C.S. Lewis’ book, The Horse and His Boy, provides the reader numerous parallels with Moses and the Exodus story. Of these, several are easily identifiable (for example, Lewis’ protagonist was found as a baby floating alone in a boat) – while others remain somewhat “suppositional”. Because I’ve been working with my dad on his current study of the Exodus, I wanted to highlight one of the more suppositional parallels corresponding to his most recent post on the Desert as God’s Teacher. My dad’s allegorical focus on the desert as representative of life’s difficult times fits neatly with Lewis’ chapter “The Unwelcome Fellow Traveller”. In this chapter, Shasta, the book’s main character, is in the midst of an urgent cross-country journey to warn Archenland and Narnia of an impending attack by the Calormenes. The journey is lonely, arduous and perilous; food is scarce, the pace swift, and on numerous occasions, Shasta (and his companions) is attacked by lions. One night, alone and hungry, Shasta begins to feel sorry for himself:
“I do think,” said Shasta, “that I must be the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me…”
And being very tired and having nothing inside him, he felt so sorry for himself that the tears rolled down his cheeks.
Suddenly, Shasta is frightened by the awareness that something – or someone – was walking beside him; someone who “seemed to breathe on a very large scale”. Unable to see who or what is near him, Shasta begins a frightened, whispered dialogue with the Presence.
“Who are you?”
“Are you a giant?”
“You’re not – not something dead are you?”
Assuring Shasta that he is not a ghost, the Thing breathes on Shasta’s hand and face:
“…that was not the breath of a ghost. Tell me your sorrows.”
“Shasta was a little reassured by the breath: so he told how he had never known his real father or mother and had been brought up sternly by the fisherman. And then he told the story of his escape and how they were chased by lions and forced to swim for their lives; and of all their dangers in Tashbaan and about his night among the tombs and how the beasts howled at him out of the desert. And he told about the heat and thirst of their desert journey and how they were almost at their goal when another lion chased them and wounded Aravis. And also, how very long it was since he had had anything to eat.”
“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.
“What on earth do you mean? I’ve just told you there were at least two the first night, and—”
“There was only one: but he was swift of foot.”
“How do you know?”
“I was the lion”–
“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 far 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.” †
In recounting his travails through the desert, Shasta remembers only those times where he was imperiled; inwardly focused in a way only confessed sinners understand. In stark contrast, the lion Aslan, focuses on the myriad instances in which Shasta was unknowingly comforted, prodded, or saved. It was Aslan that brought Shasta through the desert – despite Shasta’s ignorance and bumbling. Faced with this realization, Shasta reacts in the only way he knows how:
“…after one glance at the Lion’s face he slipped out of the saddle and fell at its feet. He couldn’t say anything, and he knew he needn’t say anything.”
Like the Israelites in the Wilderness of Sin, at Rephidim, Meribah, and elsewhere, Shasta complains about his circumstances; longing for the comforts of “home” (Egypt). In every instance, Aslan (YHWH) provided. As if begging his readers to connect the dots with the Exodus story, Lewis employs a final “supposition”, reminiscent of His providing water from the rock at Horeb. In closing the chapter, Lewis pens Shasta as quenching his agonizing thirst by drinking from the water collected in the giant footprint of a lion…
The story of the Exodus, as echoed in The Horse and His Boy, reminds us that God intercedes on our behalf – even (especially) in the difficult times. In our sinful ignorance of this fact, we are no better than the Israelites of the Exodus – headstrong and complaining. Christians are called “to glory through a journey of suffering”. Bless God for His constant intercession in your life!
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
— James 1:2-4. (See also: 1 Peter 1:6-7, 2 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Timothy 2:12)
†Reminiscent of the historical prologue of the Sinaitic covenant “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” – Ex 20:2