this, of course, as their longest standing ally and nearest trade partner. But there really is no mention of money or currency in Narnia and though the Dwarfs, for example, are specially gifted smith, they seem to build purely for the sake of the work itself and not for any form of barter. (I vaguely recall a mention of industry and institutions in Prince Caspian so I’m not certain of this.)

More reasons are given for Calormen’s long-standing reluctance to invade Narnia: The superstitious fear of Aslan and the Talking Beasts, as well as the sudden liberation from the White Witch’s Winter. Rabadash’s statement about the “natural occurrence of the stars” and his father’s about “enchantments needing strong magic” make me wonder if Lewis isn’t making a sly dig about the Evolutionists vs. the Creationists debate. That aside, considering the rest of the world as revealed in “The Dawn Treader”, Narnia seems positively tame in terms of denizens and general weirdness and Calormen’s mundane-ness (for lack of a better word) is even more striking. Perhaps the message there is that there is a correlation between spirituality and magic as the lands nearer to Aslan’s Own Country are more mythical than the rest.

Words of Wisdom from Calormen:

The departure of guests makes a wound that is easily healed in the heart of a judicious host.

Deep draughts from the fountain of reason are required to extinguish the fire of youthful love.

As a costly jewel retains its value even hidden in a dung-hill, so old age and discretion are to be respected even in the vile persons of our subjects.

Sons are in the eyes of their fathers more precious than carbuncles.

Nothing is more suitable to persons of gravity and decorum than to withstand minor inconveniences with constancy. (The Tisroc to Ahosta to being kicked in the butt by Rabadash. My personal favourite. )


Next: Across the Desert. The title says it all!

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Comments
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: November 7th, 2008 05:51 am (UTC) (Link)
My favorite chapter. The Tisroc may look like a fat fool, but you do NOT cross him.

I'm oddly fond of Ahoshta Tarkaan.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 8th, 2008 08:07 am (UTC) (Link)
No, sir! But then it makes perfect sense, doesn't it? You don't get to be Numero Uno of a powerful and politically charged country like Calormen without having a razor-sharp mind.

I'm torn between contempt and pity for Ahoshta. I can't decide which is stronger. But I'm really glad Aravis didn't end up as his wife.
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: November 8th, 2008 08:18 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Aravis was absolutely right to get out of that marriage! Good for her.

I'm sure Ahoshta had no trouble getting another marriage arranged for himself, being Grand Vizier and all. (Poor girl.)

moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 8th, 2008 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm sure Ahoshta had no trouble getting another marriage arranged for himself, being Grand Vizier and all. (Poor girl.)

Well if she was someone like Las, I'm sure she would have made the best of the situation - maybe even been happy about it. I'm One part of me believes that Ahoshta would have been absolutely vile to his wife, especially if she were a high-born Tarkheena because he appears to, deep-down, hate the blue-bloods. The other part of me believes that he would have respected her for being high-born and for adding blue-blood credibility to him. *ponders*
sunlit_music From: sunlit_music Date: November 7th, 2008 06:48 am (UTC) (Link)
Ahoshta sounds likes a fascinating villain. I liked how his snakelike behaviour reflected his creepy and sinister nature.

I love it when books have multiple villains, especially when those villains are interesting. Mainly because this tends to make stories even better (for me anyhow). Villains normally make a story, IMHO (if it's about good vs. evil). If there's no villain, there'd be no story.

I like how the Tisroc is harmless in one way and deadly in another.
These were my favourite Calormen quotes:

Deep draughts from the fountain of reason are required to extinguish the fire of youthful love.

Nothing is more suitable to persons of gravity and decorum than to withstand minor inconveniences with constancy.


It is odd that there doesn't seem to be much detail on money and currency in Narnia.



tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: November 7th, 2008 08:11 am (UTC) (Link)
We do know that a crescent is worth about a third of a pound (in 1950s value), and is the main currency outside Narnia and, presumably, Archenland. Within Narnia...they don't seem to have much of an economy.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 8th, 2008 08:09 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh really? Where did you get the info?
tekalynn From: tekalynn Date: November 8th, 2008 08:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Calormenes and their currency are introduced in Voyage of the Dawn Treader. That's where Lewis lists the approximate value of the crescent. Very handy if you ever need to change your money in the Narnian universe. : )

moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 8th, 2008 12:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, that would definitely come in handy. :P
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 8th, 2008 08:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I liked how his snakelike behaviour reflected his creepy and sinister nature.

Oh definitely. The metaphor really flew over my head as a child. I saw him as little more than a slimy, bellycrawler. But now I understand just how sinister people like him truly are.

If there's no villain, there'd be no story.

And sometimes the villain is even the hero's darker nature, which is even more fascinating. It all depends on how well it's handled. There's something about the way the Horse and His Boy works - the good vs evil battle only starts like half-way through the book - we don't even know the story is going to be more than an Adventure/Escape story until then. It's fascinating.

LOL at your favourite quotes. I really liked the second one because I think the Tisroc is really just mocking Ahosta at that time.
dreamflower02 From: dreamflower02 Date: November 8th, 2008 03:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm so glad to see another of these!

One of the things I am never able to help doing when analyzing Lewis' books (as opposed to just reading them for fun) is drawing comparisons between Lewis and Tolkien. (That comes from my having been "introduced" to Lewis by Tolkien, so to speak.)

