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

Monday, December 31, 2018

The High King, Chapter 20 – The Gift

We fast-forward through the journey home: the Sons of Don bear Taran and his companions to Avren harbor aboard their golden ships, “with Kaw proudly perched on the highest mast,” and then they ride beneath the banner of the White Pig until they arrive at Caer Dallben. Taran sees Coll’s empty garden and grieves “for the stout grower of turnips, far distant in his lonely resting place.” Sob! You deserved better, Coll.

Eilonwy runs to Dallben and hugs him. Hen Wen has a surprise: she’s now the mother of six piglets! I’m just about to wonder if it was a virgin birth when Dallben mentions that a “very handsome boar” came to visit during the winter and decided to stay. Well, all right, Hen Wen! You go, girl. Fflewddur assumes the piggies must be oracular like their mum, but Dallben says they seem to have no special powers, and not only that, but “Hen Wen’s own gift began to fade when the letter sticks shattered and now is gone past recall.” He thinks she’s happier now that she’s not bearing the burden of magical powers. Foreshadowing?

After a couple of days of resting, Dallben gathers the companions to announce that the Sons of Don are preparing to sail for the Summer Country. Taran is shocked that they would leave now, instead of staying to celebrate their victory over evil, and Gwydion says that having defeated Arawn, their destiny is now to “depart forever from Prydain.” That destiny includes his distant cousin Fflewddur, he says. Fflewddur protests that he’d like to stay in his own realm, but Taliesin says it’s not up to him to decide. As consolation, he tells Fflewddur he can bring Llyan with him, he will get a new harp whose strings will never break, and oh by the way, he’ll also be immortal: “All men born must die, save those who dwell in the Summer Country.” Dallben is headed there, too, since it sounds like a nice place to retire.

Doli has to return to the realm of the Fair Folk, and so does Kaw, for some reason. Everyone is sad about having to say farewell, and then Dallben drops the bomb: Eilonwy has to come to the Summer Country, since she still has magic powers and the new Prydain has to function without any magic. But Taran, Gurgi and Hen Wen are all invited to come with. So, everyone gets to be together except Doli and Kaw? Even fucking Glew gets to go to the Summer Country, and not only that, but he will be gifted with normal stature – I guess so that everyone doesn’t have to spend eternity listening to his bitching and moaning about how he used to be a giant.

Taran asks Eilonwy to marry him! She replies, “I wondered if you’d ever get round to asking. Of course I will.” Everyone is happy. Hooray! End of book. Close it, put it away.

*** 

Sigh. Just kidding. Of course it couldn’t be that easy. Taran goes to bed that night and “dreams” that Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch, in their young and beautiful incarnations, visit him in his bedroom (hubba hubba!) They present him with a gift: the tapestry of his life, woven on their loom and incomplete because his life is not finished and he has to make his own choices. He begs them to tell him why his grief is overshadowing his joy, but instead of suggesting that he may be clinically depressed, or suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing SO MANY people die right in front of him, they just vanish. End of chapter.

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