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Runaway slaves, treason, obsessive lust, oh my! - moonspinner
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Runaway slaves, treason, obsessive lust, oh my!




Runaway slaves, treason, obsessive lust, oh my!

So hence begins my Chronicles of Narnia chapter-by-chapter, which I will post (knock on wood) once a week on Mondays. I’m starting with The Horse and His Boy instead of The Magician’s Nephew or The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for the pragmatic reason that both of these books are in the omnibus volume that my husband is currently reading. The lucky man is just discovering Narnia for the first time. How I envy him.

The Horse and His Boy is the 5th or the 3rd book of the Chronicles, depending on where you’re counting from. It’s my favourite Narnia book (although I love the series so much that it’s not by much) for the silliest of reasons – it’s almost a romance, if you squint and the preteen shipper in me who had been rooting for Aravis/Shasta something awful when I read the first book laughed out loud in delighted relief when I got to the end of the book and found out they got married.

Aravis is probably my favourite Narnia heroine. Which is funny, as she’s actually Calormen. In general, a lot of female characters in The Chronicles of Narnia are kick-ass, from not-Queen Jadis’s unnamed sister who won fair and square to Jill Pole who didn’t let her tears wet the string of her bow. But there’s something about Aravis…

Then there’s Shasta, second only to King Edmund in my heart – the slave (in all but name) boy turned Prince turned hero who becomes the most dangerous man in battle and King of Archenland to boot. Then aside from the characters, there’s political intrigue to rival the Phantom Menace, and obsessive lust… Isn’t it glaringly obvious why this is my favourite story?




Chapter One: How Shasta Set Out On His Travels

‘This is the story about an adventure that happened in Narnia and Calormen and the lands between, in the Golden Age when Peter was High King in Narnia and his brother and his two sisters were King and Queens under him.’


The most addictive things about the Chronicles is the way the first line of each story just grabs you and sucks you into the world and this one is certainly no exception. No sooner was I wondering about the strange kind of monarchy that allowed siblings to rule simultaneously (The Horse and His Boy was the 2nd Narnia book I read after The Magician’s Nephew. I had no idea who the Pevensie children were until I read Prince Caspian afterwards), than I was plunged into Arsheesh’s fish-smelling hut and Shasta’s longing for the North.

Shasta, the title character, is is a dreamer. He dreams about going North and finding some great treasure or adventure. He dreams about going into slavery and becoming a hero. He dreams about his ancestry and even speculates that he’s the son of a god. But he’s also a pragmatic Southern Calormen, true and true. He certainly doesn’t dwell on his betrayal of sorts by Arsheesh – rather on how his change in fortune can benefit him. He makes the decision to run away on the spot, without hesitating, without bemoaning his sad, sad fate. And he’d love to take the donkey but he knows he can’t. :)

After reading stories from less talented writers where the hero leaves his home and his unpleasant relatives without a backward glance and only remembers them when he feels a need to feel sorry for himself, Shasta’s own Call for Adventure is a lot less depressing, less sociopathic – and certainly more realistic. He doesn’t care enough about Arsheesh to feel bad about being sold into slavery and it’s a relief that he doesn’t feel guilty any more for not loving his “father”, but he does care enough to miss the old man’s snores and be a little sorry for running away. Arsheesh is a greedy man who has probably never freely done a thing in his life that he didn’t believe he could profit from, but still: he did of his own free will rescue a baby from starvation and cold; he did take care of Shasta in his infanthood at his own inconvenience and long before he could get any service out of the boy. I like the fact that the meanness of Arsheesh – and the fact that he sings his own praises – doesn’t diminish the innate goodness of that action. Shasta could never love him – but he doesn’t hate him either and even we (the readers) are left to judge him for ourselves.

My opinion of Bree-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah changed during the course of the story. He enters the scene as a very magnificent horse, bearing the red-bearded Tarkhaan. When he introduces himself to Shasta, he plays the role of mentor as well as companion: revealing to him the Secrets of the North and the second hint of Shasta’s bloodline, giving Shasta advice about his Master, planning their escape, teaching him to ride. (Bree’s riding tips are very practical, by the way). Bree is the veteran warrior/wise man stereotype to Shasta’s bumbling farm- fish-boy personae; and the reversal of hero/sidekick between these two progresses so gradually during the course of the story that it comes as a complete surprise when we realize that it’s happened.

