More on the Influence of Freedom on Character in The Horse and His Boy

I wrote last week about the influence freedom has on the Narnians’ actions toward their fellow men (and animals).  However, what I did not have time to write about was how this freedom influences their attitudes as well.

If one reads enough C.S. Lewis, it becomes clear that the Narnians are Lewis’s interpretation of a Christian attitude.  In Mere Christianity, Lewis writes that Christians’ “very voices and faces are different from ours:  stronger, quieter, happier, more radiant…You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you.  They love you more than other men do, but they need you less.”1  Similarly, in The Horse and His Boy, when Shasta first sees Narnians in a procession in Tashbaan, he notices that

[I]nstead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed.  One was whistling.  You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn’t give a fig for anyone who wasn’t.  Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life.2

This is the effect freedom—true freedom in Christ, which is ultimately what I am getting at—should have on society and individuals.

We have already established that the culture of Calormen is one of slavery and fear of authority.  However, consider the effect this fear has, not only on the actions of the people in that culture, but also on their attitudes.  In Calormen, slaves live in fear of their masters but Tarkaans also live in fear of falling from the favour of the Tisroc.  Thus those beneath the Tisroc (may-he-live-forever) are in the habit of showering him with flattery and flowery proverbs even if their personal feelings are very different.  Prince Rabadash begins his conversation with his father the Tisroc by saying “Oh-my-father-and-oh-the-delight-of-my-eyes,” but he mutters the words “very quickly and sulkily and not at all as if the Tisroc were the delight of his eyes.”3  He goes on to call his father a coward, but quickly rectifies his tone when the Tisroc calmly reminds him that he has the power to kill Rabadash if he so desires.

The Narnians, on the other hand, do not live in slavery or fear of authority.  Therefore, they are free to be honest and sincere.  Shasta, having grown up in Calormen, is not used to this mentality, for when the real Prince Corin returns his first thought is how to ensure the Narnians overlook the mistake they made in capturing him instead of Prince Corin.  When he realises that Corin’s black eye will give him away immediately and expose the whole story, he tells Corin, “You’ll just have to tell them the truth, once I’m safely away.”4  Corin replies, “What else did you think I’d be telling them?”5  In Narnia, the honour is in honesty, not in saying what others want to hear.  This is why the people (and animals) of Narnia are so open, genuine, and gracious.

And so we should be.  The discussion of how the Narnians reflect a true Christian character is one for another time, but it is something I am reminded of when I read The Chronicles of Narnia and which I try to hold on to as I traverse other parts of my life. 

Notes:

1C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Book 4, Chapter 11

2C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 4

3Ibid., Chapter 8

4Ibid., Chapter 5

5Ibid.

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