Narnia Wrap-Up and Bonus Review!

With the end of July comes the end of Carrie’s annual Chronicles of Narnia reading challenge–which means that it’s time to wrap things up.

In this year’s trip to Narnia, I have explored Shasta’s seeking and Aslan’s sovereignty in The Horse and His Boy. My thoughts of the book centered around two Scriptural passages.

The first was Paul’s Mars Hill sermon in which he speaks of the Gentiles groping for God–just as Shasta (and Lewis himself) gropes for the joy the thought of the North sparks in him. Paul says that God is truly not far from the many gropers. Aslan, as a type of Christ, was also never far from the groping pilgrims. See my complete (er, complete written) thoughts here and here.

The second passage (or, perhaps more accurately, the second story) is that of Joseph telling his brothers that what they intended for evil, God meant for good. In a sort of parallel to Joseph’s story, Shasta experiences exile at the hand of jealous men, enslavement in a foreign land, and is ultimately used to bring deliverance to his people. Just like God was at work all throughout Joseph’s story, using the evil intentions of man to accomplish His own good purposes, so Aslan is at work throughout Shasta’s story. The characters in The Horse and His Boy have many intents, most of them evil–but it is Aslan’s good plan that prevails. Read my thoughts on this parallel here.

In addition to mining The Horse and His Boy, I did read a couple of biographies of Lewis.

The first, C.S. Lewis: Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor by Lionel Adey, I dismissed in my last Nightstand post–probably long after I should have.

The second biography, The Most Reluctant Convert by David C. Downing, was as different from Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor as two books can be (thankfully!)

Let’s just say that while Adey’s only apparent goal in writing Writer, Dreamer, and Mentor was tenure, Downing’s goal in The Most Reluctant Convert was clearly to tell a story–particularly the story of Jack Lewis’s religious conversion.

Where Adey discussed Lewis’s writings apparently to hear himself speak, Downing discussed them to show patterns of thought that Lewis held to at various times in his life.

In The Most Reluctant Convert, we read of Lewis’s naive childhood Christianity, his boyhood and adolescent atheism, his later dualism, the “baptism of his imagination” through reading George MacDonald. We learn of his “reluctant” conversion to theism–and finally of his wholehearted embracing of Christ Himself.

Downing posits that Lewis’s brilliance in apologetics and as a writer of semi-allegorical Christian works comes from his experience with every rejection of Christianity–and the process by which God overcame his every objection.

This was a small, but wonderfully informative volume about Lewis’s life-focusing especially on the conversion of his mind and heart.

I highly recommend this biography.

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
If you haven’t been by Reading to Know to check out some of the other posts from this month’s challenge, you’d best get over there! This year’s challenge page is found here–and Carrie’s concluding post (pending completion of a round up of everyone’s posts) is here.

What You Meant

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post gives away almost EVERYTHING.*

A fellow heard the prophecy regarding how the baby Cor would one day save Archenland. Desiring the downfall of Archenland, he purposed in his heart to thwart the prophesied end.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when Cor, now known as Shasta, grew up doing menial labor in the house of an uneducated Calormene fisherman, completely unaware of Archenland and unconcerned with its fate.

But what the fellow meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. His evil action only set the stage for Aslan’s great plan–the prophesied deliverance.

A Tarkaan saw the boy working hard in the fisherman’s tent. Desiring a slave with whom he could do whatever he wished, he purposed in his heart to buy the teenaged Shasta.

His purposes seemed to be accomplished when the fisherman begins to barter, selling away his “son” for a few crescents.

But what the Tarkaan meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The Tarkaan’s evil intentions only gave the impetus for Shasta to begin his flight.

A stepmother sees her step-daughter and hates her. Desiring to have away with her, she purposed in her heart to marry the girl off.

Her purposes seem to be accomplished when the engagement goes through and the girl leaves her home.

But what the stepmother meant for evil, Aslan meant for good. The stepmother’s evil intentions only made a way for Aravis and Shasta to meet, and to become traveling companions.

Dozens of characters, each with their own purposes. The pleasure-seeking Lasaraleen. The lust-driven Rabadash. The conquest-happy Tisroc. The favor-currying Vizier. Even Shasta and Aravis have their own selfish motivations.

Evil actors seem to drive the story to its deadly end.

But all the evil actors, however much evil they meant, had no power against the purposes of the main Actor.

