Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy

Of all the books that make up C.S. Lewis’ “The Chronicles of Narnia” this one, “The Horse and His Boy” is perhaps the most unusual. In every other book, the main characters start in Earth and come to Narnia through some magical portal to learn some important lesson. In this one, although the main characters do not live in the land of Narnia, they start in the same world. They come from a land south of Narnia on the Narnia map in the land of Calormen.


From the descriptions of the people, the actions they take, and the language they use, Calormen seems to me to be a metaphor for the Arab nations of Earth and their views of the great Tisroc might be construed as a metaphor for Islam. I’m not sure about that completely as I am not fully conversant in Islam or C.S. Lewis’ scholarly background. But it seems likely. As such, there is a developed contrast between Narnia (Christianity) and Calormen (Islam/Arabia) and as C.S. Lewis is a Christian, Christianity comes out clearly as the winner in this book. Personally, I do think Christianity has an edge over Islam (but again, I’m not fully conversant in Islam), but my views are not relevant to this review or the work as a whole.


Anyway, the four main characters of this novel are: the young boy, Shasta, the young girl, Aravis, and the two Talking Horses, Hwin and Bree. The book starts with Shasta living a desperate life of servitude in Calormen and the story, as a whole, generally revolves around him. In the beginning, he’s pretty much a slave-boy to his “father,” Arsheesh, a poor fisherman. Then one day, a nobleman comes to his father’s hut, and, seeing the boy, wants to buy him as a slave. His “father” and the nobleman begin to barter. That night, now in even more desperate straits, Shasta escapes on the nobleman’s horse who just happens to be Bree, a Talking Horse from Narnia who is pretending to be a dumb animal wishing he could return to Narnia.


Shasta and Bree take flight north towards Narnia. Along the way, they encounter Aravis and her Talking Horse, Hwin. They team up and begin their journey.


Another unusual aspect of this book is that this story takes place before the end of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” It happens sometime during the reign of the two kings and two queens of Narnia from that book. Shasta and his company encounter King Edmund and Queen Lucy several times during the book. Or is it Queen Susan? I’ve forgotten already. Anyway, I won’t reveal the ending.


It’s a decent book for kids, morally speaking. It embraces the Christian ethos while providing an intriguing, fun adventure story.


I was having some issues while reading the latter half of this book, so I don’t feel comfortable giving it a precise ranking, so I will give it a range. I think it is about three and a half to four stars out of five, inasmuch as it’s a children’s book. Adults probably wouldn’t enjoy it as much (I know I didn’t: these Narnia books are becoming something of a challenge to finish).

This review was originally published on on 12/30/12.

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About atoasttodragons

The author, Matthew D. Ryan, lives in northern New York on the shores of Lake Champlain, one of the largest lakes in the continental United States, famous for the Battle of Plattsburgh and the ever-elusive Lake Champlain Monster, a beastie more commonly referred to as Champy. Matthew has studied philosophy, mathematics, and computer science in the academic world. He has earned a black belt in martial arts.

6 responses to “Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and His Boy”

  1. Cassandra says :

    I’m starting to think I should be rereading this series also. Especially given your comment about the possible connection to Islam.

    I’m not sure if this is completely relevant, but when I was in high school, one of the languages I took was Arabic. The teacher was from Morocco, and in his free time would do presentations about the Arabic world in an attempt to show that they aren’t all terrorists. For these presentations, he would give out a ten question test, and for each question you had to decide whether the quote was from the Bible or the Koran. Only after finishing the test did he tell everyone that every quote was actually from both the Bible and the Koran. His point was that the two religions were different from one another, but shared similar core values.

    That is just about everything I know about Islam, actually. But that may also be why I remember not understanding why the peoples of Narnia and Calormen were fighting. I guess in middle school I just couldn’t see the difference between them. (I may also be confusing this with Prince Caspian, since I recently saw that movie.)

    • atoasttodragons says :

      Yeah, from the little bit I know about Islam it goes kind of like this. Judaism came first, which in turn was followed by Christianity, which in turn was followed by Islam. The latter ones were kind of offshoots of the earlier ones, specificially building on what came before. One of the reasons I thought the Calormen were a metaphor for Islam was because everytime a muslim says the name Mohammed, they also say, “Peace be upon him.” In the Narnia book, every time they mention the Tisroc they say something similar but I’ve forgotten what it is (I wrote the original review well over a month ago). Anyway, it was just a thought.

  2. debyfredericks says :

    What I most remember about this book is Aravis, and her journey from privileged captivity (she was a nobleman’s daughter being ordered to marry a repulsive suitor) to responsible adulthood. Her friendship with Shasta made this book for me.

    And the talking horses were cool, of course! I so wanted a talking horse when I was ten.

    You might also consider that Lewis wrote these books around the time of WW II, and it’s possible to arrogant Tisroc may have referred more to Hitler than the sultans and sheiks of the middle east at that time.

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