For most readers, C.S. Lewis is most well-known for his Chronicles of Narnia series of children’s fiction books. The theme of pain could be studied in any of the seven books: Aslan dying for Edmond, Rilian being held captive below ground, or Caspian having to battle to rightly claim his throne. But we will focus on the book The Horse and His Boy, published in 1954. This book almost serves as an apologetic for how God, as Aslan, allows and uses pain.
Shasta, one of the book’s main characters, almost drowns as an infant in a shipwreck. He is raised by a man who does not love him and who beats him. Shasta runs away with a talking horse named Bree, and they meet Aravis, who also has a talking horse, named Whin. Aravis has lived a pretty comfortable life, but one of her actions leads to her servant girl being whipped. The four of them learn that an army is invading Archenland and Narnia, and they race ahead to warn the countries at risk. All of them go through many hardships, and at one point Shasta is separated from the rest.
Shasta is alone and at a low point of his life. He feels so sorry for himself that he sits downs and cries. He feels he is “the most unfortunate boy that ever lived in the whole world. Everything goes right for everyone except me” (chapter 11). What shakes him out of this self-pity (and Lewis seems to be making a point here) is fear. He hears someone – large – approaching, and he is afraid. It is Aslan. He breathes on Shasta and tells him that He has waited long for Shasta to speak. Aslan was waiting for Shasta to get to this low point and voice his complaints, and He invites Shasta to tell Him his sorrows. Shasta tells Him all his sorrows. Aslan listens, but says, “I do not call you unfortunate.” God’s perspective is different than ours. Aslan then explains how through all the hardships, He was present. He saved the child from the shipwreck, He was a cat who comforted Shasta at one point of the story, He was a lion that drove away the jackals, and He was the lion that chased Shasta so he would have enough energy to run the last mile to warn the king of Archenland. We also find out that Aravis is wounded by Aslan – one scratch for each whip that was given to her servant girl. Shasta is not told, though, because Aslan only tells each person their own story.
Here is C.S. Lewis repeating his point about pain in a children’s fantasy book: pain and hardships are not outside of God’s plan. Shasta’s suffering led him to Aslan – where he got perspective, a good fear, and a deep gladness. He was grown, through pain, to be a better person; indeed, he was actually the prince of Archenland. Hardships are part of God’s plan: had Shasta not grown up in the foreign land, he would never have heard the plan of the invasion – his suffering saved an entire nation, his nation.