I am reading The Horse and His Boy to my son, Allen. I read it to Jessica a couple of years ago, but Allen wasn’t so interested in it at that time. We just finished The Last Battle a couple weeks ago and since then, he had been asking me to read him this one. So we have been reading a chapter every night. Again, as always happens with The Chronicles of Narnia, I am amazed and impressed by the deep truths that C. S. Lewis was able to interject into a series of “kids’ stories.”
This story follows the life of a boy named Shasta who, near the beginning, discovers that he is not the son of a Calormene fisherman and adventures his way with a talking horse, Bree, to Narnia. They meet up with a young noble girl, Aravis, and her talking horse, Hwin.
Their journey is full of excitement and danger, and time and again, they encounter lions — Bree’s greatest fear and not exactly Shasta’s idea of a good time.
Toward the end, Shasta is separated from his traveling companions. He is alone, at night, trying to find his way through a dense fog. Slowly, he becomes aware that Someone (or Something) is walking beside him. The conversation between him and the stranger goes like this:
“Who are you?” [Shasta] said, scarcely above a whisper.
“One who has waited long for you to speak,” said the Thing. Its voice was not loud, but very large and deep.
“Are you- are you a giant?” asked Shasta.
“You might call me a giant,” said the Large Voice. “But I am not like the creatures you call giants.”
“I can’t see you at all,” said Shasta, after staring very hard. Then (for an even more terrible idea had come into his head) he said, almost in a scream, “You’re not – not something dead, are you? Oh please – please do go away. What harm have I ever done you? Oh, I am the unluckiest person in the whole world!”
Once more he felt the warm breath of the Thing on his hand and face. “There,” it said, “that is not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”
Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them . …
“I do not call you unfortunate,” said the Large Voice.
“Don’t you think it was bad luck to meet so many lions?” said Shasta.
“There was only one lion,” said the Voice.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and-”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion.” And as Shasta gaped with open mouth and said nothing, the Voice continued. “I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis. I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead. I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept. I was the lion who gave the Horses the new strength of fear for the last mile so that you should reach King Lune in time. And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.” …
“Who are you?” asked Shasta.
“Myself,” said the Voice, very deep and low so that the earth shook: and again “Myself”, loud and clear and gay: and then the third time “Myself”, whispered so softly you could hardly hear it, and yet it seemed to come from all round you as if the leaves rustled with it.
Shasta was no longer afraid that the Voice belonged to something that would eat him, nor that it was the voice of a ghost. But a new and different sort of trembling came over him. Yet he felt glad too.
The mist was turning from black to grey and from grey to white. … He knew the night was over at last. He could see the mane and ears and head of his horse quite easily now. A golden light fell on them from the left. He thought it was the sun.
He turned and saw, pacing beside him, taller than the horse, a Lion. The horse did not seem to be afraid of it or else could not see it. It was from the Lion that the light came. No one ever saw anything more terrible or beautiful. …
He knew none of the true stories about Aslan, the great Lion, the son of the Emperor-over-the-sea, the King above all High Kings in Narnia. But after one glance at the Lion’s face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn’t say anything but then he didn’t want to say anything, and he knew he needn’t say anything.
The High King above all kings stooped towards him. Its mane, and some strange and solemn perfume that hung about the mane, was all round him. It touched his forehead with its tongue. He lifted his face and their eyes met. Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared. He was alone with the horse on a grassy hillside under a blue sky. And there were birds singing.
A thousand times, and more, I have faced difficult times, situations that broke my heart and I thought would break all hopes for a happy future. I wonder, though, how many were that Lion in my life.
And how many times, though I did not recognize it, He was there … giving me new strength, pushing me when I thought I couldn’t go any further, comforting me when I was alone, protecting me from harm.
Perhaps every single time. I like to think so.
Have you met Him? Have you seen His footprints in the ground after a dark and misty night? Or perhaps it is still night, and you sense Someone walking beside you. Believe that the sun will rise.
You will see clearly.
And you will know that He was with you every step of the way.