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

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The High King, Chapter 3 – The Prophecy

Taran urges Gwydion to let him ride after Achren, who has departed on one of Rhun’s horses. Gwydion doesn’t really say no, but says that he can’t delay his own quest to protect Achren, though there is “no safety for her beyond Caer Dallben.” He then asks Dallben to reveal Hen Wen’s prophecy. Dallben says the prophecy says a Gelfling will heal the Dark Crystal at the time of the Great Conjunction. No, actually, he asked how to recover Dyrnwyn and the first letter stick’s prophecy was “Ask, sooner, mute stone and voiceless rock to speak.” Pretty eloquent symbols they have on those letter sticks. Did it include the punctuation and all? Even better is the second letter stick’s prophecy, which is a whole five-line poem referencing the quenching of Dyrnwyn’s flame, night turning to noon, and rivers that “burn with frozen fire.” I really want to know how a pig’s snout pointing to a few symbols on an ash rod resulted in this narrative. Do the symbols stand for words or for concepts? Is there a symbol that means “Dyrnwyn”? Or are they actual letters/phonetic symbols, and if so, wouldn’t that poem have taken a really long time to spell out and write down, like Ralphie’s Little Orphan Annie secret decoder ring message?



Anyway. The companions briefly discuss how disheartening the prophecies are, and how impossible it is that rivers can burn or stones can speak. I have a feeling we’ll learn that it’s not at all impossible, before all is said and done. Gwydion prepares to ride to Annuvin, and says he must go alone. Taran suggests sending Kaw ahead first as a scout. Gwydion approves of this plan and says that he will wait for Kaw at King Smoit’s realm, which is on the way to Annuvin. Taran says they will all go with him as far as Cantrev Cadiffor. Glew grumbles about the inconvenience, while Eilonwy uses a technique she learned from Queen Teleria to bargain her way into going along: “A lady doesn’t insist on having her own way. Then, next thing you know, it all works out somehow, without one’s even trying.” Hee.

Kaw departs for Annuvin, while Taran reflects on the gwythaint he helped years ago. They saddle their horses, and Fflewddur mounts Llyan, who growls at the sight of her former captor, Glew. Coll outfits them with old weapons from the tool shed. Sparrows are using his leather helmet as a nest, he says: “I shall not disturb them. But my own old pate is as tough as leather.” Coll is good people, y’all. Because everyone is reminiscing today, he recalls when Taran would have wanted nothing more than to ride for glory with Lord Gwydion. But now, Taran is fearful for Gwydion’s chances against Arawn.

That night, having traveled far from Caer Dallben, they make camp and share some lembas and jerky from Gurgi’s wallet. Taran helps Rhun revise his plans for the seawall at Mona, until Gwydion warns them to be quiet in case the Huntsmen are nearby. Taran muses on the prophecy some more, and says that he doesn’t think Arawn could even draw Dyrnwyn to be able to quench its flame. Gwydion says that if Dyrnwyn is locked in a treasure hoard, it would be as good as vanquished. Glew’s ears perk up at the mention of treasure. He says that he forgives them all for mistreating him and that, instead of waiting on Rhun’s ship as planned, he intends to journey with them. Gwydion throws Glew a sharp look, then thinks about it and then says quietly, “Perhaps you shall.”

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