Aravis comes face to face with her old life when a childhood friend recognizes her.
Lasaraleen is another one of those characters that could easily have been just as annoying to the reader as she is to Aravis, but through a combination of comic relief and a genuine concern for Aravis (however small), Lewis makes her a believable character.
Anyhow, Lewis compares “Las” and Aravis to schoolmates, but Las is now married to a sufficiently wealthy man who is evidently absent for a pleasantly large fraction of the year. And despite no indication in the text about a significant age difference, she’s drawn to look noticeably older than Aravis in the illustrations. She informs Aravis that her father is in Tashbaan looking for her, but agrees to hide her at her house.
“No one is to be let out of the house today. And anyone I catch talking about this young lady will be first beaten to death and then burned alive and after that be kept on bread and water for six weeks. There.”
Las seems just flippant enough to actually try something like that. She proceeds to pamper Aravis against her will and try to dress her up.
The fuss she made about choosing the dresses nearly drove Aravis mad. She remembered now that Lasaraleen had always been like that, interested in clothes and parties and gossip. Aravis had always been more interested in bows and arrows and horses and dogs and swimming. You will guess that each thought the other silly.
There. That last sentence sums up why Lasaraleen works as a character: Because she thinks. She might think very differently from the main characters, but it’s only because she was brought up to value different things. When she asks Aravis why she doesn’t want to marry the Grand Vizier, she’s genuinely shocked that Aravis would turn down a life of luxury (much like her own, but richer).
“You always were a queer girl, Aravis,” said Lasaraleen. “What more do you want?”
That’s the question that Aravis has to answer for herself at some point – all she knows so far is what she doesn’t want, but she’ll need more than that to really make a life for herself in Narnia. All she wanted initially was to escape her impending marriage to Ahoshta, whom she hated at least partly for aesthetic reasons. Escape is not the same as freedom; one can just as easily run into a new trap, or even run right back to the old cage. Freedom can be a frightening thing.
Lasaraleen wanted to go back on the whole arrangement and kept on telling Aravis that Narnia was a country of perpetual snow and ice inhabited by demons and sorcerers, and she was mad to think of going there. “And with a peasant boy, too!” said Lasaraleen. “Darling, think of it! It’s not Nice.” Aravis had thought of it a good deal, but she was so tired of Lasaraleen’s silliness by now that, for the first time, she began to think that traveling with Shasta was really rather more fun than fashionable life in Tashbaan.
She’s still afraid, and you’ll notice that she hasn’t come to terms with life in Narnia just yet, only “traveling with Shasta”. I also love how legends about Narnia have gotten all muddled and mixed up in Calormen. And then there’s this from Lasaraleen (presented without comment):
“Oh, darling, have you seen the barbarian queen from Narnia? She’s staying in Tashbaan at present. They say Prince Rabadash is madly in love with her. […] I can’t see that she’s so very pretty myself. But some of the Narnian men are lovely.”
After many diversions and attempts by Las to back out, she and Aravis actually come up with a plan. Aravis could leave the city by a private exit from the Tisroc’s palace, and the Horses would be led out separately by Lasaraleen’s groom. Of course, this requires the two of them navigating the Tisroc’s palace, and naturally, they run into the Tisroc himself in a secret council (because what kind of story would it be otherwise?).
To be continued…