Anradin and his strange crimson hair set the ball rolling in this story and then disappear. It makes me smile when I see in retrospect that metaphorically speaking, he is Bree’s vehicle and not the other way around. It’s not the great Knight charging in on his allegorically white stallion but the stallion charging in with the supposedly-great-but-largely-anonymous-Knight-that-will-soon-be-unimportant. Yet in typically Lewisian fashion, even a minor character gets enough of lens-insight for us to form an opinion of him. Apart from the obvious things we learn about Anradin – titled Lord, seasoned veteran, good to his Horses, cruel to his slaves – there’s also a hint that Anradin was a paedophile. The target audience – children – will have missed it. I certainly did. But reading with grown-up eyes, you can’t but add Bree’s “you’d better be lying dead tonight than go and be a human slave in his house tomorrow” to Anradin’s spur-of-the-moment decision to buy the fisherman’s son who is “fair and white like the accursed but beautiful Barbarians who inhabit the North” and come up with child sexual abuse.

It would be insidiously appropriate, won’t it, for a book where obsessive lust drives the plot? As the author is dead, I guess no one will ever know because happily, whatever the fate Shasta escapes from, he escapes it. The chapter ends with Bree and his boy making it over the Ridge of Destiny and galloping with Bree towards adventure. I like this cover art, it certainly captures what must have been Shasta’s first experience of horse-riding. :D

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Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic

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Comments
atanone From: atanone Date: June 23rd, 2008 01:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
*hugs just because*
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 24th, 2008 11:32 am (UTC) (Link)
*huggles back*

Edited at 2008-06-24 11:35 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 23rd, 2008 05:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! That's very funny, because I was thrilled as a pre-teen shipper when they got married. As I remember, the book stated something like "they kept arguing and making up so they got married to do it more easily." I thought that sounded like Han and Leia. I'm so glad to read that someone else was rooting for them too! And add to that the obsessive lust and runaway slave angle... well, it's clear to me why this one is your favorite.

I've been able to do a little more fanfic reading lately and I found your livejournal. I'm looking forward to catching up with your fics.

Liz (Dally)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 24th, 2008 11:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Dally!!!!

*huggles*

How are you?? *hugs*

I just knew you'd love Aravis/Cor|Shasta. You remember the quote almost word for word, only it was more "conveniently" not more "easily". Now I like to think that the more conveniently implies that the making up part of the arguing and making up required excessive chaperoning. :D


And add to that the obsessive lust and runaway slave angle... well, it's clear to me why this one is your favorite.

You know me too well. :D It's so good to hear from you. I hope everything is OK with you and yours. *hugs again*
foodsthatcan From: foodsthatcan Date: June 23rd, 2008 07:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I LOVE this book. Glad you're covering it!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 24th, 2008 11:39 am (UTC) (Link)
I should have done this a long time ago. :)
thewhiteowl From: thewhiteowl Date: June 23rd, 2008 08:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
David and Douglas Gresham were his stepsons.

You know, I'd never noticed the hint at paedophilia before! I suppose I read it first too young and then never noticed afterwards because I was used to it.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 24th, 2008 11:47 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, cool info. Thanks! Do you know who the Lucy was that he dedicated the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to?

I didn't notice it until my millionth reading early this year - so that goes to show. If Google is anything to go by, there aren't any theories about that either. I'm probably completely wrong but at the same time... unless Bree's lying, there's something creepy about Anradin's impulse shopping of a young boy with nothing but his fisherman skills and his "fair" looks to recommend him.
r0ck3tsci3ntist From: r0ck3tsci3ntist Date: June 24th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I LOVED this book! Yes to all you've said! ♥
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 24th, 2008 11:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Of course, you do, we're doppelgangers! Talking about evil twins, I've been meaning to prod you and your better/worse half to get on with another story about another set of twins... ::grim face:: Don't make me use The Instruments.
From: bobill Date: June 26th, 2008 03:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Happy birthday! Hope you have a lovely day filled with cake and goodies. Yay people who are born on the 26th!
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: June 27th, 2008 06:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Thanks dear! ::hugs:: What would you like by way of ficlet or drabble?
sunlit_music From: sunlit_music Date: June 29th, 2008 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
The Horse and his Boy sounds really interesting. I liked how Shasta does care enough to miss Arsheesh's snores and be a little sorry for running away. And I also thought it was fascinating how Arsheesh took Shasta in despite being a selfish unpleasant person.

