Taran Wanderer, Chapter 14 – The End of Summer
Fflewddur and Gurgi are joyful that Taran has found his father at last. Taran and Craddoc embrace uncertainly, then sit quietly in thought while the others celebrate late into the night and Fflewddur rings the rafters of the cottage with his exuberant singing and harp music. The next morning, Taran confides in Fflewddur that while he believes Craddoc is telling the truth, he wishes that it weren’t so. He admits to having dreamed that his parents might have had noble lineage, making him worthy of Eilonwy. Craddoc, meanwhile, is all pumped that his son will help him make his crappy farm great again. Taran suggests that instead Craddoc come with them to Caer Dallben, but Craddoc won’t hear of it. He tells Taran to leave if he wants to, but that he himself will stay on his land. Fflewddur’s like, I can see where you get your stubbornness from, dude.
Taran, miserable, feels he has no choice but to stay with Craddoc. He asks Fflewddur to ride to Caer Dallben and tell Dallben and Coll the news, but begs him not to tell Eilonwy: “She and I must never meet again. It were better the Princess forget the shepherd boy, better that all of you forget me.” (Now, I understand he’s brokenhearted and being a bit dramatic here, but why does everyone have to forget him? Is “herdsman’s son” so much worse than Assistant Pig-Keeper?) He even scolds poor Gurgi for calling him “master” – “No master am I, but a low-born churl” – and tells him to leave the valley and go with Fflewddur. Gurgi emphatically refuses; he will stay as Taran, as he promised. Fflewddur himself leaves “with many a backward glance,” to take the news to Dallben.
Taran feels duty-bound to toil for his long-lost father but feels as trapped as he would have been had Morda turned him into a worm. He works his ass off all summer: He mends Craddoc’s cottage, unblocks the spring and makes a stream to water the sheep, even catches himself on fire during a controlled burn of the fields. Craddoc saves him by putting out the flames with his own body, since Taran apparently never learned “stop, drop and roll.” Taran muses that it seems like Craddoc is two people, one he hates and one he loves. And for a spot of comic relief in this otherwise total bummer of a chapter, Gurgi dons a fleece jacket, dubs himself “Assistant Sheep-Keeper” and becomes devoted to tending the sheep, who follow him around worshipfully like he’s some kind of cult leader. Baa-Ram-Ewe!