- "This is the story of an adventure that happened in Narnia and Calormen and the lands between, in the Golden Age when Peter was High King and his brother and his two sisters were King and Queens under him."
- ―C. S. Lewis[src]
The Horse and His Boy is the fifth book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. It takes place in Calormen and Archenland, neighboring countries south of Narnia, during the reign of High King Peter, Queen Susan, King Edmund, and Queen Lucy Pevensie. As this story is the only Chronicle to depict only Narnian characters, it takes place in the Narnian-year 1013/1014.
This story was written by Lewis for his own two stepsons, to whom he dedicated the book.
- To David and Douglas Gresham
- How Shasta Set Out on his Travels
- A Wayside Adventure
- At the Gates of Tashbaan
- Shasta Falls in with the Narnians
- Prince Corin
- Shasta among the Tombs
- Aravis in Tashbaan
- In the House of the Tisroc
- Across the Desert
- The Hermit of the Southern March
- The Unwelcome Fellow Traveller
- Shasta in Narnia
- The Fight at Anvard
- How Bree Became a Wiser Horse
- Rabadash the Ridiculous
The Horse and His Boy is set in the time of King Peter the Magnificent during the Golden Age of Narnia.
In a town south of Calormen lived a boy named Shasta. He lived with a poor fisherman named Arsheesh who treated Shasta none too kindly. Shasta always wondered what lay to the north beyond the hills but his curiosity was punished by Arsheesh who demanded that Shasta attend to his work. It happened one day that a noble came from the south and stopped at Arsheesh's home. Over dinner, the two began to bargain over a price for which Shasta would be sold to the Calormene.
During the discussion, Shasta learns that Arsheesh is not his true father but found him in a small boat with a soldier who had died. Shasta is relieved at the news for he never really loved Arsheesh. During the bargaining, Shasta slips away to the stables where he talks out loud to himself. Shasta wonders what kind of man the Tarkaan, whose name is Anradin, is and how life would be under his rule. To Shasta's surprise, the horse speaks out and tells Shasta that he would be better off dead than a slave in the Tarkaan's house. The two make a plan for heading north to Narnia, the horse's homeland from which he was taken as a young colt. After Arsheesh and the Tarkaan are fast asleep, Shasta steals the visitor's saddle and rides off with the horse. Shasta is an inexperienced rider and must leave the horse, Bree, to freely direct himself. After several falls, Shasta begins to get the hand of riding.
The morning after their flight, Shasta awakes with sore muscles from riding the day before but manages to mount the horse. Bree tells Shasta that they must head to Tashbaan where they will have to travel through the city to get over the river. As the two travel toward Tashbaan, Bree tells tales of Calormene wars.
After several weeks of travel, Bree suddenly stops, aware of a presence nearby. Aware now that another horse is near, the horse continues onward, cautiously because the sound of the horse seems to be that of a trained rider, a Tarkaan on a fine mare. Bree remains still as he waits for the sound to disappear but the other horse has also stopped. A mist rises and Bree begins walking again. As the horse idles forward, the sound of a Lion is heard in the forest and bree throws caution to the wind as he runs. Crossing a stream, Bree stops and listens for the Lion and the other horseman. Believing that he has shaken his pursuers, Bree slows to a walk for a short time. He agains bursts into full gallop as the roar of the lion sounds again. During the rush, Shasta notices that the other rider too is running from the Lion and is only a short distance from them. The two horses gallop side by side until they both rush into an inlet of salt water. Turning back to the beach, Shasta sees the Lion crouched. They are safe from the lion, but Shasta fears what the Tarkaan will say about him and the horse. He hasn't time to come up with a story before the other rider speaks and is answered by the other horse. Bree speaks up and addresses the other horse as a Narnian. During the discussion, Shasta learns that the Tarkaan is really a Tarkheena, a girl. She does not wish to share information or the journey to Narnia with Bree and Shasta but the horses overrule her and they will travel together. Having crossed the inlet to the side away from the Lion, the humans remove the saddles from the horses and all sit while the Tarkheena, Aravis, tells her tale.
