The Prydain Project

Thirty years after first devouring Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books, I'm rereading them to see if the magic is still there. If you've arrived at this blog because you loved Prydain as a kid, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to revisit it along with me. To read the recaps in order, start here: "The Book of Three," Chapter 1

Monday, June 22, 2015

The Book of Three, Chapter 13 - The Hidden Valley

The wolf knocks Taran down and grabs him by the arm when he reaches for his sword, though it doesn’t sink its teeth into him. He sees that Fflewddur has been pinned by another wolf while a third has cornered Eilonwy. A robed man appears, with Melyngar behind him, and speaks to the wolf holding Taran, which backs off “as obediently as a dog.” (Alexander must have had better-behaved dogs than I do.) Taran thanks the stranger, who has long white hair and a beard to his waist, for saving their lives. The stranger corrects him that their lives were not in danger from the wolves, but that they must leave the valley, which is “not an abode for the race of men.” Taran says they were following their horse, and the man says “Melyngar brought me four of you?” He had thought “young Gurgi was alone.” Once again, Taran remembers something Gwydion told him back in Chapter 4 (I’m impressed as his retention, considering that he must have been under a lot of stress at the time, having just been attacked by gwythaints and all), and correctly guesses that the man is Medwyn. Taran introduces himself, and Medwyn says there are visitors from Caer Dallben. Taran cries, “Hen Wen!” but no, she’s not there. Medwyn says he’ll try to help Gurgi, and leads them through the ravine into a sunny green valley.

The visitors from Caer Dallben turn out to be the chickens and bees that flew off in Chapter 1. The valley is filled with all sorts of animals: cattle, birds, and a fawn – which Eilonwy wastes no time in befriending. In the background, behind some cottages, Taran sees what looks like the remnants of a large ship. Medwyn takes Gurgi into one of the cottages and invites the other travelers to rest in the byre – he would invite them in, but “there were bears at breakfast, and you can imagine the state of things.” Fflewddur and Eilonwy go to sleep in the straw, but Taran doesn’t feel tired, and instead walks around the lake and garden, reminiscing about the weeding and hoeing that he once detested back home. Medwyn finds Taran and tells him that Gurgi will recover. Taran tells the story of their journey so far, and says that he’s begun to like Gurgi, and maybe it would be safer to leave him with Medwyn. But Medwyn says that it would hurt Gurgi terribly to be left behind and that it means so much to him to be useful, given that he “is neither one thing nor the other” without the wisdom of animals or of men. I wish Taran would ask: What is Gurgi? Is he the only one of his kind? Is he some sort of mutant or missing link? But he doesn’t, and we don’t find out, unfortunately.

Medwyn says that all animals deserve respect (even the gwythaints, who were tortured by Arawn and now serve him out of terror). He tells a little parable about a lame ant who saved the day by providing a hero with a crucial flax seed at the last minute. The race of men, he says, are all lame ants that must learn to help one another. Taran says he speaks of the race of men as if he were not one, and that Dallben taught him of an ancient flood and how “Nevvid Nav Neivion” built a ship and gathered the animals two by two. (Think there were rock monsters in Dallben’s version of the story?) Medwyn says his name is not important – so I guess we can just call him Radagast the Brown, because he seems like his long-lost twin, maybe with a little less bird poop on his head – and that he’s concerned about Hen Wen. If Hen Wen ran away from Caer Dallben, the valley would have been the first place she came, unless something befell her. Both Medwyn and Taran are afraid that the piggy isn’t with us any longer.

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