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For this is what it means to be a king


King Lune at the end of The Horse and His Boy articulates leadership:
“For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.” (King Lune)
First in. Last out. And in the bad years wearing your fine clothes to laugh louder at the little you have.

I love how Lewis voices the third of these through Lune. It strikes me as an easily missing component. The leader doesn't say - these are hard times so let me protect my plate, he doesn't say let me not worry that other lack as I feed myself. The true leader experiences the lack.

And the leader embraces a joviality with the circumstance rather than a misery. Kings know how to feast when there is plenty and they know how to feast when there is lack. They're thankful. They have joy. They are wholehearted. They're first in and last out.

In Lewis' story the exiled Shasta journeys through many struggles, accompanied unknowingly by Aslan. In the end he'll become a Prince, the royal son he was always meant to be but never thought he could be.

Shasta's twin Corin doesn't want to be King, he's happy to relinquish a long anticipated future for the carefree existence of remaining a prince. Shasta however has been trained for leadership through his impoverished childhood, through his dangerous journey. Wisdom grows slowly like fruit. The Horse and His Boy is exactly a book about wisdom, about journey.

Wisdom and folly. Or, pride and humility.

The theme continues in the varied stories of Bree and Rabadash encountering Aslan. Both are proud. Bree humbles himself - and is commended for being quick to do so. Rabadash remains defiant and is transformed into a donkey. Bree has learned wisdom on the hard road, scars and all. Rabadash has failed to become wise as he wielded his power against others.

Leaders are first in, last out, and rejoice even in the hardest times.

Image: Rex Boggs

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