Narnia: The Scourging of Aravis

[Narnia Content Note: Racism, Forced Marriage, Rape]

Narnia Recap: The party of four have crossed the desert into a valley. Obligatory note about racism, intent, and Lewis is here.

The Horse and His Boy, Chapter 10: The Hermit of the Southern March

So I didn't mention this last time but the last quote from the text was "The valley itself, with its brown, cool river, and grass and moss and wild flowers and rhododendrons, was such a pleasant place that it made you want to ride slowly." and that was literally the end of the chapter. The pacing here is just so awful and kinda weird and I know Wrinkle in Time came out twenty years later but it's like whoa look at the leaps and bounds in writing technology.

Except Peter Pan first appeared in 1902 and was also better written than Narnia in my subjective opinion so maybe this is just another example of Lewis not being the best writer in the entire world which okay he never claimed to be. I think. And here it's two paragraphs in and I'm already insulting Lewis. I swear I don't do this on purpose. Anyway! It is time for Chapter 10 and since there are only 15 chapters in this book, things should probably start happening!

   AFTER THEY HAD RIDDEN FOR SEVERAL hours down the valley, it widened out and they could see what was ahead of them. The river which they had been following here joined a broader river, wide and turbulent, which flowed from their left to their right, toward the east. Beyond this new river a delightful country rose gently in low hills, ridge beyond ridge, to the Northern Mountains themselves. [...] Straight ahead the mountain range sank to a wooded saddle which of course must be the pass from Archenland into Narnia.
   “Broo-hoo-hoo, the North, the green North!” neighed Bree: and certainly the lower hills looked greener and fresher than anything that Aravis and Shasta, with their southern-bred eyes, had ever imagined. Spirits rose as they clattered down to the water’s-meet of the two rivers. [...]
   “Friends, we are in Archenland!” said Bree proudly as he splashed and churned his way out on the Northern bank. “I think that river we’ve just crossed is called the Winding Arrow.”
   “I hope we’re in time,” murmured Hwin.

So here's a thing that no one has talked about, but: what is the plan here?

I don't really blame everyone for not having come up with a plan. They've been really busy with crossing the desert and drinking water and briefly sleeping and resting. I think it's... I wouldn't say realistic that no-one would come up with a plan, but I think it's realistic that these characters wouldn't. None of them have really been planning sort of folks; Aravis didn't seem to have a plan to get out of the country besides "sneak through Tashbaan, go out the back, cross the desert, live in the barbaric North somehow". Hwin didn't have much to contribute to that, except the "let's cut our tails off" plan that has already been pointed out shouldn't have worked because you can't hide good horseflesh like that. And I don't even think Shasta and Bree planned that far in advance on their own. Chessmasters, these younglings aren't. I respect that.

But maybe they should sort of talk about that now, because I mean... what is the plan? Wander up to the first Archenlander they see and ask to speak with the king? I'm not sure that's going to work well.

   Then they began going up, slowly and zigzagging a good deal, for the hills were steep. It was all open, park-like country with no roads or houses in sight. Scattered trees, never thick enough to be a forest, were everywhere. Shasta, who had lived all his life in an almost treeless grassland, had never seen so many or so many kinds. If you had been there you would probably have known (he didn’t) that he was seeing oaks, beeches, silver birches, rowans, and sweet chestnuts. Rabbits scurried away in every direction as they advanced, and presently they saw a whole herd of fallow deer making off among the trees.
   “Isn’t it simply glorious!” said Aravis.

If you were at all worried that Aravis would pine for the fjords dunes of home: she won't.