But as far as villains go, there's not much similarity between Tolkien's villains (who are mythic and very nearly cosmic in scope) and Lewis' villains (who are far too ordinary and pathetic and human in their faults)--with one exception:

Ahoshta Tarkin and Grima Wormtongue have a good deal in common: both pour poisonous and self-serving advice into the ears of their respective kings, both grovel and plot revenge--and there is the "snakelike" behavior of both of them.

I think if you can imagine what it would have been like to see Eowyn married to Wormtongue, you could imagine it being similar to seeing Aravis married to Ahoshta. *shudder* Both of which are disgusting thoughts.

On to the economy of Narnia: I think it would be difficult to extrapolate how Narnia's economy worked from the evidence we are given in the books. Lewis was not an economist, and if we go by his attitude towards that particular social science as shown in That Hideous Strenght he had little but contempt for economics as a pursuit.

This seems to be an attitude shared by many of his generation--it's only in more modern fantasy that we see the tendency to dot the i's and cross the t's (sorry for the apostrophes, but I'm not sure how else to indicate a plural of a single letter, LOL!) on the way a constructed world works. The worlds of the earliest fantasists--not only Lewis and Tolkien, but Dunsany, Morris and others--were more like the worlds of fairy tales than of real life. Even the depth that Tolkien gave to his world was more linguistic and historical than scientific or economic.

About the aphorisms of Calormen: what makes them so funny is how true many of them are considered alone, and how amusing they are considered in context!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 9th, 2008 08:32 am (UTC) (Link)
!! I was hoping you'll see this. :D

I think if you can imagine what it would have been like to see Eowyn married to Wormtongue, you could imagine it being similar to seeing Aravis married to Ahoshta. *shudder* Both of which are disgusting thoughts.

Ew! Disgusting does not even begin to descibe! *pukes a little*

And you're right: Ahosta and Wormtongue are very similar kind of villains. Somehow I feel less sorry for Ahosta though. At least, Wormtongue seemed to have been persuaded into villainy both by his own weak nature and by Saruman; Ahosta seems to be 100% self-motivated.

Your explanation for the lack of economics in Narnia makes sense.

About the aphorisms of Calormen: what makes them so funny is how true many of them are considered alone, and how amusing they are considered in context!

LOL! Especially the one of bearing minor inconveniences like being kicked in the butt... ;)
persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: November 21st, 2008 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)
On Calormene aphorisms: I'm currently hung up on the double meaning of "carbuncle."
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: November 22nd, 2008 03:19 pm (UTC) (Link)
I had to go to dictionary.com to find that out. Priceless.
animus_wyrmis From: animus_wyrmis Date: December 12th, 2008 06:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I am enjoying these very much! I read, er, the first few in the summer and meant to say something then, but life happened and I just now remembered. Is it all right if I friend you to keep up with them?

I find the Tisroc very funny and very, very scary. (Rabadash--that is really interesting, I never thought about it, but you're right; he's extremely intelligent. I never got the dislike Susan gets from some fans for not marrying him, to be honest; it seems to me that it would be a smart move to at least consider allying yourself to a powerful country that wants to kill you, and more so if you can get on its throne. But then, I also get really annoyed by the way Lasaraleen gets sort of thrown aside, when she's just as loyal as Aravis is, in a way.)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: December 13th, 2008 12:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Is it all right if I friend you to keep up with them?

I would be flattered. :)

I find the Tisroc very funny and very, very scary.

Exactly. Lewis does a fantastic job of making the villain amusing without losing his villainy. (word?)

I never got the dislike Susan gets from some fans for not marrying him, to be honest;

I think you mean you never got the "admiration" Susan gets for not marrying him? Both points are equally valid. Rabadash wasn't a very good person so from a personal perspective, she was perfectly in rights to turn him down. From a political perspective, it's murkier. The marriage would have made Narnia and Calormen allies - an improvement to the silent almost-cold war brewing between the nations for generations. On the other hand, Narnia did hold its own against Calormen for generations without the need of a formal alliance (that we know of anyway) so Susan marrying Rabadash may not have made any difference in the long run...

But then, I also get really annoyed by the way Lasaraleen gets sort of thrown aside, when she's just as loyal as Aravis is, in a way.)

But Narnia fandom tends to throw aside every character who hasn't appeared in the movies, doesn't it? It's inevitable since the books have been around for over half a century and the movies are really the only new "canon" for fans to get excited about... I just wish there were more places to have discussions about the book characters and not just William M. and Anna P.
animus_wyrmis From: animus_wyrmis Date: December 14th, 2008 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think I meant, er, dislike for thinking about marrying him. ::facepalm:: He's obviously not a good man personally, but most royal marriages aren't made based on personality. I've always wondered what the foreign policy was like under the White Witch--if it was just intense isolation, or if she was actually threatening.

I just wish there were more places to have discussions about the book characters and not just William M. and Anna P.
Seriously. I enjoyed the first movie, but I would sort of like to talk about the books--and movie fic isn't as much fun either.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: December 15th, 2008 05:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
OK, that makes a lot more sense now. :D

I've always wondered what the foreign policy was like under the White Witch--if it was just intense isolation, or if she was actually threatening.

If we can take clues from the novels, it seems like she didn't interact much with Calormen or with Archenland. That lives the lands to the North (the Giants) and the East... Food for thought...


Seriously. I enjoyed the first movie, but I would sort of like to talk about the books--and movie fic isn't as much fun either.

*sigh* I have too many problems with the movies to even enjoy them in a detached way...
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