There are spoilers for THE HORSE AND HIS BOY in this post.

The Horse and His Boy: A Discussion

THE HORSE AND HIS BOY is the fifth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 on April 30. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

When I first read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY 14 years ago, I really loved this installment of the Narniad. During my reread, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did the first time I read it. I also feel like I don’t have as much to say about this book in general so I’ll focus on answering Chris’ questions instead of pointing out my own observations.

  1. THE HORSE AND HIS BOY has a distinctive ARABIAN NIGHTS feel which some have found problematic. Has this aspect, and its cultural or racial resonances, been an issue for you or not?

I did notice the problematic language and descriptions of the Calormen. I’m sure many readers pictured characters that look Arabic or Muslim in appearance because of Lewis’ descriptions. He may have, as Chris suggests in his post (link above) drawn inspiration directly from ARABIAN NIGHTS, which feels like cultural misappropriation.

While I think a book written like this today would be extremely inappropriate, I do try not to cast judgment on people in the past using today’s lenses. Yes, racism and cultural misappropriation was just as wrong in CS Lewis’ time as it is now. And, I think it’s better to learn from our past mistakes than to condemn a man for participating in socially “acceptable,” albeit reprehensible, behavior at the time. It’s the same reasoning I don’t think we should throw out Mark Twain’s books either. One of my least favorite books illustrates this principle perfectly:

Colored people don’t like LITTLE BLACK SAMBO. Burn it. White people don’t feel good about UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Burn it. Someone’s written a book on tobacco and cancer of the lungs? The cigarette people are weeping? Burn the book.

FAHRENHEIT 451, Ray Bradbury

For this reason, just like I have done with Dune, I can acknowledge the cultural misappropriation for what it is AND help society do better by also supporting Muslim authors and authentic Muslim stories.

  1. Unlike the previous four titles, this book has the formerly young visitors to Narnia, the Pevensies, more as bit players than as protagonists. Have you found this a disappointment or did you happily adjust to the new points-of-view provided by Shasta, Aravis, and the others?

I was fine with reading the story from other POVs than the Pevensies. I’m not necessarily attached to them (maybe Lucy). I’m most attached to Aslan and some of the woodland creatures, like Reepicheep (too bad he’s only in like 20% of Narniad). If Aslan weren’t to show up, then I’d be disappointed.

  1. As a boy Lewis loved to imagine talking animals, and that love permeates all the chronicles, including here with Bree, Hwin and, of course, Aslan. How did you feel about the interplay between the young protagonists and their mounts? Did you spot the literary allusions? And how did you react to Rabadash’s punishment?

I really liked how Aslan shows up in this book. It’s one of the things I like about this book. It reminds me of what in Narnia, Christians may term as the “Holy Spirit.” I feel like Aslan manifests this way in Narnia often. Instead of simply telling the characters he’s there to guide them, he leads them through other means that they often don’t know about. He helps them very mysteriously. (See what I did there. )

I didn’t spot the literary allusions, I don’t think. I think this may be why I’m not sure how it relates to Rabadash’s punishment. As far as his punishment, it reminded me a bit of PINOCCHIO. Even without thinking of Pleasure Island, I thought his punishment was just.

To be quite honest, I’m not really looking forward to reading the last two books in the Narniad. They’re my least favorite of the seven books. Hopefully, I’ll feel differently this time around. I am trying to keep an open mind even if it’s not working very well. Anyway, THE MAGICIAN’S NEPHEW and the creation of Narnia is next.

Have you read THE HORSE AND HIS BOY? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for THE SILVER CHAIR in this post.

The Silver Chair: A Discussion

THE SILVER CHAIR is the fourth book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in on Thursday of last week. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

This is the only book in the Narniad that I remembered nothing from my previous read 14 years ago. Okay, I remembered that Eustace Scrubbs was one of the main characters, but that’s it. Other than that, I was basically reading this installment as if it were my first time again. I thought once I started rereading THE SILVER CHAIR, the story would come back to me–it didn’t.