   At the first ridge Shasta turned in the saddle and looked back. There was no sign of Tashbaan; the desert, unbroken except by the narrow green crack which they had traveled down, spread to the horizon.
   “Hullo!” he said suddenly. “What’s that?”
   “What’s what?” said Bree, turning round. Hwin and Aravis did the same.
   “That,” said Shasta, pointing. “It looks like smoke. Is it a fire?”
   “Sand-storm, I should say,” said Bree.
   “Not much wind to raise it,” said Aravis.
   “Oh!” exclaimed Hwin. “Look! There are things flashing in it. Look! They’re helmets—and armor. And it’s moving: moving this way.”
   “By Tash!” said Aravis. “It’s the army. It’s Rabadash.”
   “Of course it is,” said Hwin. “Just what I was afraid of. Quick! We must get to Anvard before it.” And without another word she whisked round and began galloping North. Bree tossed his head and did the same.

So, I mean. Wow. Look, you guys, I know Rabadash is evil but can we talk about the fact that he is apparently a master motivator and logistics-er because he has an army of two hundred horsemen--who we previously discussed has to be much closer to four hundred or six hundred people--crossing the desert at an absolutely furious pace. The Bree Band rested for maybe 9 hours out of 33 and here, a few hours after that (at the most), we have a genuine horse race for the finish line.

And when Rabadash's troops arrive, they will be rested and ready to fight. You guys, this guy is doing something right, tactics-wise. I'm just saying. And while I'm being a wee bit tongue-in-cheek, this genuinely does conflict with his on-page characterization of being a hotheaded impatient fool. I don't think he would have gotten this far on sheer brass balls. He's smart enough to get an army across the desert in fighting condition on the other side and that's not nothing.

   “Come on, Bree, come on,” yelled Aravis over her shoulder.
   This race was very grueling for the Horses. As they topped each ridge they found another valley and another ridge beyond it; and though they knew they were going in more or less the right direction, no one knew how far it was to Anvard. From the top of the second ridge Shasta looked back again. Instead of a dust-cloud well out in the desert he now saw a black, moving mass, rather like ants, on the far bank of the Winding Arrow. They were doubtless looking for a ford.
   “They’re on the river!” he yelled wildly.
   “Quick! Quick!” shouted Aravis. “We might as well not have come at all if we don’t reach Anvard in time. Gallop, Bree, gallop. Remember you’re a war horse.”

I talked last time about how we're never explicitly given motivations for why our heroes want to stop the war and I am going to talk about that again now, sorry.

Because, look, I can easily imagine a hundred reasons why our four heroes might care. Shasta no doubt feels some indebtedness to the Narnians for being kind to him. Aravis almost certainly has feelings here about forced marriages given what she's fleeing and given what she's seen of Rabadash's character. Bree may well be motivated by national pride, and Hwin probably cares because she's a genuinely good person. And, I mean, they all four plan to be living here, so it would be nice if it weren't scoured by war, right?

But, look. The thing is, I keep calling this a war, but it kind of... isn't? Rabadash is planning a raid. He's not going to raze the country to the ground. He's not even going to kill the ruler of this country. He's planning to steal one of the rulers who is probably seen by Aravis and the others as a sort of courtesy title--Peter is the "high" king and his sister is a "queen" who may or may not marry into another country's ruling class. And that's terrible! I'm not arguing otherwise!

Narnia is still going to be there without Susan. Yeah, okay, Rabadash wants to take over Archenland and leave a garrison and eventually take over Narnia but that's stupid and even the Tisroc was like "pfft whatever. dream big, kid" on that part. This isn't a war in the sense of "war" that we modern folks mean. This is politics, like Eleanor of Aquitaine or Mary Queen of Scots or every other royal woman who was in danger of being carried off or imprisoned or "married" against her will. Those things tend to cause national upheaval and I'm not arguing otherwise, but if the plan really is/was to lie low in Narnia and live out a life of obscurity somewhere, that is still an option!

Now, I do not think heroes should be selfish assholes. (My god, imagine the Left Behind protagonists in this novel. Think of them working for Rabadash. Think of the logistics. Think of the carrier pigeon calls. Think how happy they'd be. They'd hate on Lasaraleen every third page.) But I do think the reader deserves to be shown why the characters are doing the things they are doing! Aravis says "We might as well not have come at all if we don’t reach Anvard in time" and, like, when did that happen? When did Aravis get so committed to stopping Rabadash's raid that she might as well not have come to Narnia at all if they fail?

