He gapes. Never has the boy seen such an impressive creature. “A strong dappled horse with flowing mane and tail,” Bree looks as magical as the land from which he came: Narnia.1
The boy, Shasta by name, pales beside Bree’s pedigree. Of course, the horse lets his boy know: “Now sit up and remember what I told you about your knees. Funny to think of me who has led calvary charges and won races having a potato sack like you in the saddle!” In this way the two ride toward Narnia. They flee captivity.
Throughout the journey, Bree laments the vulgar effect that time with “dumb,” enslaved, voiceless horses has had on him — one of the “real, free horses . . . the talking kind” from Narnia. Before capture, he never rolled around on the ground, like a shaggy barrel. Now, he snorts while “rubbing his back on the turf and waving all four legs in the air.” Dumb horses infected him with “low, bad habits.” To make matters worse, Bree now bears Shasta, a dirty servant boy, on his back.
When High Horses Fall
But Bree, for all his huffing and puffing, proves himself less honorable than the dirty servant boy. Who would have guessed? As the two draw near Narnia, now accompanied by another talking horse called Hwin and a girl named Aravis, a “snarling roar” sounds behind them.
The group gallop. The lion gains.
When Shasta looks back from atop Bree, the boy sees that “the lion [has] almost got Hwin.” Hope deserts her eyes. Up to Bree Shasta screams, “Stop!” Bree runs on. And so Shasta leaps from the back of that great, cowardly horse. He would save the others, at great risk to himself.
‘Know You’re Nobody Very Special’
“Bree always said afterward that he never heard” Shasta yell, “Stop!” While conversing with a Hermit, whom the four meet upon Shasta’s victory, Bree brays disgrace: “I’ve lost everything.”
The Hermit replies, “My good Horse, you’ve lost nothing by your self-conceit.” At his words Bree recoils. “No, no, cousin. Don’t put back your ears and shake your mane at me. If you really are so humbled as you sounded a minute ago, you must learn to listen to sense. You’re not quite the great Horse you had come to think, from living among poor dumb horses. Of course you were braver and cleverer than them. You could hardly help being that.”
The Hermit’s wisdom crescendos: “It doesn’t follow that you’ll be anyone very special in Narnia. But as long as you know you’re nobody very special, you’ll be a very decent sort of Horse.”
Very Decent Sorts of Christians
I’m more parts Bree than Shasta. I want to hear others say, “You’re quite extraordinary.” I don’t want to be told, “You’re nobody very special.” Though I know God “opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble,” the flesh that lingers in me flees humility (James 4:6). It runs toward self-exaltation as quickly as Bree toward self-preservation. The two are closely linked.
But God bids Christians down a better, narrower road. We oppose self-exaltation, that God’s due glory would belong to “no other” (Isaiah 42:8). We deny self-preservation, that we might follow — and, therefore, make much of — Christ (Matthew 16:25).
If, on this better, narrower road, we want God to use us, we must know our place. The Christian translates the Hermit’s wisdom like this: “As long as you know that every good part of you is a gift from God, and that even your weakness he wields for his glory and your joy, you will be a very decent sort of Christian” (1 Corinthians 1:26–29).
1 Lewis, C S. The Horse and His Boy. London: G. Bles, 1954. Print.
Author’s note: All quotes prior to “Very Decent Sorts of Christians” come from The Horse and His Boy.