I really liked THE SILVER CHAIR. It was a lot different than the previous three books, which I found kind of refreshing. I did get annoyed by the owls “tu-whoos” and Puddleglum’s negativity, but not enough to make me hate the story. There were also a couple of times I was frustrated because I understood what was happening a lot sooner than the characters did (e.g. Autumn feast, Rilian’s enchantment). I had to remind myself that these are children’s books so I wouldn’t get too mad, lol.

I thought the allegory was more subtle in THE SILVER CHAIR than in the previous installments of the Narniad until the end, anyway. Then the allegory is obvious when Aslan asks Eustace to pierce his paw with a thorn. Even though the imagery’s unmistakable, I thought how Lewis tied it in with Caspian’s death was beautiful. It’s my favorite ending so far in the series.

The more subtle parts of the allegory are the four signs that Aslan gives to Jill to follow so she and Eustace can find Prince Rilian. Aslan tells her to recite them when she wakes up in the morning and before she goes to sleep at night so she doesn’t forget them. Over on Chris’ blog, he commented:

I think Aslan’s insistence that Jill repeat the Four Signs rubric morning and night is deliberately redolent of saying prayers before and after sleep.

I agree that by having Jill recite the signs like Aslan asks, the signs are reminiscent of morning and nightly prayers. And, the fact that Jill, Eustace, and Puddleglum don’t recognize the signs before they come upon them reminds me of the “signs of the times” that Christians look for as signals of Christ’s second coming. As a Christian, I’ve been brought up to believe the “signs of the times” can help me prepare and be ready for when Christ comes to reign again on the earth.

I also think, and I don’t think I’m alone, that there are many interpretations of the signs. Look at the book of Revelations, for example. Scholars and theologians can speculate what they think John the Revelator meant by what he wrote. And, I think we’re all going to be surprised as to what he meant by what he wrote when everything happens. (This is, of course, if you believe like I do that the book of Revelations is a book of things to come.)

I also thought of the signs in conjunction with following Christ’s commandments. Jill and Eustace do their best to follow the signs. They try to keep their minds from getting confused as Aslan warns. They, as Jill puts it, “muff it up” a few times. Aslan is gracious and forgiving and gives them many chances to follow the signs as Christ does with us. I believe as long as we’re trying to follow Christ and do good, He will give us as many chances as we need to follow Him and do as He asks.

I’m looking forward to reading THE HORSE AND HIS BOY this month. It’s one of my favorite installments in the Narniad.

Have you read THE SILVER CHAIR? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

I wasn’t a reader for most of my life. I actually hated to read. I avoided reading in school and I read maybe one or two books a year in my adult life. It wasn’t until I read the Harry Potter series that I started to enjoy reading. The true catalyst for my love of reading was the Twilight Saga, which I first read in June 2007.

In the last 15 years, I’ve noticed that my reading habits change from time to time. When I was only reading one or two books a year, I dog-eared my books. Now, I’d never even consider doing that to my books.

I know there are other readers who are on the no dog-ear bandwagon like me and others who don’t think it’s a bad thing. I also know that some of my other habits would be like nails on a chalkboard to other readers. For this reason, I thought it might be fun to share some of my current reading habits.

Reading in the Tub

My most favorite place to read is in the bathtub. I’ll read a physical book or my Kindle. I’ve never dropped anything in the water. Since I don’t have any kids, I soak in the tub with the door open; I don’t have to worry about the steam curling the pages of my book or ruining my Kindle. I read in the tub for around two hours by emptying the tub when the water gets cold and refilling it with warm water. It’s very relaxing.

Bookmarks

I always use bookmarks. I never use random junk as bookmarks. I actually like to collect bookmarks. When I travel, bookmarks are one of my favorite souvenirs. They’re inexpensive and they take up little room. I also think bookmarks make the best book swag from authors and publishers. I have a cute basket on one of my shelves that holds all my bookmarks so they’re easily accessible.

