Most of my favorite love stories in literature end tragically. Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet. Robbie Turner and Cecelia Tallis. Some of them end happily but only after the characters involved live through tragedy. Angel and Michael Hosea. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. Éowyn and Faramir.
And while all of those love stories are filled with enough passion, bliss, and heartache to make my poor little heart go pitter-patter, one of my favorite love stories is no more than one sentence on the last page of the characters’ book.
The Horse and His Boy is not a romance. It’s a children’s fantasy adventure story, and yet like many wonderful romances, it brings together two characters who are polar opposites. Shasta is an orphan who runs away when his guardian decides to sell him as a slave to a fierce and cruel lord. Aravis is a girl who has left her home after the death of her brother and the news that she is to marry a much older man. They are of different social classes (Shasta’s guardian was a fishmonger, Aravis’ father was a lord), different ethnicities (Shasta is described as pale and blond, while Aravis is dark-skinned), different nationalities (Aravis is a Calormene, but Shasta’s appearance makes it clear that he is “Northern” – if not a Narnian, then something like), and different religions (Shasta appears ignorant of religion, but as a Northerner his people worship Aslan, and as a Caloremene noblewoman, Aravis worshipped Tash).
Shasta and Aravis are brought together and find within each other a dependency. Shasta is unskilled and uneducated, but he has a big heart and a desire to do what is good. His journey to Narnia is a quest to find himself. Aravis is talented and cultured lady skilled in warfare. She is seeking a place where she can find freedom. Working together, they not only achieve their goals, but they also save Narnia and Archenland from a Calormene invasion.
The story is not a love story, and yet Shasta and Aravis have a relationship. It is not romantic, but they do grow to care for each other. They become friends first, and it isn’t until many years later that they fall in love:
- Aravis also had many quarrels (and, I’m afraid, even fights) with [Shasta], but they always made it up again: so that years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarrelling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently.
– Chapter 15, “Rabadash the Ridiculous”
The fiery passion of more famous romances is fine. I enjoy them. But if I were to choose a literary romance for myself, I’d prefer to fall in love with my best friend, someone I could fight with and still love.