We've been told for pages and pages that Aravis is a cold-hearted bitch who only saves her own skin (except for being True As Steel at heart but not in a way that actually affects her actions; she's like how Ender Wiggin isn't a Killer even though he kills people) and now she's hotly shouting that nothing matters to her except saving Susan. I like it, but it's like... character development happened for her, but off-page? Why does she care? I don't think it's unlikely for her to care--I think there are a good dozen or so reasons for her to care. But I want to know which ones she picked! (She's not even saying "if we don't make it to Anvard, we wasted all this effort!" she's literally saying they might as well not have come to Archenland--you know, the country they have to pass through to get to Narnia--at all!) 

   It was all Shasta could do to prevent himself from shouting out similar instructions; but he thought, “The poor chap’s doing all he can already,” and held his tongue. And certainly both Horses were doing, if not all they could, all they thought they could; which is not quite the same thing. Bree had caught up with Hwin and they thundered side by side over the turf. It didn’t look as if Hwin could possibly keep it up much longer.

And then we get this. Shasta's feelings apparently mirror Aravis' feelings--if they can't stop Rabadash and save Susan and Archenland, they might as well not have come at all, which is not a thing I've picked up from him before now, but what even is consistent characterization?--and the horses are doing "all they thought they could" which isn't the same thing as "all they could" and geez Lewis you want to come out here and run yourself instead of playing Monday Morning Quarterback? Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!

   At that moment everyone’s feelings were completely altered by a sound from behind. It was not the sound they had been expecting to hear—the noise of hoofs and jingling armor, mixed, perhaps, with Calormene battle-cries. Yet Shasta knew it at once. It was the same snarling roar he had heard that moonlit night when they first met Aravis and Hwin. Bree knew it too. His eyes gleamed red and his ears lay flat back on his skull. And Bree now discovered that he had not really been going as fast—not quite as fast—as he could. Shasta felt the change at once. Now they were really going all out. In a few seconds they were well ahead of Hwin.
   “It’s not fair,” thought Shasta. “I did think we’d be safe from lions here!”

I find it sadly hilarious that Aslan allows himself direct interference to terrify the horses into running faster but does not allow himself to slow down the Calormen army in any way whatsoever, nor to just warn Archenland himself. I get this is one of those "oooh, god works in mysterious ways" lessons, but Lewis' need for the horses to be bad (i.e., not running as fast as they could, which ties into his lesson last time that ex-slaves are lazy because they lose the ability to self-motivate, and again I want to point out that you can run a horse to death) so Aslan can "help" them severely undercuts the message. "You can be a hero too and god has a purpose for your life but he won't interfere directly because free will unless he has to and in those cases he will scare the shit out of you in a way that sorta helps but not nearly as much as all the other things he could do--but won't do--to help!"  

   He looked forward again and saw something which he did not take in, or even think about. Their way was barred by a smooth green wall about ten feet high. In the middle of that wall there was a gate, open. In the middle of the gateway stood a tall man, dressed, down to his bare feet, in a robe colored like autumn leaves, leaning on a straight staff. His beard fell almost to his knees.
   Shasta saw all this in a glance and looked back again. The lion had almost got Hwin now. It was making snaps at her hind legs, and there was no hope now in her foam-flecked, wide-eyed face.
   “Stop,” bellowed Shasta in Bree’s ear. “Must go back. Must help!”
   Bree always said afterward that he never heard, or never understood this; and as he was in general a very truthful horse we must accept his word.

Oh my god, Lewis, just call him a liar. Or leave this part out entirely. These little backhanded asides are so petty. "Aravis probably didn't mean to look prim" and "Bree was in general a very truthful Horse". (Also, way to drop the capitalization there, Lewis and/or editors. A Horse and a horse are not the same thing at all.)