Chapter by Chapter

I like to read a chapter at a time. I don’t mean just one chapter and then I’m done. I mean that I don’t like to stop reading in the middle of a chapter. If I don’t finish a chapter before I quit reading, it’s usually because I’m staying up way too late and I fell asleep while reading.

No Snacks

I know a lot of people like to snack and read. I’m not one of them. Even during Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, I don’t snack and read. I’ll drink water or gatorade while I’m reading, but that’s it. If I’m hungry or snacky, I take a break from reading for a few minutes and then continue reading after I’m done eating.

No Distractions

I don’t usually listen to music while I read. I usually like it quiet. Otherwise, I find myself concentrating on the music instead of what I’m reading. I only listen to audiobooks while I’m driving because, otherwise, I get distracted and I don’t pay attention to the book.

Mostly Monogamous

I usually only read one book at a time. I don’t really like to jump from one story to another. However, when I’m reading a book that’s taking me a long time to get through, I’ll often read another book alongside it.

Read Silently

I think I’m like most people when I say that I read silently. Reading out loud takes too much time. The only time I read out loud is when I read to someone, like my friends’ kids or a niece or nephew. I do enjoy reading to kids, but I like reading my own books silently. I think this is why I prefer reading books myself to listening to an audiobook.

Spoilers Welcome … Sometimes

Sometimes I read ahead and spoil myself. I know! I know. I only do it when the tension is too high, but I don’t skip pages. I read everything.

Books Have Feelings

As I said above, I don’t dog-ear my pages anymore and I don’t break my book’s spine. I also don’t write in my books, unless they’re textbooks or scriptures. I try to keep my books like new for as long as possible.

What about you? What are some of your current reading habits?

There are spoilers for THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER in this post.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: A Discussion

THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is the third book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in on Monday. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

This is my favorite installment of the Narniad. I love how Edmund, Lucy, and Eustace get to Narnia, and I love reading about their adventures while sailing the Dawn Treader with Caspian and his crew. I think all of the different circumstances they find themselves in on each of the islands are interesting. My two favorite islands are Dragon Island and the one with the Dufflepuds.

I’m glad Dragon Island is one of the first islands they sail to. I don’t think I could’ve taken Eustace’s constant nagging, complaining, conceitedness any longer. The interesting thing is that Eustace actually becomes one of my favorite characters in the Narniad after his time as a dragon. I love getting more of Reepicheep in this adventure. He’s such a fun character. If I had a chance of meeting him, I’d be exactly like Lucy, wanting to pick him up and cuddle him. I him so much.

I said this with LWW and PRINCE CASPIAN, but I think every one of these books in the Narniad ends kind of abruptly and a little bit weirdly. THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER is probably the least out of the three so far because it at least winds down unlike the previous two.

As with the previous two, a few things regarding the allegory stood out to me during this read. I thought the way Eustace explained how he transformed back into a human with Aslan’s help was really interesting. It was almost like he was baptized and had his sins washed away. And, instead of Aslan bleeding like Christ did in the Garden of Gethsemane, CS Lewis turned it around by making Eustace hurt and bleed after Aslan cut through his dragon skin with his teeth or claws (I can’t remember which).

The other thing I noticed about the allegory is how Aslan was really only in THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER via second-hand accounts and the characters seeing visages of him when they were in danger. It was almost like CS Lewis was trying to portray Aslan as those of us who believe in Christ talk to Him through prayer.

I do like the ending when Aslan tells Lucy and Edmund the reason the Pevensies came to Narnia in the first place was so they’d recognize Him in their own world. It helps me make sense of why Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are now too old to return to Narnia, even though in my mind no one is too old to be in Christ’s presence since, you know, Aslan is Christ.

