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 20, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 11 – King of the Stones

The giant, Glew, rises to his feet. He’s three times Taran’s height, and commands them again to “Tremble!” Fflewddur is like, “I don’t need to be told!” and Gurgi covers his face and wails. The giant is impressed that they are in fact shaking in fear — not just humoring him — and excited that they’ve heard of him. Rhun mentions Llyan, and Glew sniffles that he wishes she were here to keep him company. I assume Rhun pronounces her name the same way Glew does, otherwise they would have a whole “Lion? You mean Lee-AHN?” thing happening. Glew complains about how scary and icky the cavern is, populated by worms, bats, and “things that are just — just things! They’re the worst.” So I Google-image-searched “gross things in caves” to try to come up with an illustration, but all I found were spiders, and sorry, Glew — I'm a fan of those.

Taran asks Glew to show them the way out. Glew says he doesn’t know of one. He swallowed the potion on his way into the cave, with Llyan tailing him. Then he kept growing and growing while running deeper into the cavern, looking for bigger chambers, until at last he reached a dead end. Taran whispers to Fflewddur that there must still be a passage big enough for them to escape, if they can get Glew to stop talking and show them. Glew catches on that they’re not listening to him and begins crying again. He never wanted to be a giant, he says. At first he wanted to be a great warrior, then a bard, then a hero, then a king. But all these things turned out to be uncomfortable and inconvenient, from “the harp rubbing blisters on your shoulder” to caged dragons that bite you when you try to slay them. The only thing left for him to try was enchantments, so he got hold of a book of spells that once belonged to the House of Llyr. Taran perks up at the mention of Eilonwy’s lineage and demands details. Glew says that the book came from Caer Colur, the “ancient seat of the House of Llyr” and a “treasurehouse of charms and enchantments.” It used to be part of Mona, but it broke off during a flood and became an island. Taran guesses that Magg must have taken Eilonwy there.

The wizard who gave Glew the book was “eager to be rid of it,” Glew exposits, and when he left Glew found out why – the book was completely blank. “Amazing!” Rhun exclaims; that must be the book they found in Glew’s cottage. Glew says they can keep it to remember him by, and begs them to help him get out of the cavern. Taran says that he’ll ask Dallben to help, if Glew will show them the way out. Glew agrees, if the others will call him “King Glew.” Fflewddur, who actually is a king, hilariously says he’ll call him king, prince or whatever, if he’ll show them “a way out of here – Sire!”

Glew leads them past his makeshift potion-brewing workshop to a tunnel and tells them to go straight on through it. They push through, only to collide with a stone wall. Taran spins around, dropping Eilonwy’s bauble, to see that Glew has rolled a massive stone over the opening, trapping them!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 10 – The Cavern

Taran jumps into the pit after Rhun, who is lying unconscious at the bottom, bleeding from a head wound. Damn those osiers! Fflewddur and Gurgi try to pull Taran and Rhun up with vines, but the ground gives way. They decide they’d do better with all of them lifting Rhun, and Fflewddur and Gurgi jump into the hole as well. The prince conveniently comes to – “Hullo, hullo!” – which I’m happy about, even though I would think that a massive gash to the head would have knocked him out longer than a few minutes. To make matters worse, he falls again while trying to climb out of the hole, and this time the whole pit collapses around the companions and pushes them down into a completely dark crevice. They confirm that they’re all OK, so Rhun’s head wound really must not have been that deep. But poor Gurgi has lost his “fire stones,” and without a light, they’re trapped.

Then Taran remembers Eilonwy’s bauble. He tries to light it, but it doesn’t work for him. Rhun already knows his effect on it, so Fflewddur and Gurgi each take a turn without success. Taran is about to put it back in his pocket, but holds it for a minute. He envisions Eilonwy’s face and imagines the sound of her laugh, and lo and behold, the bauble lights up! That’s the power, that’s the power of love! The glow from the bauble reveals they’re in an enormous cavern. It appears to be deserted, and therefore, Fflewddur concludes, probably not a realm of the Fair Folk (unlike the last giant cavern they were in, in a chapter I recapped exactly 11 months ago)!

Taran is super-stressed because they are the only ones who know which direction Magg took Eilonwy. (But wait, isn’t Kaw still out there? Can’t he go to the search party and set them on the right track? Oh well, I guess Taran doesn’t think the search party will listen to Kaw. Or maybe he thinks Kaw is still busy with Llyan.) Anyway, he gets crabby when Rhun calls “Hullo” to see if anyone else is within hearing range, and scolds him for risking their lives. Taran has taken on Gwydion's mantle of douchery, and the circle is complete. They hunt for a way out, the path becoming more difficult as they go, and notice a bunch of strangely shaped rocks, including one that looks like “a hen’s egg sticking halfway out of a nest.” As Rhun draws closer to inspect it, the shape starts to move. Whoa! It’s the head of a giant, huddled against the wall and covered in moss and mold. The giant starts to stand up, and shouts, “Puny things! Tremble before me! Tremble, I tell you! I am Glew!”