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

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 12 – The Tomb – and Chapter 13 – The Ladder

Having trapped the companions, Glew apologizes from the other side of the stone. He says he only asks one thing of them: to help him brew a potion that will change him back to normal size. Fflewddur protests that he can’t force them to be test subjects for the potions. Glew promises they won’t have to try a drop – he only needs one of them, and he promises what he needs will be quick and painless. Taran puts it together, correctly guessing that Glew wants to kill one of them for potion ingredients. Glew whines that this isn’t easy for him either: “I’m fond of all of you, especially the little fuzzy one, and I feel dreadful about the whole thing.” In fact, he doesn’t want to choose which one will be his victim. He tells the companions that they must choose, and he’ll shut his eyes so he doesn’t see who gets picked. “Then, after it’s over, we’ll try to forget about it. We’ll be the best of good friends – those of you remaining, that is.” (Heh. I’m enjoying the dark humor, which is a place these books don’t go to very often.) He goes off to prepare the other ingredients.

The companions try, and fail, to dig their way out of the chamber with their swords. Finally, Rhun says the only way out is to capitulate to Glew’s demands. Terrified Gurgi volunteers “his poor tender head for broilings and boilings.” Taran and Fflewddur think they all should fight to the death first. Rhun disagrees. He says he’s obviously the most expendable person in the group, and that by volunteering for the sacrifice, at least he can be useful to Eilonwy. Taran respects Rhun for the offer but reminds him of his oath to the king to protect Rhun from harm. Smiling, Rhun says he will lift the oath from Taran, and then wonders aloud where all the bats have gone. Taran shines the bauble around the chamber: no bats, so there must be a way out! After some searching, they find it – a passage at the top of the sheer stone wall. Fflewddur says that short of turning into bats themselves, there’s no way they can reach it. Taran suggests they make a ladder by standing on one another’s shoulders, enabling the top person to reach the exit. Taran decides Rhun should be the one to go. He gives him Eilonwy’s bauble, saying, “May it shine brightly on your wedding day.” Sob!

They form the human (+ Gurgi) ladder – with poor Fflewddur on the bottom, then Gurgi, then Taran – and Rhun climbs up. He manages to reach the ledge and pull himself up, just as Glew returns and rolls away the stone. In the dark, Fflewddur, Gurgi and Taran try to defend themselves against Glew, who can see better than they can. While trying to avoid being trampled, they knock over the giant’s potions table, and then Taran falls into one of the underground pools. He tells the others to run, as Glew reaches for him. Then suddenly, a bright light fills the cavern. Glew, blinded, screams and retreats. His roars of pain shake the cave, bringing a crystal down on his head that knocks him out. Taran jumps up to see Rhun, returned already, with “the bauble blazing in his hand.” Zero to hero, just like that!

2 comments:

  1. Goooooooosh, Taran. I mean he could have just let Rhun sacrifice himself here; the poor useless prince would get an honorable death, the rest of them get out and save Eilonwy, untroubled by rivals for her affections. Such a simple, neat solution. But does he?!? No, because he's TARAN, ever the honorable. HE'S ADORABLE.

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    1. LMAO at this comment. Yes, he is adorable. Also interesting that he doesn't even have a moment of indecision here (considering that in the next book, when Craddoc's life is on the line, Taran pauses for a critical moment thinking of how Craddoc's death might help him out with Eilonwy). Would have been hilarious if he'd said, "Well, Rhun, okay, if you're sure... though I don't know what I'm going to tell your dad, since I took this oath and all." ;)

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