Also, over on Chris’ blog, he asked what we thought the significance was of the characters sailing east. I think the significance is part of the allegory. There are many scriptures that say when Christ comes again, He’ll appear in the east. Chris commented:

“I’ve no doubt that the journey to the east is meant to allude to Eden. Most medieval graves and many modern ones are literally oriented towards oriens, the ‘rising sun’ so that on the Day of Doom the faithful are facing the Second Coming. Lewis signals the symbolism very strongly with his references to the sun getting bigger, and the very name of the ship alludes to the theme.”

I didn’t even think of the name of the ship alluding to the theme of going toward the rising sun or pointing toward Christ, if you will. I think THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER has a lot about it that is very interesting to think about in terms of the allegory, again making it my favorite installment of the Narniad.

I’m looking forward to reading THE SILVER CHAIR this month. I don’t remember anything about it, except that Eustace returns to Narnia.

Have you read THE VOYAGE OF THE DAWN TREADER? Did you like it? Why? Why not?

There are spoilers for PRINCE CASPIAN: THE RETURN TO NARNIA in this post. ( Don’t click the “View Spoiler” link below if you don’t want to be spoiled for THE LAST BATTLE.)

Prince Caspian: A Discussion

PRINCE CASPIAN is the second book in the Narniad (in published order). I finished reading it for the Narniathon21 I’m participating in about a week ago. (The Narniathon’s hosted by Chris at Calmgrove.)

I really love this installment of the Narniad. I love that all the Pevensies are back in Narnia. I think it’s interesting to see Narnia in ruin and that the story takes place many years after the Pevensie children ruled as kings and queens in Cair Paravel.

I also love the new characters, except Nikabrik. I wanted to strangle him, especially when Peter, Edmund, and Trumpkin happened upon the council in Aslan’s How. It frustrated me so much that they waited as long as they did to go into the meeting. My favorite new character is Reepicheep. I him. I love him more in upcoming stories, though.

I forgot that the ending of PRINCE CASPIAN is just as abrupt as LWW, but for whatever reason, it doesn’t bother me like it does in LWW. I think it’s because I love the last line:

‘Bother!’ said Edmund. ‘I’ve left my new torch in Narnia.’

I think that line is rather funny whereas LWW tries to end on a more serious note.

As with LWW, a couple things regarding the allegory stood out to me more during this read. I thought it was interesting that Lucy, the youngest, sees and believes Aslan has returned first. This reminded me of how pure a child’s faith is compared to an adult. Children believe so easily and so strongly (e.g. Santa Clause, Easter Bunny) whereas adults are much more skeptical and cynical. When I was a child, I believed wholeheartedly in the tenets of my own faith. Now, as an adult, I have to work at it much harder. CS Lewis captures my own journey with faith and religion perfectly in the chapter “The Return of the Lion.”

The other thing I noticed about the allegory this time was the timeframe of Narnia and Aslan’s return. In the Christian faith, most believe that Christ will come again to deliver the faithful when the world has fallen into sin, ruin, war, and chaos. When the Pevensies return to Narnia in PRINCE CASPIAN, it has been thousands of years and Narnia is in ruins and war. As the children and Trumpkin head to Caspian and his army, Aslan returns to help the Narnians who believe in Old Narnia.

The parts of the Narniad that don’t make any sense to me start to crop up in PRINCE CASPIAN. At the end, Aslan tells Peter and Susan they’re too old to return to Narnia. If Aslan is Christ, or as CS Lewis says:

Since Narnia is a world of Talking Beasts, I thought He [Christ] would become a Talking Beast there, as He became a man here. I pictured Him becoming a lion there because (a) the lion is supposed to be the king of beasts; (b) Christ is called “The Lion of Judah” in the Bible; (c) I’d been having strange dreams about lions when I began writing the work.

Companion to Narnia: Revised Edition

Then why would Peter and Susan outgrow being in Aslan’s presence? View Spoiler » You can see how much CS Lewis’ choice here bothers me. I am trying to keep an open mind as I read through the series a second time, but it’s hard in these instances because they bother me a lot.

Have you read PRINCE CASPIAN: THE RETURN TO NARNIA? Did you like it? Why? Why not?