Like, I honestly think it's perfectly reasonable that Bree wouldn't hear or register this--he's running for his life and in a state of panic. So this aside that, well, he said he didn't hear so I suppose we have to take his word for it is just a fancyified way of calling him a liar or a coward or both and it irks me. Is there no room for a character to be genuinely terrified without it being a mark on their character?

   Shasta slipped his feet out of the stirrups, slid both his legs over on the left side, hesitated for one hideous hundredth of a second, and jumped. It hurt horribly and nearly winded him; but before he knew how it hurt him he was staggering back to help Aravis. He had never done anything like this in his life before and hardly knew why he was doing it now.

This bugs me because we're reaching the Scourging of Aravis and this is a way to make it all about Shasta and his bravery. I mean, he is being very brave here! But we're making this moment about him, not her. And that's a problem.

   One of the most terrible noises in the world, a horse’s scream, broke from Hwin’s lips. Aravis was stooping low over Hwin’s neck and seemed to be trying to draw her sword. And now all three—Aravis, Hwin, and the lion—were almost on top of Shasta. Before they reached him, the lion rose on its hind legs, larger than you would have believed a lion could be, and jabbed at Aravis with its right paw. Shasta could see all the terrible claws extended. Aravis screamed and reeled in the saddle. The lion was tearing her shoulders. Shasta, half mad with horror, managed to lurch toward the brute. He had no weapon, not even a stick or a stone. He shouted out, idiotically, at the lion as one would at a dog. “Go home! Go home!” For a fraction of a second he was staring right into its wide-opened, raging mouth. Then, to his utter astonishment, the lion, still on its hind legs, checked itself suddenly, turned head over heels, picked itself up, and rushed away.

And there's the Scourging of Aravis. We don't get to feel her fear, her pain, she's barely in the narrative at all! The passage is about Shasta's fear, how he's "half mad with horror", his bravery in chasing the lion off.

Chasing the lion off works here because this is Aslan and he's done for the moment. His only purpose here was in making the Horses run a wee bit faster and wounding Aravis for her sins. You may note--I sure did!--that the attack causes the Horses to wear out and they're unable to run anymore for the day. Since King Lune is not here in person to warn, Shasta now has to travel on foot.

Wait, what? Hang on, let's get to that in a moment.

   Shasta did not for a moment suppose it had gone for good. He turned and raced for the gate in the green wall which, now for the first time, he remembered seeing. Hwin, stumbling and nearly fainting, was just entering the gate: Aravis still kept her seat but her back was covered with blood.
   “Come in, my daughter, come in,” the robed and bearded man was saying, and then, “Come in, my son,” as Shasta panted up to him. He heard the gate closed behind him; and the bearded stranger was already helping Aravis off her horse.
   They were in a wide and perfectly circular enclosure, protected by a high wall of green turf. A pool of perfectly still water, so full that the water was almost exactly level with the ground, lay before him. At one end of the pool, completely overshadowing it with its branches, there grew the hugest and most beautiful tree that Shasta had ever seen. Beyond the pool was a little low house of stone roofed with deep and ancient thatch. There was a sound of bleating and over at the far side of the enclosure there were some goats. The level ground was completely covered with the finest grass.

The pool allows the Hermit to see things, kinda like the elvish pool in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.

   “Are—are—are you,” panted Shasta. “Are you King Lune of Archenland?”
   The old man shook his head. “No,” he replied in a quiet voice, “I am the Hermit of the Southern March. And now, my son, waste no time on questions, but obey. This damsel is wounded. Your horses are spent. Rabadash is at this moment finding a ford over the Winding Arrow. If you run now, without a moment’s rest, you will still be in time to warn King Lune.”
   Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one. But all he said out loud was:
   “Where is the King?”
   The Hermit turned and pointed with his staff. “Look,” he said. “There is another gate, right opposite to the one you entered by. Open it and go straight ahead: always straight ahead, over level or steep, over smooth or rough, over dry or wet. I know by my art that you will find King Lune straight ahead. But run, run: always run.”

