All the seemingly disparate pieces of Shasta’s life fit together as he comes face to face with a certain Lion for the first time…
He had nothing to think about now and no plans to make: he had only to run, and that was quite enough.
Shasta manages to intercept King Lune and deliver his message just as the King’s hunting party is preparing to ride. The King actually mistakes Shasta for Prince Corin, and when they set out for Anvard (Shasta is given a horse to ride), we get this peculiar exchange between King Lune and one of the lords:
“The boy has a true horseman’s seat, Sire. I’ll warrant there’s noble blood in him.”
“His blood, aye, there’s the point,” said the King. And he stared hard at Shasta again with that curious expression, almost a hungry expression, in his steady gray eyes.
Between King Lune’s welcome (reminding us of the uncanny similarity between Shasta and Corin) and the allusion to Arsheesh’s story of finding Shasta later in the chapter (which itself bears connotations of Shasta’s first “story”, wondering about his true parents), one could reasonably put two and two together already (hint: Lune’s initial greeting is basically one big fat reference to The Prodigal Son).
Shasta isn’t given much leisure to ponder this, though, thanks primarily to his horse.
The horse was of course an ordinary horse, not a Talking Horse; but it had quite wits enough to realize that the strange boy on its back had no whip and no spurs and was not really master of the situation. That was why Shasta soon found himself at the tail end of the procession.
Then a fog rolls in, and Shasta gets utterly lost in the mountains, with a stubborn horse and Rabadash’s army on his tail.
He went on for what seemed like a long time, always at a walking pace. He began to hate that horse, and he was also beginning to feel very hungry.
And then he ate the stupid horse- or not. Honestly, even the sweetest (dumb) horses will take advantage of an inexperienced rider, but this isn’t the sweetest horse in the world. Anyhow, he comes to a crossroads, and then Rabadash comes along with his army, so Shasta just picks one of the routes and hopes that the Calormenes go the other way. They do, but this still leaves Shasta lost in the mountains, since he knows that Rabadash took the path to Anvard, but he can’t very well take the same route because even if by some miracle he could get past that army without anyone noticing (a huge if), he’d never get his horse to move faster than them, so he’d be locked out of the castle with an angry Rabadash and two hundred horse. So he continues on the route without a certainty of death by Calormene.
Then he realizes that he’s not as alone as he’d hoped.
“Who are you?” he 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.
So Mr. Snarky Voice convinces Shasta that he’s not going to hurt him, and listens as Shasta “tells his sorrows”.
“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.
“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.”
Of course the lion is actually Aslan, and the last page or two of the chapter are so beautiful I want to quote the whole thing. In the interest of time and space, however, I shall restrain myself.
I can actually kind of see the parallels between Shasta and Moses here. Both are reluctant heroes, at any rate, and the general tenor of this conversation with Aslan is reminiscent of Moses’s conversations with God.
“Child,” said the Voice, “I am telling you your story, not hers [Aravis]. I tell no one any story but his own.”
“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 around you as if the leaves rustled with it.
That last part borrows from Elijah’s conversation with God, but if I start getting into all the Bible references this chapter I’ll probably ramble on for two more pages. There is one more influence I feel compelled to explain before we move on, however: Esther. I can’t really call it a “reference”, mainly because that book comes to mind primarily because of what is absent. For those not intimately familiar with the various books of the Bible, Esther has the odd distinction of being the only book in the Old or New Testament not to explicitly mention God. Similarly, The Horse and His Boy makes hardly any reference to Aslan until this scene, two thirds of the way through the book. He’s alluded to in earlier chapters, and occasionally invoked by the Narnians, but in every other book he interacts with or at least is thoroughly talked of by the heroes relatively early on. Obviously this doesn’t mean Aslan was inactive – on the contrary, the whole point is that he was very active throughout the story (and even before the story), and Shasta simply wasn’t aware of it. Similarly, one of the themes that’s often garnered from Esther is that God is always working for the good of his people, even when he doesn’t “speak”.
Next time: Shasta in Narnia…