No story exists to the point of becoming treasured by its readers unless it portrays the struggle between good and evil. In the Narnia series, we see this struggle no more alive that between the inhabitants of Calormen and Narnia. While Narnia is depicted to be a country of freedom and reinvention; we see Calormen to be an empire that is ruled with an iron fist of a totalitarianism.
But when we give a second glance at the Narnia series we find across the pages of The Horse and his Boy a single Calormen girl of ruling nobility fleeing her home city in hopes to escape the temptation of power and control. Promised in marriage to a cruel and repugnant man, she intended to take her life only to be stopped by the head of her mare. Not only does the horse step in between her and the blade, but she speaks. We learn from the mare (Hwin) that her rider (Aravis) has more to offer this life yet and it would be a tragedy to end her life.
As Hwin explains herself to Aravis, she invites her into the knowledge of her homeland of Narnia. With interests sparked, Aravis answers the call to search for Narnia with Hwin.
As these allied spirits venture on, they meet up with a servant boy (Shasta) and a war horse (Bree). The four agree to carry on together in their conjoint pursuit: Narnia. As we turn each page though, we begin to see the importance of answering the call correctly.
Aravis was born into royalty. Her father held a high position in the empire of Calormen and worked to secure a similar livelihood for his daughter. In many countries today arranged marriages still take place and girls find themselves without a choice in the matter. But as we already know, Aravis chose to escape this arrangement. She saw that she could have a life in a land that valued individuality and dignity; that embraced outsiders as friends. But time after time we are provided instance of her inability to let go of her past. In fact she often uses it as a weapon against her absconders; demanding an air of nobility that no longer had to be given.
As her tale reaches its climax, we see the 4 cohorts making a mad dash across the desert to reach Archenland in time to warn of an impending danger. But with everything in life, we need to be held responsible for our past actions: good or bad. What appears to be intended for encouragement (Aslan chasing the horses and their riders; conveniently scraping Aravis back with his claws) is later found out to be a reinforcement. A reminder of good intentions gone bad. You see, in order for Aravis to escape her city, she drugged her step mothers slave. We later learn, through Aslan’s appearance to Aravis, that he scarred her back so she would know the pain she caused this slave. A pain she already had known at the hands of her step-mother.
At the end of her story, Aravis reconciles her privileged past for the freedom of Narnia/Archenland.
“I'm sorry I've been such a pig. But I did change…”- Aravis- HHB
The character of Aravis teaches us 2 simple lessons.
First, sometimes you have to give up the good in life for the better. Once Aravis transformed her mindset from privileged princess to repentant foreigner she was granted a place in eternity.
Secondly, God uses the broken to spread the deepest messages. The scars on Aravis back will remind her of the journey she took to ensure that Narnia and Archenland would survive an attack from Calormen.