Aravis is a descendant of the god Tash. Her step-mother did not approve of her and convinced Aravis's father to promise her in marriage to Ahoshta Tarkaan, a man of "base birth" but favored of the Tisroc and Tarkaan in line for the position of Grand Vizier. Unhappy with the proposition of marrying Ahoshta, she rode into the coutryside with her mare, Hwin, and her dagger, determined to end her life. As she was about to drive the dagger into her heart, the mare spoke, asking her to spare her own life. Feeling that she was dreaming, she again prepared to take her life, but the horse put her head between the knife and Aravis's heart. The wonder of the talking horse drove the desire for death from her and Aravis, after listening to the mare's accounts of Narnia, decides to go there with the horse.
After misleading her father with information that she would go into the woods to perform sacrifices to Zardeenah, she escapes from her father's home with Hwin. She traveled to Azim Balda to mail a letter to her father which is feigned to be from her betrothed husband. The letter claims that the Tarkaan fell upon Aravis in the wood and was so stricken with her beauty that he married her at once and returned home. It asked that her father come to Ahoshta Tarkaan's house to bring the dowry of his wife. The letter was to throw Aravis's father off her trail for several days to facilitate her escape.
Shasta asks a few questions which do not impress the Tarkheena and Shasta feels snubbed. All sleep that night before traveling more the following day. They travel for several weeks before arriving at the gates of Tashbaan. They decide to dress like slaves and, to the best of their ability, make the horses look like pack animals. Their belongings are put into sacks and carried on the horses' backs. The horses' tails are cut raggedly to complete the disguise.
The entry into Tashbaan goes with little difficulty, however once in the city things begin to go awry. Shasta is recognized by a member of a Narnian processional and is taken from Bree and the others. The stranger calls Shasta "Corin" but Shasta does not say a word. He is taken to the temporary dwelling of the Narnians during their stay in Tashbaan where he hears several things of interest. First, Susan is being courted by Rabadash, the Tisroc's son. She has decided not to marry but her decision would have grave consequences if made public. Members of the Calormene royalty have made reference to taking the Narnians prisoner should Susan refuse Rabadash. Secret plans are devised, chiefly by Tumnus, by which they may board their ship with plenty of food for the homeward voyage. The plan is put into action and Shasta is left alone. Tumnus returns, bringing food and drink for Shasta. After some brief conversation, Shasta is left alone to sleep.
Shasta is awakened by a sudden noise and rises to see someone climbing through the window. It turns out that this is the real Corin, Prince of Archenland. The two talk for a very short while before Shasta departs for the rendezvous with Bree and the others. Finding no one at the meeting place, Tombs of the Ancient Kings, Shasta settles down to sleep. He is frightened by a cat that touches him on the leg. The cat appears to be noble and strong. It lays down at Shasta's back as he sleeps. Later, the cat even seems to take on the form of a Lion to frighten away some jackals which lingered too near Shasta. The following day, Shasta waits for Bree, Hwin, and Aravis. As the sun is setting, he spots an approaching slave with two horses. They are Bree and Hwin.
After Shasta's capture, Aravis herself was recognized by her good friend, Lasaraleen Tarkheena. Aravis secretly rides with her to Las's home where she explains the purpose for her escape. Lasaraleen thinks that Aravis is crazy to run from marriage to the Grand Vizier but agrees to help her escape from Tashbaan the next night. The days pass slowly but Aravis is pleased to sleep in a real bed again.
