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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 19 – The Potter’s Wheel

The friendly old man invites Taran and Gurgi to come back to his home for some horse brutality – hospitality, that is. Taran offers to carry his buckets of clay for him, but soon finds the yoke unbearably heavy, and the old man has to take it back. When they arrive at his hut, the man pours the clay into a large vat. Upon entering the hut, Taran sees an assortment of beautiful pottery, and he instantly recognizes the craftsmanship from the pieces Lord Gast was bragging about. He tells the man, “If this is your work, I have seen some of it before, and I know you: Annlaw Clay-Shaper.” Wow, what are the odds? The one potter in Prydain we know by name, and Taran ends up at his house.

Taran fanboys to Annlaw that he’s so talented, he’s even heard that the potter uses enchantment to create his wares. Annlaw says there used to be some enchanted implements, but Arawn stole them all, along with some trade secrets that Annlaw would prize higher than magic, if he could get his hands on them. Taran laments that he has no trade, and tells about his brief internships with Hevydd and Dwyvach. Annlaw says, “Have you considered piracy? You’d make a wonderful Dread Pirate Roberts.” No, actually he says “What of the potter’s wheel?” Taran is game to try. Annlaw demonstrates how to make a bowl of clay, then invites Taran to take a turn at the wheel. Taran practically has an orgasm as soon as he touches the clay. He’s so excited by how fun it is to make a pot that he begs Annlaw to take him on as apprentice. Annlaw, of course, is like, sure, we’ll start tomorrow. I love how no one ever tells Taran, “Forget it kid, hit the road.” They’re very hospitable, these Commot folks.

Much like Hevydd and Dwyvach did, Annlaw makes Taran start from the beginning, learning about finding and sifting the earth, etc., before he finally gets to try the wheel again. This takes all summer, and then throughout autumn Taran practices making vessels. None of them match his expectations, though, and he finally cries, “Is the gift forbidden me?” Annlaw’s response is pretty much, yeah, you’re never going to be a potter. I would protest it would take more than a few months to know that, but apparently Annlaw is the pottery equivalent of a judge on “The Voice.”

Taran is devastated. Annlaw tries to cheer him up by saying he can still stay there and help with various tasks. For instance, he needs someone to carry his wares to Commot Isav, a day’s journey away. Taran agrees to go, but thinks of his happiness as “a flawed vessel shattered in the firing.” Poor kid. He was pretty good at being a smith and a weaver, but didn’t want to be those things, and now he really wants to be a potter, and the master potter is telling him he’ll never be good at it. This is pretty much every artist’s worst fear – that our skills are not equivalent to our passion. And on that downer note, I’m going to go have a beer (it’s St. Patrick’s Day, after all)!

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