Haha, okay. *record scratch*

Let's be clear here. Aslan's plan to get the news to King Lune in time is to chase the Horses so they run just a tiny bit harder and faster to the Hermit's place. That over-exertion Aslan accomplished spends the Horses so they can run no farther and Shasta is sent out on foot. With news that the local seer already knew. There's no method in place for the local Seer to get a message to the king via, say, a Talking Bird. They have a hermit living out here in the middle of nowhere scrying things in his scrying-pool but apparently he just does this for a hobby to pass the time because he doesn't do anything about the things he sees.

(God, I would love to know how J.R.R. Tolkien felt about this scrying-pool-as-a-useless-hobby thing.)

The Hermit's only existence in this book, to be very clear, is to (a) heal Aravis from her wounds and (b) let her and the Horses see the battle they otherwise wouldn't be involved in. This is the Shasta Show now, and he gets to run an average of 10 miles per hour as opposed to an average horse running speed of 25 miles per hour. That was Aslan's grand plan: to get Shasta to Lune faster by cutting his travel speed by a good third.

Because Aslan.

But, hey, bonus! We brutally wounded a brown-skinned girl whose sins are vastly less than literally any other protagonist in this series.

   Shasta nodded his head, ran to the northern gate and disappeared beyond it. Then the Hermit took Aravis, whom he had all this time been supporting with his left arm, and half led, half carried her into the house. After a long time he came out again.
   “Now, cousins,” he said to the Horses. “It is your turn.”
   Without waiting for an answer—and indeed they were too exhausted to speak—he took the bridles and saddles off both of them. Then he rubbed them both down, so well that a groom in a King’s stable could not have done it better.
   “There, cousins,” he said, “dismiss it all from your minds and be comforted. Here is water and there is grass. You shall have a hot mash when I have milked my other cousins, the goats.”

"Well, I mean, we could probably go after Shasta. He can't be more tired than we are and we have a faster travel spee--"

NO, the protagonist is on his own now.

   “Sir,” said Hwin, finding her voice at last, “will the Tarkheena live? Has the lion killed her?”
   “I who know many present things by my art,” replied the Hermit with a smile, “have yet little knowledge of things future. Therefore I do not know whether any man or woman or beast in the whole world will be alive when the sun sets tonight. But be of good hope. The damsel is likely to live as long as any her age.”

Okay, the Hermit is a dick. Because the answer to this isn't to start with waffly bullshit about how no one knows the future not really and many a man or woman is carried off in the night by forces unknown and when you really think about it death is so deep man and do you have any Funyuns, you say "she's alive and I think she'll survive her wounds". Asshole.

   When Aravis came to herself she found that she was lying on her face on a low bed of extraordinary softness in a cool, bare room with walls of undressed stone. She couldn’t understand why she had been laid on her face; but when she tried to turn and felt the hot, burning pains all over her back, she remembered, and realized why. She couldn’t understand what delightfully springy stuff the bed was made of, because it was made of heather (which is the best bedding) and heather was a thing she had never seen or heard of.
   The door opened and the Hermit entered, carrying a large wooden bowl in his hand. After carefully setting this down, he came to the bedside, and asked:
   “How do you find yourself, my daughter?”
   “My back is very sore, father,” said Aravis, “but there is nothing else wrong with me.”
   He knelt beside her, laid his hand on her forehead, and felt her pulse.
   “There is no fever,” he said. “You will do well. Indeed there is no reason why you should not get up tomorrow. But now, drink this.”
   He fetched the wooden bowl and held it to her lips. Aravis couldn’t help making a face when she tasted it, for goats’ milk is rather a shock when you are not used to it. But she was very thirsty and managed to drink it all and felt better when she had finished.