Lasaraleen takes Aravis to the old palace where there is a water door leading out to the river. As they descend the stairs, they see the Tisroc coming up. They retreat quickly, entering a side room from the passage and hiding behind the couch in that room. As it would happen, the Tisroc, preceded by two deaf, mute slaves and followed by Rabadash and the Grand Vizier, enters the room and seats himself. Rabadash is irritated that Susan has escaped and wants his father to declare war on Narnia. The Tisroc declines. Rabadash proposes a plan to take Archenland and Narnia and make them part of the Calormene empire while at the same time, retrieving Queen Susan. Interested, the Tisroc listens as Rabadash unfolds the plan. He will take 200 men and ride to Anvard and there conquer the unsuspecting Archenlanders. He and his men will rape and pillage the castle. Rabadash holds a grudge against princess Aliena of Archenland for refusing his marriage proposal before Susan. He intends to rape her when they take Anvard as revenge. He will then ride over the mountains into Narnia and take Cair Paravel. Peter is away at war with the northern giants so the conquest of Cair Paravel will be simple. He will then simply wait for the Splendour Hyaline and take Susan as she disembarks and retreat to Anvard. Afterwards, troops can be slowly fortified until the numbers exist to conquer Narnia. The Tisroc agrees to let Rabadash go but will not admit to knowing and will not defend his son should the plan fail. The Tisroc tells the Grand Vizier that as far as they are concerned, what has been said in the secret counsel shall not be reported and that any who may have overheard will regret it on pain of death. The Tisroc leaves the room and Aravis and Lasaraleen resume normal breathing.
Lasaraleen is almost too flustered to take Aravis to the water gate but, after some threats from Aravis, reluctantly resumes the path to the exit. Lasaraleen once more tries to convince Aravis that life would be better now knowing what a powerful man her husband is. Aravis denounces the Vizier and leaves Lasaraleen to her "perfect" life. She sets off toward the tombs where she rejoins the horses and Shasta. After Aravis tells them of the plot she heard at Tashbaan, the four set off as quickly as possible by the route Shasta overheard in the Narnians' bedchamber. The journey across the desert seemed to last forever, but at last Shasta sees the fissure in the rock and the party travels through the mountains and reach the river.
After a short swim, the four sit down to rest and, despite their efforts to the contrary, fall fast asleep. Upon awakening, Bree decides that they are in no big hurry and stops to have a snack before moving on toward Archenland. In his arrogance, he denounces Hwin and forces her and the children to wait until he is done. It is late in the morning before they continue their trek toward Archenland. For several hours, the four travel toward the north. They see from their mountainous vantage point rivers and a saddle like hill: the pass from Archenland to Narnia. At the crossing of the Winding Arrow (a river), they are in Archenland. They begin working their way uphill when Shasta looks back. He sees in the distance a cloud on the desert which appears to be a sandstorm. Flashes from within the cloud identify it as Rabadash and his army. The horses pick up their pace and rush toward Anvard. Bree is still not putting forth a good effort. His attitude changes when they hear from behind the snarling roar of a Lion. Before he can fully realize what is happening, Shasta sees a green wall about 10 feet high before him. As he approaches the wall, and the door in the wall, he turn and sees that the lion has nearly caught Hwin. Shasta jumps from Bree and rushes back to help Aravis and Hwin. Before Shasta can help, the Lion reaches forward and tears at Aravis's shoulders. Shata shouts at the Lion, having no weapon to fight the animal and, much to his surprise, apparently scares the Lion away.
Shasta returns to the enclosure with the green wall where he asks an old man if he is the King. The Hermit points Shasta in the direction of Anvard and Shasta proceeds on foot in the direction he is given. The Hermit takes Aravis into his home where he tends to her wounds and leaves her to rest. Afterward, he feeds the horses. When Aravis awakes, she finds herself laying face down and very sore. The Hermit comes to her and tells her that she will be fine, however odd it is that the Lion did not knock her out of the saddle and kill her. The Hermit instructs her to rest for now and she can move around the next day.
The following day, Aravis awakes and goes out to visit with the horses. Hwin greets her and tells her that Bree is near the wall, refusing to talk to others. Aravis speaks with them and finally gets him to say that he is embarrassed by his cowardice for not helping Hwin. He declares that he will return to Tashbaan rather than go to Narnia in disgrace. Bree is rebuked by the Hermit who tells him how his self-conceit is the only thing he has lost.
After Shasta had been directed by the Hermit, he ran as fast as he could in the direction of Anvard. In the distance he hears a horn; not the horn of Tashbaan or Rabadsh, but a merrier horn. Before he knew where it was coming from, he ran into a glade and the presence of several men with horses. The merriest of the men greets Shasta, calling him Corin yet again, and asks why he is on foot and in rags. Shasta corrects the King by giving the King greetings in Corin's name. He then tells the King of Rabadash's plot to take Anvard. Shasta is given a spare horse and the party rides for Anvard.