Each actor is a free agent, acting according to the intents of his own heart–and it seems that every actor’s intents are evil. Even the “good” choices were often made with poor intentions: pride, self-preservation, shame. Every bad choice is fully the actor’s responsibility. He clearly chose, of the evil in his own heart, to act as he did.

Yet every evil perpetuated out of the evil in man’s heart was turned into good by the sovereign hand of Aslan.

Conversely, any good that any actor did was not out of the good in his own heart (as though he had good in his heart out of which to act), but was generally the result of the direct hand of Aslan–the Lion at their heels, driving them wherever He willed, compelling them to ride faster than they thought themselves capable of riding.

As such, no actor deserves glory for his good actions; each actor only deserves punishment for his evil.

Yet Aslan, in His mercy, withheld just punishment from many who did evil–and justly received glory for every good deed.

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
~Genesis 50:20

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Appointed Times and Places

*Spoiler alert: If you haven’t read A Horse and His Boy, this post will give away quite a bit.*

While Shasta dreams of Northern lands, a Tarkahn rides up from the South on a Narnian stallion.

While Bree (the horse) talks of being a free horse among his own people, a roar out of the darkness leads him to cross paths with one of his own people–another captive horse dreaming of freedom.

When Shasta’s only wish is to avoid notice, he is taken to be the missing Prince of Archenland–and overhears the Narnian nobles’ plans to sail out of Calormen unnoticed.

When Aravis is only trying to sneak quietly out of a planned marriage to an obsequious toad, she finds herself sandwiched behind a couch, hearing the councils of the Tisroc, the Prince, and said Toad.

Time and time again, the characters of The Horse and His Boy find themselves in just the right place at just the right time.

Not that they always thought the times and places were right.

Shasta didn’t think so when he served practically as a slave in the fisherman’s hut.

Bree didn’t think so when terror of a lion caused Hwin and him to travel the same path.

Aravis didn’t think so when she came within an inch of discovery.

These were frightening experiences, exhausting experiencing–things they wish they’d never have had to go through.

But an unseen breath propelled Shasta’s boat across the sea to Arsheesh’s hut. An unseen hand guided the meetings of Shasta and the Narnian nobles, of Aravis and the Tarkheenah. An unseen hand hid them behind the couch as they overheard the Tisroc’s council.

All throughout their groping journey, it seemed as though Someone had gone on before, marking out their appointed times and the boundaries of their lands.

Someone was giving life to their bodies, purpose to their movements, reason for their being.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.'”
~Acts 17:26-28

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is yet another collection of notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.

Groping for another land

The Horse and His Boy opens innocently enough, with the fisherman’s hut by a little creek on the sea, where a young boy named Shasta lives with an old fisherman he calls father. But our eyes, like Shasta’s, quickly move northward, to the unknown land beyond the hilled horizon.

Our hearts yearn to know this hidden place; and we are heartbroken at Arsheesh’s lack of curiosity and lack of tolerance for Shasta’s curiosity.

We, unlike Arsheesh, can identify with Shasta’s plight. We know the feeling of piddling about here, all the while thinking that something great, something better, something magnificent lies over the next hill. We feel out of place, uncomfortable. We pretend we’re not out of place, but we know deep down inside that this is not our home.

We long for the North.

Then, one day, as Arsheesh sups with an unexpected guest, Shasta overhears the story that would have him hop the nearest horse and take off for the North.

*Spoiler alert*

The man he called his father was not his father. The man he had struggled unsuccessfully to care for was little more than a slaver, and undeserving of Shasta’s affection. The fishing hut was not his home–probably Caloremen was not either. In fact, he might even be a son of the only-longed-for North.

Here, Lewis sets up in story form what he expresses elsewhere in plainer terms:

“f I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

Shasta becomes outwardly what he had been inwardly all along–a wanderer, groping in the dark for something, he knows not what.

When he first discovers the truth that he is not really Arsheesh’s son or a son of Calormen, his mind moves towards fantastic dreams. So he was not the fisherman’s son–then perhaps he was the son of a Tarkaan or of a god! Perhaps the Tarkaan who wished to buy Shasta would later adopt him as a son, making him great.

He wonders aloud what the Tarkaan is like, and a talking horse interrupts his reverie with an answer.

In a series of fortuitous or not so fortuitous events, what had once only been an idle dream of seeing the north became an imperative. Shasta must escape to the north, must make his way out of this place.

And so the blind man’s longings become desperate gropings.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.”
~Acts 17:26-27

Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge
This post is notes from my reading of The Horse and His Boy for Carrie’s Chronicles of Narnia Reading Challenge.