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

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 1 – Who Am I?

It’s springtime at Caer Dallben, but Taran’s not in the mood to enjoy it. Coll good-naturedly teases him about pining for Eilonwy. Taran says he has to talk to Dallben about something important, and ignores Coll’s warnings that Dallben has weighty things on his mind right now. At Dallben’s cottage, Taran passes Achren, who now does the tasks that Eilonwy used to do – how did this household get by when they didn’t have any women working for them? – and knocks on the enchanter’s door. Dallben, bent over The Book of Three, assures Taran that Eilonwy is fine and says that Kaw has not yet returned from Glew’s cavern, where he was bringing a potion from Dallben to restore the giant to normal size. Having gotten those two items of business out of the way, he asks Taran what he wants, since “an Assistant Pig-Keeper should have tasks enough to busy himself outdoors.” Heh.

Creepy cover art!
Taran asks Dallben to tell him who his parents are. He wants to ask Eilonwy to marry him, but he can’t do it until he knows his lineage. Dallben says he can’t answer him, and neither can Gwydion or even the High King Math. So Taran asks permission to leave Caer Dallben and go find out for himself, and Dallben sadly grants it. Gurgi, who was listening at the door, runs in and begs Taran to take him along. Dallben says, “So be it,” and in the morning, Taran, not wasting any time, saddles Melynlas and says farewell to Hen Wen. He and Gurgi ride west, because Taran has decided to go to the Marshes of Morva and ask Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch for answers. Gurgi is terrified at the idea of facing the witches again, but whispers, “Faithful Gurgi follows, as he promised.” Love!

After several days’ ride, they arrive at the marshes. Orddu greets them cheerfully and invites them into the cottage, where Orwen and Orgoch are spinning and combing wool for a magical-looking tapestry that Orddu is weaving. Taran asks Orddu who his parents are. She says he should choose any parents that he pleases, since he’s never known them: “Believe what you like. You’ll be surprised how comforting it is.” Taran doesn’t want comfort, he wants the truth! Orddu shouts, “You can’t handle the truth!” Not really. She says that she once helped a frog who didn’t know if he was a land creature or a water creature, by turning him into a stork, and a serpent who didn’t know if he was green with brown spots or brown with green spots, by making him invisible. She offers to turn Taran into anything that would make him happier: “I suggest a hedgehog.” Gurgi is quaking with fear, but Taran says firmly that he and Gurgi will leave if the enchantresses will not answer his question. Orddu says they will, but first they must settle on a price.

Taran says he has nothing that is more of value than Adaon’s brooch, which she took from him last time. Orwen suggests they could take his memories of Eilonwy, but Orddu says they have enough memories. Taran finally pledges that they can have whatever thing that he comes across in the rest of his life that means the most to him. Um, Taran, have you not read Rumplestiltskin? Not a smart thing to promise. Fortunately, Orddu refuses the offer. She tells him to go ask someone else, and suggests the Mirror of Llunet in the Llawgadarn Mountains. Then she kicks him out of the cottage without any further details about how to find the mirror. Nonetheless, Taran tells Gurgi it’s his only hope, and they set off for the mountains in the east. But Taran is uneasy, because he knows Orddu never gives anything away for free.