The Horse and His Boy is a novel for children by C. S. Lewis, published by Geoffrey Bles in 1954. Of the seven novels that comprise The Chronicles of Narnia (1950–1956), The Horse and His Boy was the fifth to be published; it is also one of four of the novels that Lewis finished writing before the first book in the series had been published. In recent editions of The Chronicles of Narnia that are sequenced according to the history of the fictional land of Narnia, The Horse and His Boy is the third book in the series.[a] Like the other novels in The Chronicles of Narnia, it was illustrated by Pauline Baynes; her work has been retained in many later editions. The Horse and His Boy is the only novel within The Chronicles of Narnia that features children from the imagined world of Narnia (rather than English characters) as the main characters. It is also the only novel within The Chronicles of Narnia that takes place entirely in the fictional Narnian world.
The novel is set in the period covered by the last chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (which was the first of the Narnia books to be published), during the reign of the four Pevensie children as Kings and Queens of Narnia. Though three of the Pevensies appear as minor characters in The Horse and His Boy, the main characters are two children and two talking horses who escape from Calormen and travel north into Narnia. On their journey, they pass through Calormen’s capital city; while there, they learn of Calormen’s plan to invade Archenland. When they reach Archenland, they warn the king of the impending invasion.
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A boy by the name of Shasta is found as a baby and raised by Arsheesh, a Calormene fisherman. As the novel begins, Shasta overhears Arsheesh negotiating to sell him to a powerful Calormene feudal nobleman, Anradin. He is relieved to discover that Arsheesh is not his real father, since there was little love between them. While Shasta awaits his new master in the stable, Bree–the nobleman’s stallion–astounds Shasta by speaking to him. Bree is a Talking Horse from Narnia who was captured by the Calormenes as a foal. He tells Shasta that Anradin will treat him cruelly, and Shasta resolves to escape. The horse suggests that they escape a life of servitude by riding north together to the land of Narnia. Shasta and Bree meet another pair of escaping travellers, Aravis, a young Calormene aristocrat, and Hwin, a Talking Horse. Aravis is running away to avoid being forced to marry Ahoshta, the Grand Vizier of Calormen.
The four runaways travel through Tashbaan, the great capital of Calormen. There, they encounter Narnian visitors who mistake Shasta for Corin, a prince of Archenland who went exploring earlier that day. Obliged to accompany them, Shasta goes with the Narnians and overhears their plans to escape from Calormen to prevent a forced marriage between Queen Susan and Rabadash, son of the Tisroc (or king) of Calormen. Shasta escapes when the real Prince Corin returns.
Meanwhile, Aravis has been spotted by her friend Lasaraleen. She asks Lasaraleen not to betray her, and to help her escape from Tashbaan. Lasaraleen cannot understand why Aravis would want to abandon the life of a Calormene noblewoman or refuse marriage with Ahoshta, but she helps Aravis escape through the garden of the Tisroc’s palace. On the way, they hide when the Tisroc, Rabadash, and Ahoshta approach. Aravis overhears the Tisroc and Rabadash discussing the Narnians’ escape. Rabadash wants to invade Narnia to seize Queen Susan. The Tisroc gives Rabadash permission to conquer Archenland before making a quick raid into Narnia to kidnap Queen Susan while High King Peter is preoccupied battling giants in the north.
Aravis rejoins Shasta and the horses outside Tashbaan and tells them of the plot. The four set out across the desert, and a lion (whom they later discover to be Aslan) frightens them into fleeing swiftly enough to outrun Rabadash’s cavalry. Shasta arrives in Archenland in time to warn Archenland and Narnia of the approaching Calormenes. When Rabadash and his horsemen arrive at the castle of King Lune in Archenland, they find the defenders alerted. A siege ensues. There is no clear outcome until a relief army from Narnia, led by Edmund and Lucy, arrives. The Calormenes are defeated, and Rabadash is captured.
Rabadash rebuffs King Lune’s offer of a conditional release. Aslan the Lion, the King of Beasts, son of the Emperor-Over-the-Sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia, arrives in Archenland. When Rabadash still refuses Lune’s offer, he is transformed into a donkey. Aslan informs him that his true form will be restored if he stands before the altar of Tash at the Autumn Feast; thereafter, however, the prince will become a donkey permanently if he ever ventures more than ten miles from the Temple of Tash. For this reason, Rabadash pursues peaceful policies when he becomes Tisroc, as he dares not cross the ten-mile boundary by going to war.
The victorious King Lune recognizes Shasta as Cor, the long-lost identical twin of Prince Corin and–as the elder of the two–the heir to the throne of Archenland. Cor was kidnapped as a baby in an attempt to counter a prophecy that he would one day save Archenland from its greatest peril, and Shasta’s timely warning has fulfilled the prophecy. Aravis and Shasta live in Archenland thereafter and eventually marry. Their son, Ram, becomes the most famous king of Archenland.