Shasta, having never truly directed a horse, falls behind the others and becomes lost in a growing fog. In the distance ahead of him, he hears the sound of a horn being blown, leading the party to Anvard but Shasta cannot get the horse to move faster. The party leaves him behind as he idly rides the horse through the fog. Shasta comes to a fork in the road and must decide which way to go. His decision is hastened by the sounds of Rabadash's approaching army. Shasta decides to take the right-hand fork and urges the horse forward. Behind him, he hears the sound of Rabadash's army stopping, and Rabadash shouting orders to his men. They soon resume their march towards Anvard, taking the left fork. Shasta is safe. He journeys along the road, oblivious to his surroundings due to the thick fog. The further he travels, the more he becomes depressed at his situation. He feels that everything has gone right for everyone but himself. The tears just start rolling down his cheeks when he senses a presence nearby. The sound of the creature breathing frightens him entirely. In his fright, Shasta stops crying and manages to ask the creature who He is. The creature responds, asking Shasta to tell Him his sorrows and He tells Shasta the story of his travels - about the lions in the forest, the lion at the tombs, and the lion outside the hermit's gates. They were all the same Lion. The fog lifts and Shasta is able to see the shape of Aslan, glowing with light in the early morning mist. Shasta dismounts his horse and falls at Aslan's feet. Aslan raises Shasta's head and their eyes meet before Aslan disappears into the mist and is alone on the road.
As Shasta sits wondering if it had all been a dream, the large print of Aslan's right front paw fills with water which begins flowing downhill. Shasta stoops to drink and splashes the water over his face and head. The water is perfectly clear and refreshing. After his bath, Shasta takes notice of his surroundings. He especially notice the mountains over which he had passed and realizes that he must be in Narnia. Shasta unbridles his horse and leaves him, setting off downhill further into Narnia. Presently he is greeted by a talking hedgehog. Shasta tells the hedgehog that he has come from Archenland and that an army is attacking Anvard. The hedgehog seems indifferent to the news. A talking rabbit happens along and the news of the attack is shared. The rabbit agrees that the news is quite interesting and should be forwarded to someone. Every so often a different creature would arrive and the news would be shared. This continued until two dwarfs happened along. They are alarmed at the news and send a stag to Cair Paravel to inform King Edmund of the attack (the High King Peter was off to the north in battle with the giants there).
After the news has been properly dealt with, the dwarfs take the famished Shasta to their home where he is fed a hearty breakfast. As the dwarfs and Shasta relax after their meal, Shasta collapses into a deep sleep and does not wake until supper. After eating he falls off again and rises the next morning to the sound of trumpets - Edmund and the army from Cair Paravel are arriving. The army consists of Edmund and Lucy with centaurs, talking dogs, and giants among others. The army stops for a rest and some breakfast. Corin sees Shasta and congratulates him on getting through to Narnia. King Edmund asks Corin who his friend is and it is explained that Shasta is the boy that they mistook for Corin in Tashbaan. Shasta apologizes for overhearing their plans without saying anything and is kindly corrected by Edmund.
Before the army is set to leave, a dwarf is injured because Corin, who wants to fight in the battle, was told by the dwarf that he could not. The two end up fighting until the dwarf trips on a rock and sprains an ankle, rendering him useless for battle. Edmund is angered at the loss of a soldier. Corin volunteers to take his place, but he is told that battle is not a place for boys. When Edmund leaves to deal with other matters, Corin quietly helps Shasta into the dwarf's armor. The two will fight in the battle despite Edmund's directive.
Late in the morning the army sets out for Anvard. Corin's whereabouts are questioned but since he is not in the front of the procession, all is well. During the journey to Anvard, Shasta tells Corin of his flight from Tashbaan. High above their heads, eagles are gathering smelling the coming battle. As the army comes over the hill, it stops and the lines are rearranged. All busily prepare themselves for battle - strapping on helmets, stringing bows, donning armor. The army proceeds down the hill and Rabadash's army turns to face the new assault. Shasta realizes how horribly unprepared for battle he truly is.
