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Aravis

from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Horse and his Boy

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By Michelle

A photo of Michelle Nicol reading a book

Books are doorways. As a child, an open book would close me off from adult conversations or the clamour of a younger brother and sister, and set me free from the slow tick of endless, wet, Sunday afternoons.

I devoured books in one sitting, lying on my bed, lost in whichever world I was exploring. I fell in love with Narnia. Narnia of the talking beasts; Narnia of the green downs, and high seas; Narnia of castles, archery and adventures.

So I chose Aravis, a supporting character in The Horse and his Boy. I loved it and I loved her instantly. Back then, the attraction was no doubt the horsiness of the tale. What could be better than galloping off on an adventure? Why galloping off on a talking horse of course.

Aravis is bold, clever and independent.  A runaway disguised in her brother’s armour. A girl more interested in dogs and archery than fine dresses and parties. And she has an exotic name. Unlike mine, which I shared with four others in my class.

She is fixed in my mind, thanks to Pauline Baynes’ beautiful illustration, seated cross-legged, arms outstretched to tell her tale. Because, of all things, Aravis is an excellent storyteller.

She’s an imperfect character. She has her faults. But that just makes her more realistic. She’s something of a snob when first forced into company with the raggedy fisherman’s boy Shasta, but over the course of the story she proves loyal, resilient and humble.

They say you should never go back. That things are never the same as you remember. In returning to Narnia, the books seem much shorter than I recall. The religious allegory that passed me by as a child, until it shocked me in the final book, seeps out of every appearance of the great lion. And the description of the fair, white Narnians in contrast with the dark, underhand Calormenes sits uncomfortably with me now.

But I still stand by Aravis, the bold, bright, clever storyteller, for her independent spirit and courage. And I see much of her in her modern counterpart, Lyra Belacqua – another brave and feisty character whose companion is a talking animal and whose life depends on her telling compelling stories.

Books are still doorways. Today, they still invite me to far off lands and unfamiliar cultures, offering knowledge, history, language, and new experiences.

But the old books never leave me. Their influence runs too deeply. That’s why you’ll still find me, even now, as an alleged grownup, checking out old wardrobes, hoping for a doorway into another world, where I can gallop off on a new adventure.

The 26 writing group has worked with The Story Museum as part of its 26 Characters exhibition. The group have produced a collection of poems, and couldn’t resist being part of the gallery of favourite characters.

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