I don't see that complexity in characterisation all the time, so it sounds like a refreshing change from some of the fantasy stories I've read.
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: July 1st, 2008 06:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't see that complexity in characterisation all the time

I remember thinking that of course, Arsheesh kept the boy since he was free labour. But now grown-up, I realized that for sometime, the boy was more of a burden than a use. And what was the gaurantee anyway that the child won't take ill or die in some silly accident and the "investment" would have come to waste? He must have done it out of some form of kindness.

I like complex characterizations. It always amuses me to read about Rowling dissing Narnia because the characters "never grow up" when she has some of the most immature, two-dimensional characters in the history of children's books. Seriously, this is the woman that gave us Sirius Black, the 15year old boy who set up his best friend to murder another student because he didn't like him, is never for one day repentant of this and yet we are all supposed to see him as a hero?
tuawahine From: tuawahine Date: September 10th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the idea of going through the books chapter by chapter.
And also, "The Horse and His Boy" is my favourite Narnia book as well, though for different reasons (I'm not a shipper at all).

Very interesting catch on Anradin being a possible paedophile. I never noticed, either, but now that you mention it, there really IS a very strong implication of it.

*goes to read the next parts*
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: September 10th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's cool, isn't it? I'm always talking about Narnia. It's about time I got all my thoughts in a coherent unity. :P

And also, "The Horse and His Boy" is my favourite Narnia book as well, though for different reasons (I'm not a shipper at all).

It's great on many levels, not just shipping. :D So why is it your favourite?


Very interesting catch on Anradin being a possible paedophile. I never noticed, either, but now that you mention it, there really IS a very strong implication of it.

Considering how quickly fandom reads subtext - or, more accurately, invents subtext - it always surprises me that no one else seems to have read that. :P


*goes to read the next parts*

I'm looking forward to what you think!
dreamflower02 From: dreamflower02 Date: October 23rd, 2008 04:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
What an interesting project!

I find it very fascinating that you first read the series "inside-out" so to speak, going by either published *or* chronological order. I will look forward to finding out how it affected your view of the Narnians when you get to those chapters--it was sort of assumed, I think, that readers were going to *know* who these "barbarians" were--so I feel you may have picked up on things that those of us "in the know" when we read it might have missed.

What I love about THaHB is that it's the only glimpse we get of the reign of the Peter et al. And it's the only book in which the hero and heroine are natives of that world, rather than in-comers from our own.

Oh, and that hint of child abuse you mentioned? I was in college when I first read the stories, and I picked up on the subtext right away--and that was about 37 years ago, before I even knew what "subtext" of *that* sort was.

Edited at 2008-10-23 04:18 pm (UTC)
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: October 23rd, 2008 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks for stopping by!

Actually I did read the books in the chronological order - sort of, I read LWW last because I couldn't get a copy until years later. I started with this one first because it was available at the time plus it's my favourite! :p

*g* I feel relieved that someone else picked up on the subtext. I was beginning to think I had a dirty mind. :)
jump2narnia From: jump2narnia Date: February 28th, 2009 01:56 am (UTC) (Link)
*gasp* An HHB fan! 8D Horse and His Boy is probably among my top 3 favorite Narnia books...I'd say it's probably my 2nd favorite with The Silver Chair coming before it and The Last Battle coming after. Horse and His Boy deserves way more love and attention. D:

My name is Amanda, btw. ^^ Planning on reading all your HHB chapter reviews. 8D

Runaway slaves, treason, obsessive lust, oh my!
LOLercopter! xD

it’s almost a romance, if you squint and the preteen shipper in me who had been rooting for Aravis/Shasta something awful when I read the first book laughed out loud in delighted relief when I got to the end of the book and found out they got married.