Sigh. Lewis just can't let us have a nice scene with Aravis without reminding us that she's spoiled and making faces at drinks she hasn't had before. Oh, sure, she's a great sport about the bed she's on, but that's not her, that's because a bunch of squashed flowers are totes better than the actual cushions she was raised on in Calormen. And she's polite and kind to the Hermit, instantly calling him "father" in mimicry to his apparently-cultural calling of her daughter (which would honestly be a wee bit creepy to me if I'd been wounded and unconscious and alone with this guy but okay then) but she doesn't get any points for that either.

   “Now, my daughter, you may sleep when you wish,” said the Hermit. “For your wounds are washed and dressed and though they smart they are no more serious than if they had been the cuts of a whip. It must have been a very strange lion; for instead of catching you out of the saddle and getting his teeth into you, he has only drawn his claws across your back. Ten scratches: sore, but not deep or dangerous.”
   “I say!” said Aravis. “I have had luck.”
   “Daughter,” said the Hermit, “I have now lived a hundred and nine winters in this world and have never yet met any such thing as Luck. There is something about all this that I do not understand: but if ever we need to know it, you may be sure that we shall.”

"Cuts of a whip", huh? Subtle, Lewis.

Incidentally, ten cuts of a whip can be quite deep and dangerous for a young girl. I realize that Christians don't often know this because they fetishize the 40 lashings of Christ and I additionally realize that a lot of BDSM enthusiasts like Lewis don't know this for, uh, slightly different feishization reasons, but ten lashes that are deep enough to cut her skin and leave her bleeding and unconscious are potentially very serious--not least because of the risk of infection. Golly, good thing there was a Hermit nearby to slap fantasy-brand healing salve on her back!

There's a wee bit more of Chapter 10, but I'm going to pause here to rant a bit. This is the only explanation we ever get for the Scourging of Aravis, and it comes in Chapter 14 just before the end of the book:

   “It was I who wounded you,” said Aslan. “I am the only lion you met in all your journeyings. Do you know why I tore you?”
   “No, sir.”
   “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.”
   “Yes, sir. Please—”
   “Ask on, my dear,” said Aslan.
   “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.” Then he shook his head and spoke in a lighter voice.

That's it. We don't get to hear why it was important for Aravis to be scourged, just that it was. Which is convenient for Lewis because people can make up whatever racist and misogynist reasons they want: Aravis was a bitch, Aravis didn't care about the slave, Aravis needed to know what it felt like before she can be queen, etc. Who knows if any of those answers are correct! Because Aslan isn't going to tell us!

Here is what we do know: Aravis was fleeing a forced marriage that she had good reason to believe would be characterized by her own rape. She fled in a way that endangered two servants--the girl she drugged and the man whose help she begged. She then, in the course of her journey, became single-mindedly devoted to protecting another woman--a stranger she'd never met or even seen--from the same fate. She became so devoted to this cause that she expressed feeling that, if she couldn't save this woman from rape and imprisonment, she (Aravis) ought not have even come to Narnia at all. She effectively said--whether Lewis intended this or not--that escaping being raped by Ahoshta meant nothing if she couldn't save Susan from the same fate.

Here are other things we know: Shasta stole Bree in the night and left his abusive foster father alone with a man he (Shasta) knew from Bree to be a cruel tyrant. Shasta had every reason to believe that his actions would lead to his father being beaten--or worse. Changing books for a moment, Lucy's actions in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe led--however innocently and inadvertently--to Mr Tumnus being captured and turned to stone by the White Witch. Cornelius, in Prince Caspian, drugged Caspian's guards in almost the exact same way Aravis drugged her maid/spy/guard, and with every expectation that King Miraz would exact vengeance on those guards. In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Caspian and his men abuse an elderly man guarding the gate simply for not being respectful enough. They leave a population of people unwillingly enslaved to a magician who performs unwholesome bodily mutilations on them against their consent.