The details of the battle are recounted from the Hermit's perspective, who is watching the battle in his magical pool. He tells of Rabadash's men felling a tree and using it as a battering ram against the gates of Anvard. The army of Narnia appears on the crest of the hill and descends upon the Calormenes. Narnia's great cats rush in and scare the Calormene horses. Rabadash manages to get 100 men into their saddles to fight the Narnian forces. Shasta and Corin rush into battle. Corin kills a Calormene. Shasta is seen violently waving his sword before being knocked from his horse. The gates of Anvard open and the Archenland army emerges and falls on Rabadash. Several Calormenes are killed as Edmund and Rabadash are at it hammer and tongs. Most of the remaining Calormenes surrender. Rabadash seems to have been hung on the castle walls. The battle is over, and the Calormenes are defeated.
Shasta felt as though he would certainly be killed after falling from his horse but after only a short time he realizes that the fighting has stopped and he is safe. He first realizes that Rabadash has lost the battle but is curiously suspended from the castle walls by his hauberk after attempting to jump from the battering ram onto Edmund. The mail shirt caught on a hook in the walls and Rabadash was captured by his own clothing. Rabadash then commands that he be taken down or killed immediately. Edmund moves to oblige the latter request when King Lune of Archenland stops him and commands that Rabadash be locked away until his fate can be decided. Corin leads Shasta to King Lune and is sternly rebuked for fighting in the battle. He is, however, proud of his son. The king stands Corin and Shasta together and asks if there are any doubts and Shasta becomes more confused as the crowd around him cheers.
The setting returns to the Hermit's dwelling where all learn that Shasta was not killed. The following morning, Hwin decides that it is time to be off to Narnia, but Bree is reluctant. As it turns out, he is ashamed of his short tail and wants to wait until it grows out before returning to Narnia. His vanity is apparent. He swears by the Lion that he is NOT vain. Aravis questions the comment "by the Lion," asking what is means. Bree declares that he swears by Aslan because all Narnians swear by Him. Aravis wonders if He is a real Lion. Bree says that it is only a figure of speech and that swearing by the Lion simply means they are saying he is as strong or as brave as a lion. Unknown to Bree, however, Aslan jumps over the wall behind the arrogant horse and approaches Bree and brushes His whiskers across Bree's ears, scaring the horse witless. The terrified Bree runs as far away as he can, but Hwin trots over to Aslan and says that, though He may eat her, she would rather be eaten by Him than anyone else. Aslan blesses Hwin, then turns to deal with Bree. After rebuking him, Aslan tells Aravis that he will not hurt her this time (for it was he who tore her back earlier). The wounds she suffered are her punishment for the whipping the slave she had drugged received. He tells them that they will have another visitor before He leaps over the walls and is gone.
A short time later a trumpet sounds and a voice announces the arrival of Prince Cor of Archenland. Cor has arrived to see Aravis. Aravis curtsies in the Calormene style before looking at the prince, a boy. She realizes that he is, in fact, Shasta. The two sit and Cor tells her how when he was a baby his father's Lord Chancellor was removed from his position for embezzlement. Soon after, the Chancellor kidnapped Cor and took him to a Calormene ship. King Lune gave chase, of course, and captured the Chancellor. However, he had already set Cor to sea in a small boat with a knight who was to protect him. It was in this boat that Cor's "father" had found him that night so long ago.
The purpose of the visit, however, is to invite Aravis to live at the castle with the King. Aravis agrees. The horses agree to leave, including Bree, and all say good-bye to the hermit. Before they reach Anvard, Bree allows himself one last roll, just in case such things are not allowed in Narnia.
