Aravis and the Horses receive one visit from Aslan and one from a very familiar Prince, bringing the character development to a close.
As we return to the Hermit’s abode, we find Hwin eager to return to Narnia, Aravis anxious about her future, and Bree looking for any excuse not to finish the journey. Hwin finds Bree’s behavior both annoying and suspicious, and on further questioning, she hits upon the real reason for his reluctance.
Hwin broke out into a horse-laugh. “It’s your tail, Bree! I see it all now. You want to wait till your tail’s grown again! And we don’t even know if tails are worn long in Narnia. Really, Bree, you’re as vain as that Tarkheena in Tashbaan!”
Hwin really gets to come into her own in this chapter, and I love it.
Anyhow, they get on the topic of Aslan, specifically whether or not he’s really a lion. Bree gets all haughty and insists that Aslan is only metaphorically a lion (even though he himself knows just about as little of him as the others), and it’s painfully obvious that he only thinks that because he’s terrified of lions and doesn’t want it to be true. Naturally, Aslan shows up just when Bree’s talking about how absurd it would be for Aslan to be an actual Beast, scaring him out of his wits.
Then Hwin, though shaking all over, gave a strange little neigh and trotted across to the Lion.
“Please,” she said, “you’re so beautiful. You may eat me if you like. I’d sooner be eaten by you than fed by anyone else.”
“Dearest daughter,” said Aslan, planting a Lion’s kiss on her twitching, velvet nose, “I knew you would not be long in coming to me. Joy shall be yours.”
Again, I’m tempted to quote the whole conversation with Aslan (particularly tempting when it only lasts a page and a half and neatly ties up all three of their character arcs), but I’ll exercise a bit of summary and abridgement. Being brought face to face with a very real Lion, Bree responds thusly:
“Aslan,” said Bree in a shaken voice, “I’m afraid I must be rather a fool.”
“Happy the Horse who knows that while he is still young.”
Then he turns his attention to Aravis, explaining why he clawed her earlier.
“The scratches on your back, tear for tear, throb for throb, blood for blood, were equal to the stripes laid on the back of your stepmother’s slave because of the drugged sleep you cast upon her. You needed to know what it felt like.”
“Will any more harm come to her by what I did?”
“Child,” said the Lion, “I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”
That’s the second time Aslan has said this in as many conversations, and considering that he’s said similar things to Lucy in earlier books (i.e. “no one is told what would have happened”), it’s particularly striking. It comes together to form a statement about how God speaks to people in their own lives. As Lewis frames it in Mere Christianity, people only have their own experiences, their own persons, their own lives by which to learn about the whole human race and even the whole universe. We only get our own stories, but that can be enough.
Anyhow, after Aslan leaves, one Prince Cor of Archenland comes a-knocking…
Aravis looked twice at his face before she gasped and said, “Why! It’s Shasta!”
Turns out that Shasta and Corin really were twins all along! Shasta (or Prince Cor as we must now call him) was the subject of a prophesy shortly after his birth, saying that he would save Archenland from the deadliest danger it had ever known (AKA Rabadash), so a double agent (for the Tisroc) in King Lune’s court decided to kidnap him. It’s never explained why he doesn’t just kill the baby (or let him die), which honestly makes me really curious about what he intended to do with him. Was he going to hand him over to the Tisroc? Did he just think that murder was beneath him? Unfortunately, that’s what Aslan refers to as “someone else’s story”.
Then after he’s gotten all the explaining out of the way, Cor tells Aravis that she’s been formally invited to join the Court of Archenland, and since she had been getting so anxious about everyone else finding a home and a family except her, she gladly accepts. So they get the Horses and head back to Anvard, despite Bree’s reluctance.
The Horses had expected that Aravis and Cor would ride, but Cor explained that except in war, where everyone must do what he can do best, no one in Narnia or Archenland ever dreamed of mounting a Talking Horse.
This reminded poor Bree again of how little he knew about Narnian customs and what dreadful mistakes he might make. So while Hwin strolled along in a happy dream, Bree got more nervous and more self-conscious with every step he took.
They get back on the topic of whether or not Talking Horses roll, and while Hwin is indifferent on the matter, Bree gets to be all dramatic again.
“Well,” said Bree, “I’m going to have a good one now: it may be the last. Wait for me a minute.”
It was five minutes before he rose again, blowing hard and covered with bits of bracken.
“Now I’m ready,” he said in a voice of profound gloom. “Lead on, Prince Cor, Narnia and the North.”
But he looked more like a horse going to a funeral than a long-lost captive returning to home and freedom.
Next time: The end…