The Horse and His Boy

Which is your favorite Chronicles of Narnia book?

Mine is The Horse and His Boy.

I didn’t know why. Growing up, I wanted to be Peter and kill wolves and rule Narnia as High King. I also wanted to be the oldest. And command armies. But even when I finished reading The Last Battle, still struggling to accept it as the completion of the series, my thoughts still trailed to the story of an orphan slave and a talking horse. I found more concepts there with which I identify than the rest of the series.

In my mind, I’m Shasta; born into slavery, approached by the fantastical – Bree, a talking horse! Bree asks my aid to return to where he needs to be, but I must learn to ride so he has a greater chance of success. Just as I must learn to develop my writing to allow the fantastical in my head a voice on the page.

The Horse and His Boy is unique in the Chronicles of Narnia series. The protagonist and his friends are born of the Narnian world with no connection to our own save their humanity and common ancestry thereby. Heroes of English origin who claim protagonist roles in the other six books are minor characters in this work. Lewis tells the story to introduce how expansive the world of Narnia is. How many other stories are possible within Narnia, how many tales are untold, how many songs left to our imagination? For as much as the nights and days and trials and triumphs of Narnia continued, so, too, did historical events in Calormen, Archenland, Telmar, the Lone Islands, and so on.

It is an argument to explore the world, to see beyond the boundaries of the creator lore. Before the Star Wars Prequels and Sequels hit the big screen, writers beyond George Lucas scribbled a plethora of apocrypha for his universe. Boba Fett received a backstory, Han Solo turned out to be a drug runner, and the Star Wars equivalent of Jason Bourne (Kyle Katarn) stole the plans for the Death Star.

Of course, these tales often conflicted with each other. Each author scrabbled to build upon each other’s work or plunder the minor characters of the true lore for their own stories. So, the Death Star plans were not only stolen by Rogue One, but by Kyle Katarn, Senator Garm Bel Iblis, prisoners who escaped from the Death Star with the plans and Han Solo’s old girlfriend, Bria Tharen.

But these can be explained away by history becoming legend. After all, a “long, long time ago in a galaxy far away” would certainly be a time period extensive enough for mythology to season fact. Plus, each myth or tale serves to convey what the storytellers of Star Wars want to convey: good wins, evil loses.

What C.S. Lewis and George Lucas started with their favorite characters, be they the Pevensie children of England, or the Skywalker or Solo family, they continued with works to flesh out the universe. The spies and saboteurs of the rebellion are not paintings on a wall as Han Solo passes by, nor are the kings of Arkenland or the inhabitants of far Calormen. They are characters with personalities and motivations of their own. Rogue One and The Horse and His Boy showed what was possible beyond the main protagonist drama of the familiar story.

Of course, it seems to me the writers of Star Wars hesitated going beyond that comfortable familiar story about Skywalkers and Solos with the sequels. Even going so far as to replicate the storyline of the original films for the latest releases. Then there arrived The Mandalorian. Talk about a break in the pattern and compelling story which borrows from the lore.

To be fair, the publication order for C.S. Lewis’s series put The Horse and His Boy at number five, even as it’s set chronologically during the Pevensie monarchy in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Like Rogue One, The Horse and His Boy needed the previous works to establish, to draw the gawkers into the world, then bring them out of the old familiar into the new familiar.

The rise of fanfiction speaks to all this as well. To take favorite characters and place them in new settings, to fill favorite worlds with new types of species – it encourages study of personality and tropes across media. Granted, you’ll get some fairly twisted versions and stories which should never have been written. Another disadvantage to fame and familiarity, sadly.

What do you think? I’ve been rambling and musing over this for awhile. And then posted it here. Have a picture.

Photo by Sam Power on Unsplash

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