Based on stories and characters created by C S Lewis. This story is set just after the events of “The Horse and his Boy.”
By Angus MacSpon
There was this vexing question of rolling.
After everything else was said and done, and Bree and Hwin went to live in Narnia, he was still uncertain of whether a real Narnian horse ever rolled in the grass, or whether such a thing would be a horrible affront to a horse’s dignity. There were other questions as well—both of them knew so little about Narnian customs—but this was the one that really bothered him.
Hwin claimed not to care much; but in a way, that was just as bad. Only think of the embarrassment and shame if they met a Narnian horse while Hwin was rolling but Bree was not! The Horse would ask, “Whatever are you doing?” And it would surely come out that Hwin didn’t know that she wasn’t supposed to do it, and that Bree hadn’t stopped her because he didn’t know either.
So when, after the battle and seeing Cor and Aravis nicely settled in Anvard and everything, Bree and Hwin finally went into Narnia to stay, Bree had worked himself into a mass of nerves.
He was comforted somewhat by the lovely countryside that they passed through, and by the quiet homely kindness of everyone they met. A lot of the Narnian folk had heard about the doings in Archenland, and not a few of them had heard that Bree and Hwin had been involved. So everyone wanted to meet the horses, and in fact the two of them had a very good time.
As luck would have it, within a week or so they came across a small herd of Narnian horses, who very politely invited the two to run with them for a few weeks and see how they liked it. Hwin said “Yes, thank you” at once, and then of course Bree could hardly say “No”. But he would have liked to.
The trouble was that it was a glorious Narnian summer, and everywhere they went there were beautiful rolling meadows and glens, and Bree wanted to roll like anything. But none of the other horses were rolling, so he didn’t feel that he could do it either.
What he did not know was that, within an hour or two of them joining the herd, Hwin had quietly asked one of them whether Narnian horses rolled in the grass, and when that Horse said, “Yes, of course,” she had to explain the whole thing. And very soon, all the horses knew about Bree’s fears; and so they deliberately refrained from rolling, just to see what Bree would do.
A week or so went past, and Bree became more and more miserable. He kept on seeing particularly inviting patches of grass and absolutely longing to roll in them, but seeing that nobody else made a move, he felt that he couldn’t either. So the herd moved on, and Bree did not know that all the other horses were watching him with great amusement. To make matters worse, every now and then, a few of the horses would trot away from the herd and have a quiet roll while Bree wasn’t looking. Hwin thought it was a little cruel—she was in on the joke, of course—but one of her new friends persuaded her to go along with it, and she reluctantly agreed.
Well, there came a day at last when the sun was too bright, and the grass was too green, and the scent of clover in the air was too sweet, and it all became too much for Bree to resist. He waited until most of the herd were drinking from a brook, and then he sneaked away through a nearby stand of trees, found a particularly inviting spot, and he rolled like anything.
And a few minutes later, when he got up, snorting and blowing, he found that the whole herd were standing around him, watching him, with the most extraordinary look on their faces. He could hardly know that they were all struggling not to laugh.
He started to stammer, “Er—I—well—” But before he would work out what to say, the herd leader looked around carelessly and said, “Oh, all right then. Just to please Bree!”
And in a trice the whole herd was down in the grass, rolling.
Before long, of course, one of them started laughing, and soon everyone was laughing except Bree. After a while somebody explained the joke, and Bree was properly mortified.
He did see the funny side eventually, but it took him a while because, over the following weeks, whenever one of the horses wanted to roll, he would start by saying, “Just to please Bree!” But in the end, as Bree settled in to Narnian ways, he saw the joke and managed to laugh at himself as well.
The curious thing was that it caught on. When their herd met another herd, and the new horses heard one of them saying, “Just to please Bree!” they insisted on hearing the story, and a few of them started saying it too; and in a few years it had spread to all the horses of Narnia. And centuries later, when a Horse wanted to roll in the grass, as often or not he or she would start by saying, “To please Bree!”
By that time, though, the original story had been lost, and most of them thought (when they thought about it at all) that they were saying it in honour of an ancient Narnian Horse hero. And perhaps they were right.
It was a kind of immortality, in a way; and we can only hope that this, too, would have pleased Bree.