When they arrive at the castle, King Lune comes out to meet them and welcomes Aravis. They share stories, including Cor's defense of Aravis against the lion, until Lucy comes from the castle and takes Aravis inside to get some fresh clothes for her. After they had lunch, the entire group is on the terrace and King Lune decides that they must do something about Rabadash. It is suggested that he be killed at once, despite the difficulties this would raise with the Tisroc. Lune is hesitant to kill even a traitor in cold blood. It is decided that he will be set free with the understanding that he must never again attempt such treachery.
Rabadash is brought before them and given the conditions of his release. Rabadash curses the king, demanding that he be given a sword and let him debate that way. Several Lords leap to their feet, ready to respond to the challenge. Corin asks if he could box with him. King Lune commands everyone into silence and once again asks Rabadash to hear the conditions of his release. Rabadash refuses, uttering threats of violence and destruction at the hands of the Tisroc's army. As Rabadash rants, everyone at the table rises as Aslan enters their presence. The Lion warns Rabadash to accept the mercy of the King or his doom would be upon him. Rabadash rolled his eyes and spread his lips in a horrible grin that usually scared most people to tears. He screams at the Lion, calling him a Narnian demon, cursing Him in the name of Tash.
In the midst of Rabadash's ravings, Aslan warns him that his doom is at the door. Rabadash continues his threats and curses until Aslan tells him the time has come. Suddenly, Rabadash's ears change, growing longer and growing hair. Then his face changes into the long, thick face of a jackass. Rabadash was still able to speak for a short time after his transformation and cries out not to be changed into a donkey, but his words die away into the braying of a common ass. Aslan tells Rabadash that to resume his former shape, he must present himself at the altar of Tash in Tashbaan during the Autumn Feast. After his transformation, he was not to go more than ten miles from the temple at Tashbaan or the donkey's form would come upon him and from that transformation there would be no return.
Aslan disappears from the castle and Rabadash is sent off with guards to be returned to Tashbaan so his remedy could be carried out. Rabadash did present himself at the temple and was turned back into his human form. He became the most peaceful Tisroc because it is bad for armies to win victories without their leader present, so armies were seldom sent out. The people never forgot that he was a donkey and he was often referred to as Rabadash the Ridiculous.
However, at Anvard, once Rabadash was removed, the real fun began. Stories were told, dances were danced. Lucy retells the story of the wardrobe. Before long, Cor is told that it is time for bed, for tomorrow he would see the castle and learn its strengths and weaknesses since he would rule it when the King was gone. Cor, confused, declares that Corin would be King since he had been Prince for so long. However, King Lune tells him that he is the firstborn and would be king. Corin is thrilled that he would not have to be king, saying that princes get to have all the fun. Cor tries to convince Corin to take the throne but he adamantly refuses, threatening violence if it is mentioned again. The two continued to disagree about things for the years to come. Corin became a famous boxer and earned the name Corin Thunder-Fist. He even boxed a talking bear which had become wild and caused the beast to reform himself.
Cor and Aravis had their share of fights as well but were always able to make up. Years later when they had grown into adulthood, they decided to marry so as to be able to disagree more conveniently. After King Lune's death, they reigned rightly and bore a son, Ram the Great. Bree and Hwin lived in Narnia and both married (not to one another) and visited the court of Archenland often.
- The Horse and His Boy (BBC Radio 4)
- The Horse and his Boy (Focus on the Family Radio Theatre)
- Harper Audio audiobook read by Alex Jennings
- Hermit of the Southern March
- This is the only book with main characters exclusively from the world of Narnia.
- The story of the Horse and His Boy was told by a blind poet in the court of Caspian X after a feast that was attended by Jill Pole and Eustace Scrubb during their adventure in The Silver Chair.
- C. S. Lewis borrowed several elements for this book, and some of his other Narnia series, from another book, Story of the Amulet written by E. Nesbit in 1906. The Calormene god Tash closely resembles the Babylon deity Nisroch, whose name may have also influenced the title of the Calormene king, the Tisroc. The King of Babylon, like the Tisroc, must have his name followed by "May he live forever".
- The book is dedicated to David and Douglas Gresham, Lewis's step-sons
- Other titles Lewis considered were "Narnia and the North", " The Desert Road to Narnia", "Over The Border" and "Cor of Archenland".