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, March 21, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 1 – Prince Rhun

The third chronicle of Prydain is, Alexander tells us in the author’s note, as much about Eilonwy as about Taran. He hints at romance growing between the two, as well as a storyline that is more bittersweet than its predecessors. “The nature of fantasy allows happenings which reveal most clearly our own frailties and our own strengths,” he writes. He reminds us that Prydain, while it resembles Wales, is imaginary, despite Mona being the ancient name for the Welsh island of Anglesey. He also teases a new comic presence in “the well-meaning but hapless Prince Rhun,” and a controversial resolution to the fate of “one of the most reprehensible scoundrels in Prydain,” advising patience for those who question it, as there will be “far-reaching consequences.” And with that, let us dive in!

Eilonwy is leaving Caer Dallben, journeying to the Isle of Mona to “learn how a princess should behave,” as Dallben puts it, from the king and queen of Mona, who have offered to take care of her in her family’s stead. Taran, Coll, Gurgi, and Kaw set off with her to the harbor. Taran tries to reverse-psychology himself out of missing Eilonwy, much to Coll’s amusement. They arrive at the river, where a white-sailed craft awaits them, and a blond dude in fancy clothing topples off the dock in his excitement. Dripping wet, he greets them – “Hullo! Hullo!” – and gives a formal welcome to Eilonwy, then cuts off in confusion as he realizes he doesn’t know the others’ names, and has forgotten to give his own (Prince Rhun, natch).

Rhun, Eilonwy, Taran, Gurgi and Kaw board the ship. Coll tells Taran he’ll see him when he returns, and heads with the horses back to Caer Dallben. I’m not sure why it’s necessary for Taran and Gurgi to sail to Mona, but chalk it up to Taran’s wanting to delay being separated from Eilonwy as long as possible. He’s unable to get a quiet moment alone with her, though, due to Rhun’s continual bumbling presence. Taran is all like, no way this joker is a prince. More like a “princeling,” am I right? Eilonwy says she thinks Rhun is nice, which of course makes Taran jealous, and he bitterly bemoans not knowing who his parents are. Because if he was a prince, see, then he’d be Rhun’s equal. Eilonwy says that if an Assistant Pig-Keeper and a prince both do the best they can, she thinks “there’s no difference between them.” Taran’s not buying it.

A storm blows in, and everyone’s miserable, except Rhun. At nightfall, the water calms down and the ship takes anchor in a cove. Eilonwy lights her bauble, to Rhun’s fascination. He takes it to examine it, but the light goes out. He’s dismayed, but Eilonwy reassures him that he didn’t break it. They go to sleep, Eilonwy in the cabin, the others on the deck. Rhun snores loudly (of course), and Taran, when he finally falls asleep, dreams of being home at Caer Dallben with Eilonwy.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite, favorite book. Which is odd, because I actually agree with you that much of this one feels like filler where not much happens. In fact, when I go back to read it again, I am often surprised at how much of it I just skim through. The truth is, it earns its favored status, for me, entirely by virtue of the romantic tension in the beginning (which my mind has developed with much more depth and breadth than the text did), the climax where it is Eilonwy's agency that determines the outcome, and the sweetness of the final scene. I like my high fantasy with a side of romance, and this is the only book in the series that serves that up as more than an hor d'oeuvres. It's like an oreo cookie, except the good parts are the cookie and the cream is like that disappointing whipped frosting some folks inexplicably think is a respectable substitute for buttercream. Or something. I just got lost in my own metaphor. Pass the milk.

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