None of those people are punished by Aslan. He doesn't decide Shasta needs to know how the Tarkaan's rage felt. He doesn't deem it necessary for Lucy to experience the sensation of being turned to stone. Cornelius isn't subjected to the same punishment Miraz put to the guards who let the one threat to his throne escape. Caspian isn't punched in the face by an gauntleted lion to spread the love for that piece of abuse, nor are any of the protagonists forced to feel their legs fuse together to become a Dufflepud. None of Lewis' Christianity up to this point has included violent one-for-one retribution of the protagonist's crimes onto their own bodies.

Until a brown girl escapes rape. And then she's punished not for what she did to the girl--that would mean drugging Aravis against her consent--but rather she's punished for what her father did to the girl. An action of violence that Aravis had no control over, that she might not even have been able to predict. And where does this one-for-one retribution end in the hands of this unmerciful god? If Aravis' father had raped the slave, would Aslan be like "sorry, no choice"? If the girl had been maimed or killed, would the Emperor's law require that?

This scene exists not because it's consistent with any of Lewis' theology up to this point, but because (a) he had a kink about whipping and (b) he had a hangup about haughty women, leading to what I strongly suspect was (c) a kink about whipping haughty women. Aravis, who has been prim and cool as a Calormen sorbet up to this point, is brought low before she can be given in marriage to Shasta and raised to queen over Archenland. Lewis brings her to her knees, scourging her until she drops, and she awakens quiet and respectful and properly humble. This inducts her from Calormen into Archenland--occurring literally as she crosses the border, the Hermit's gate--and inducts her into Aslan's religion at the same time. It is baptism that the white Christian-born protagonists did not need (barring Eustace, who was a heathen of a different kind) and it is a very special kind of misogynoir when applied to Aravis.

Now I will suggest how Lewis could have actually conveyed concern for the maid, had he not been typing with one hand: Aravis could have bought the slave and granted her freedom.

Aravis is about to become queen of Archenland. If the Tisroc has any sense at all (and he does), he would immediately foster that relationship. Aravis' father should become a diplomat overnight, if he's not one already. Her father may not be happy that she ran away from home and married a barbarian, but he's going to play happy like a good politician. And here is where Aravis asks to buy the maid who used to "wait" (spy) on her. She offers an outrageous price if need be, but no one would refuse such a simple request to the queen of Archenland. And then Aravis brings the girl to Archenland, begs her forgiveness, and offers her freedom and a sum that will allow her to live comfortably wherever she wants--Archenland, Narnia, Calormen, wherever.

That's restitution. That is finding the people you've wronged, apologizing, and making it right. Lewis' "theology" here (which I scare quote because it is in no way consistent with anything else he writes) doesn't help the slave girl one iota. How is her life enriched by Aravis being scourged? She may not even want that! Hell, for all we know, she was glad the poor girl got away.* We don't know and we don't get to know because Lewis--and therefore Aslan--doesn't care about her. His focus is on Aravis: she was bad and she needs to be punished in a way that brings her low and breaks her haughty spirit. Does that help the slave girl? Who knows. Who cares. The slave girl doesn't exist in this equation. She was an object that Aravis sinned upon, never a subject in need of friendship and kindness.

The slave girl will never be mentioned again. But in a better book, Aravis would find and free her.

* And not just for reasons of compassion. For all that the girl is Aravis' step-mother's spy, she appears to be nominally Aravis' maid. There is every possibility that Aravis' marriage would end with her moving out of Aravis' father's home and into Ahoshta's home. We don't know if she wants that at all, because Lewis didn't care to flesh her out even a little bit, but I can certainly think of many reasons why I might not want to be uprooted from my home and everyone I know to go live in the Tisroc's palace and/or at Ahoshta's homes. It absolutely infuriates me that Lewis put zero thought into how the slave girl might feel about any of this situation--it's like he's treating her as a slave as much as her fictional owners are. Fuck.


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