Ahaha! I know what you mean. HHB is the only book in the Chronicles with a bit of romance. =P Which makes Shastavis/Corvis totally canon, unlike the rather silly pairs of Lucy/Tumnus, Susan/Caspian, Tirian/Jewel, and Jadis/Edmund (WTF Pair O_O).

Aravis is probably my favourite Narnia heroine. Which is funny, as she’s actually Calormen. In general, a lot of female characters in The Chronicles of Narnia are kick-ass, from not-Queen Jadis’s unnamed sister who won fair and square to Jill Pole who didn’t let her tears wet the string of her bow. But there’s something about Aravis…

OMG Mine, too! 8D Well...Aravis isn't my favorite female Narnia character, but I have to agree that she's the strongest female in the Narnia universe (both physically and emotionally). I must say that Lucy is a pretty badass little girl. =O I mean, we know that's she an awesome archer and she's also quite the spunky little thing. x3 This is why I don't understand that critics say that the Narnia books are sexist...if they were sexist, CSL wouldn't be having ANY of the females in the middle of the action, nor would he let the character of Aravis to have the pants of the relationship. ;D

Then there’s Shasta, second only to King Edmund in my heart – the slave (in all but name) boy turned Prince turned hero who becomes the most dangerous man in battle and King of Archenland to boot. Then aside from the characters, there’s political intrigue to rival the Phantom Menace, and obsessive lust… Isn’t it glaringly obvious why this is my favourite story?

Shasta is such a sweetie. ^^ He's my 3rd favorite male character in the Chronicles, after Edmund and Scrubb. *_* I think it's 'cause I'm attracted to the sensitive underdog type of guys. D:

As for Arsheesh, I don't know why, but...I kinda like him. xD I mean, at least he's not as nasty as those awful Dursleys were to poor Harry. =(

and the reversal of hero/sidekick between these two progresses so gradually during the course of the story that it comes as a complete surprise when we realize that it’s happened.

I suppose that's why it's called "The Horse and His Boy". =P Oh gosh, I love Bree...out of all the Narnia horses, he's probably my fave. ^^ Beats out Fledge and Jewel, in my mind...although he doesn't win out over poor old Puzzle. D:

Apart from the obvious things we learn about Anradin – titled Lord, seasoned veteran, good to his Horses, cruel to his slaves – there’s also a hint that Anradin was a paedophile.

Eh? O.o Old red-beard geezer ish a pedo-bear? No wayz! =O
moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: February 28th, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cool icon! :P

I'd say it's probably my 2nd favorite with The Silver Chair coming before it and The Last Battle coming after.

You're the first person I've met online who ranks the Last Battle so high! Wow! :D :D

Shastavis/Corvis

I should poll that. See which one wins. ;)

This is why I don't understand that critics say that the Narnia books are sexist...if they were sexist, CSL wouldn't be having ANY of the females in the middle of the action, nor would he let the character of Aravis to have the pants of the relationship. ;D

LOL! Yeah, it totally baffles me too. For a man of his era and background, CSL writes remarkably three-dimensional young women that one can root for and identify with. His girls are real people and heroines. Not many modern day writers - not even the female ones - can create characters like he does. I, for one, can't decide which heroine is the strongest in the Narnia 'verse. It's so hard to choose! I adore Aravis the most but I won't be the least be surprised if someone makes an argument for why Lucy or Susan or Jill or Polly is really the best CSL heroine.

Shasta is such a sweetie. ^^ He's my 3rd favorite male character in the Chronicles, after Edmund and Scrubb. *_* I think it's 'cause I'm attracted to the sensitive underdog type of guys. D:

I'm an Edmund girl, through and through. I'm the ultimate sucker for the Redeemed Hero trope. But I'm very fond of all the other guys. It's hard not to like CSL heroes. Period.


Beats out Fledge and Jewel, in my mind...although he doesn't win out over poor old Puzzle. D:

I'm sure Jewel at least will take offence at being called a Horse. :P Although Puzzle is such a dear he'll probably be flattered.

Eh? O.o Old red-beard geezer ish a pedo-bear? No wayz! =O

Hey, it's just a theory! Not a very common one, too. Although one other person did admit that she also had this theory so I don't feel completely licentious. :D
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