Sunday, 17 July 2011

Narnian Summer Challenge (3)

Reflections on the Horse and His Boy

Here is my last set of reflections

Chapter 11


Chapters 12
Why the fuss?

I don't write poetry as much as I used to, and the rhythm may be a bit out - but here's a little poem. It expresses the thoughts of the hedgehog (yes, I had to do something about him - he is after all the only hedgehog that actually speaks in all the Chronicles) as he ponders over Shasta's news.

Why the fuss?

Oh Narnia fair is safe and warm,
Since the day that the Kings and Queens came.
They defeated the Witch on a fair spring morn,
And we need never fear the harsh winter again.

So why is this boy, alone in the wild,
So worried and speaking of armies?
He speaks of strange lands, the poor daz├ęd child.
Much travel has made the boy balmy.

He speaks of the land of rich Calormen
Many miles o'er a great sea of sand
He's says that an army of wild savage men
Is attacking our friends Archenland.

Why the fuss, why the fuss, on this bright summer's day?
I would much rather snuggle in bed,
Why worry 'bout things that are so far away?
Let the great people worry instead.

We are now at peace, and the land is at rest,
And King Peter's in northerly realms,
Trouncing giants he is, doing what he does best,
We care not for weapons or helms.

Don't come interfere and mess up our lives,
Don't disturb our good happy dwelling
We live and we play with our children and wives,
As the old folk great stories are telling.

Armies and wars, belong to those tales
And to places that are far away,
Not in our lifetime will the peace ever fail,
We shan't live to e'er see that day.

And so, dear boy, though you story is grand,
It is time for a comfy day's nap.
I'll leave you to tell those who do understand,
Fare thee well, neighbour, there's a good chap.

Chapter 13
Anvard Besieged

King Lune glanced around him. He sat in his council chamber, with his chief advisors seated and watching.

"What are your orders, Sire?" asked Lord Darin.

The King sighed. It was not like the jolly king of Archenland to feel so miserable and be without a plan. He hadn't felt so lost since the day the news came that his son Cor was not on board that traitor Bar's ship. Until then he had had everything under control. But the moment he realised that his plan had failed and his son would not be so easily returned, he had despaired. He remembered still the depression he had felt.

But he had recovered from that tragedy. The joy watching of his other son, Corin, grow up, had eased the hurt. Even his wife's unexpected death had been bearable as he saw her smile in the eyes of his son. He had learnt to deal with loss.

But this time...this time it was different. His own castle was under attack. The castle at Anvard had not been built to withhold a siege. The treaties with its neighbours and its isolation by desert and mountain meant that a siege was never a real risk. If war were ever to come to this peaceful mountain kingdom, they had their fort in the mountains and there would be plenty of time to retreat.

But now this. An unexpected attack from the Calormene Empire. Not an attack led by the Tisroc himself, but by his son Rabadash. None of it made sense to the king.

The last he had heard, ties were good between the northerly kingdoms and Calormen. Why, the Prince himself had asked for the hand of Queen Susan. Lune had allowed his son to accompany her on her visit to the capital - had he been a fool to let him go?

His son...where was he now? No news had reached him other than that of this strange boy whom he had met while hunting yesterday, and who had commanded them to flee to Anvard just in time for Rabadash to engage them in battle before the castle.

What had happened to the Narnian expedition? He could only hope and pray that out of love for Susan, the Narnian delegation had been spared from whatever mad frenzy had caused the prince's attack on Archenland. His heart, however, told him that he was wrong - and that their visit had had something to do with this unwarranted attack. Though what might have gone wrong, he could not imagine.

And to make matters worse, there was now the boy in the mountains to worry about. He felt so foolish for letting a strange boy ride along without an escort, on the pack horse too - which was known for being lazy. It was because of that mist that he had gotten lost; a very strange mist which had come on them as unexpectedly as the attack by Rabadash. That poor boy probably didn't make it through the night. And what was worst of all was that boy's face.

It wasn't the first time he'd met a boy Corin's age and wondered if he was not his lost son. Almost every time he caught sight of a golden head, he had allowed himself to hope. But that was at the beginning, and he'd since learnt it was better not to get his hopes up. While he always held that his son was not dead and would one day return to fulfil the centaur's prophesy - he was sure it would be as an adult; probably long after he had handed the throne down to Corin. Then, as a man, he might return to save Archenland, but now was too soon.

Nevertheless the eyes of that boy haunted him, and he tried to brush away the pang of guilt and regret.

The feeling of hopelessness was overwhelming and as he perceived the eyes of his lords on him, he knew he needed a plan. They had fought off Rabadash's forces well enough last night. Could they hold out a few more days for the messenger to reach Cair Paravel? It was possible, but he had no idea who was at Cair to receive the message.

Edmund could be locked up in Calormen - or worse. Peter was away in the North. Lucy was Valiant, and would do what she could, but it might take time for her to gather a force. And what was going on in Narnia anyway? For all he knew, the Tisroc could have sent a larger force there by sea. The whole request to marry Susan might have been a ploy so that Cair Paravel would be empty of all but its youngest ruler.

He couldn't rely on Narnia to bring aid immediately. He had to assume the worst and that they were in this alone.

His thoughts were interrupted by a deafening boom that shook to the heart of the palace. What was that? Thunder? A quake? A chill ran up Lune's spine.


There it was again. What ever it was, it did not bode well.

"My Lord!" One of the guards from the gate tower came rushing into the chamber, not waiting for permission to enter. "My Lord," he repeated, panting. "It's the Calormenes. They're ramming the gate."
Chapter 14


Chapter 15
Rabadash the Ridiculous

A number of characters in the story are taught humility. We have discussed Bree and Aravis in a number of previous posts. What differentiates these two from the third character, is that they are willing to learn their lesson.

It is a hard battle, and Bree takes time to overcome it, forgetting his lessons occasionally (not long after the Hermit's speech about him not being quite so important as he thinks he is, he goes back to worrying about his tail, and whether he can roll and what the other Narnian horses will think about him).

But he and Aravis accept their lessons, Bree summing up in the words "I'm afraid I must be rather a fool."

But Rabadash is different. Beaten in his own foolish plan, he refuses to admit defeat. He is so proud that he will not even accept a gracious conditional pardon. But would rather fight to reclaim his honour (a right Lune says he had lost with his unsolicited and cowardly attack).

Having refused the pardon of the Archenlanders, he even refuses pardon from Aslan himself. Unlike the other two who - the moment they met Aslan - realised their folly and submitted humbly, he continues to rage and even curses Aslan.

Aslan gives him 3 chances, before meeting out his punishment:

    "Rabadash...take heed. Your doom is very near, but you may still avoid it" "Have a care Rabadash...The doom is nearer now: it is at the door: it has lifted the latch" "The hour has struck!"

And even then, he does not treat him as his sins deserved

    "Now hear me Rabadash, justice shall be mixed with mercy. You shall not always be an ass."

This story about Rabadash being turned to a donkey has always reminded me of that other great ruler of an Empire (in our world) who was humbled by being made like an animal.

    “But all these things did happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later he was taking a walk on the flat roof of the royal palace in Babylon. As he looked out across the city, he said, ‘Look at this great city of Babylon! By my own mighty power, I have built this beautiful city as my royal residence to display my majestic splendour.’ “While these words were still in his mouth, a voice called down from heaven, ‘O King Nebuchadnezzar, this message is for you! You are no longer ruler of this kingdom. You will be driven from human society. You will live in the fields with the wild animals, and you will eat grass like a cow. Seven periods of time will pass while you live this way, until you learn that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.’ “That same hour the judgement was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. Dan 4:28-33

In the same way that Rabadash learned something (only something - he was still too proud to allow others to go to war on his behalf) and became a better kind for it, so Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson - in part anyway. He probably lapsed at a later stage, but for a while at least, he acknowledged God for who he was.

    “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshipped the Most High and honoured the one who lives forever. His rule is everlasting, and his kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’ “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honour and glory and kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored as head of my kingdom, with even greater honour than before. “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honour the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble the proud.” Dan 4:34-37

All illustrations are from covers of various editions of The Horse and His Boy

See Also (other reflections on HHB)
On first meeting Aslan (Shasta)
On first meeting Aslan (Bree)
On first meeting Aslan (Aravis) 

Summer Challenge 1

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