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, December 29, 2016

Musings on life, death, and the immortality of words

We interrupt this regularly scheduled “Taran Wanderer” chapter recap to reflect on the news events of this week – specifically, the deaths of Carrie Fisher (and her mother, Debbie Reynolds, a day later) and Richard Adams, author of my favorite book of all time.

Full-color photographs!
My love for Carrie Fisher began and ended with books – you might say it was bookended by books. In first grade, before I ever saw the movie “Star Wars,” I acquired “The Star Wars Storybook,” which contained a number of stunning photos of Fisher as Princess Leia. I quickly decided she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, right up there with my mother and Joy from “The Bugaloos.” Every day at recess, I would twist my pigtails into bun shapes in order to portray Leia, and my boyfriend Sean and I would run around the playground shooting imaginary stormtroopers with blasters fashioned out of notebook paper. Later on, I saw the original movie trilogy, and I loved how strong and brave Leia was – not to mention all those rockin’ hairstyles!

But despite my having discovered her as Leia, Fisher came to mean more to me as an author than an actress. In high school, I read her novels “Postcards from the Edge” and “Surrender the Pink,” and fell in love with her brash, confessional writing style. Reading her books was like having a late-night, no-holds-barred conversation with a close girlfriend – sometimes veering into uncomfortable too-much-information territory, sometimes trying my patience with repetition and circular narration, but on the whole touching a deep and satisfying emotional chord that sounded something like: “She’s just as messed up as I am, and her life is brilliant!” As a teenager, I looked up to Fisher, along with Stevie Nicks and Pamela Des Barres, as extraordinary examples of bold, beautiful women – flawed but fabulous – and I hoped (still do!) to one day have adventures as marvelous as theirs. And as a motherless daughter, I enjoyed/envied Fisher’s portrayal of her loving, if at times smotheringly codependent, relationship with her mother, Debbie Reynolds (whom I knew best as the voice of Charlotte in “Charlotte’s Web,” but who obviously had a long and illustrious movie career and was generally considered Hollywood royalty).

Fisher, the youngest of my trio of idols, was only 60 when she passed away, and my heart hurts as if I knew her personally – because I felt like I did. I had just started reading her latest memoir, “The Princess Diarist,” when I learned of her passing, so her incomparable voice was fresh in my mind, as if we’d just been having one of those late-night chats. If you’re a fan, I definitely recommend reading (or listening to) all three of her memoirs. After I finish “The Princess Diarist,” I also plan to re-read all four of her novels – the first two were my favorites, but it’s been a while since I read “Delusions of Grandma” or “The Best Awful,” so I’ll give them another whirl.

I agree with this cover blurb.
Books are a form of immortality – even though Fisher died so young, since we have her words, she’ll never truly be gone. The same can be said of Richard Adams, who didn’t start writing until he was 52(!) years old. He enjoyed a 40-year career (he was still writing at 90!) that included the amazing books “Traveller” and “The Plague Dogs” along with his personal favorite, “Shardik,” and mine, “Watership Down.” It’s hard to be too torn up about his death, since he passed away peacefully at 96, which is the way most of us would probably like to go, given that we have to go at some point. I’m just so grateful that he gave us the literary gifts that he did before he left us.

It’s the time of year when many people make New Year’s resolutions, and for me, the passing of these monumental figures has strengthened my resolve to get my novel, “The Freedom Dreamers,” out into the world, to achieve a tiny bit of immortality for myself. None of us knows how long we have on this planet. I just hope that before my time comes, I’m able to touch one or two people with my writing the way that Fisher and Adams touched me.

I hope you have a happy and healthy New Year. I’ll be back with more “Taran Wanderer” in 2017!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 11 – Dorath

The following morning, Doli leaves to take Angharad’s jewel to King Eiddileg, while the rest of the companions head in the direction of the Lake of Llunet. Taran sensibly guesses that the lake, having the same name as the Mirror, may lead him to the end of his quest. They travel all day, Fflewddur still trying to shake off the long-term traumatic effects of having been a rabbit for, like, five minutes. That evening, they smell food cooking. Apparently tired of eating lembas and jerky, they follow the aroma to a glade, where they encounter two armed guards, and another dozen men gathered around a campfire where “collops of meat” are roasting. Now, not to be critical, but the OED defines “collops” as “slices of meat,” so I think the “of meat” is redundant here – they couldn’t be collops if they weren’t meat. But I’m sure Alexander is intentionally providing context clues to help his young (and young-at-heart) readers understand the word.

The leader of the group is described as a “heavy-faced” man with “yellowish” hair. (I picture him looking like Kid Rock.) He refers to himself as Dorath and greets the companions as “lordships.” Taran says he is no lord but an Assistant Pig-Keeper – oh, Taran, seriously? Do you never learn? How many surly thugs have you told your title in these books, and how has it gone for you so far? – and Dorath mocks him (of course!), calling him “Lord Swineherd.” Then he invites the companions to share the collops, and asks Taran, “Where do you come from? Where do you go?” Where do you come from, Cotton Eye Joe? Taran answers truthfully that he is headed to the Lake of Llunet to seek his parents. Dorath doesn’t believe him, and thinks that they are seeking treasure. Taran bristles at being called a liar. There’s a tense moment where it seems like Dorath and Taran are going to duel, but then Fflewddur breaks the tension by playing a tune on his harp.

Dorath insults Fflewddur’s harp playing and orders the companions to spend the night, “and in the morning my Company will guide you to the Lake of Llunet.” Taran says no thanks, as they plan to travel through the night, but Dorath won’t take no for an answer. He says he can protect them from the many dangers along the way, in exchange for a small part of the treasure they find. His men make it clear that this is an offer Taran can’t refuse. Fflewddur sagely observes that the danger they need protection from is Dorath himself. Taran considers blowing the battle horn for help, but doesn’t want to waste it. He and Fflewddur decide to wait until early morning, when presumably all the men will be asleep, and then try to make a break for it. I guess he hasn’t considered the possibility that the guards would work in shifts to keep watch. At first light, they slip off to untether the horses and Llyan. Taran’s gamble seems to have paid off, as the guards are asleep – but then Dorath emerges from the shadow of a tree and blocks his way. D’oh!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 9 – The Hand of Morda – and Chapter 10 –The Broken Spell

As Morda taunts Taran, debating over what sort of animal he will change him into, Taran feels something gnawing at the ropes that bind his wrists. It’s Gurgi, in mouse form! (Morda put Kaw and Fflewddur in cages, but not Gurgi, which was not very smart of him.) Taran tries to buy some time by pleading with the wizard to let him choose his new form. He asks Morda to turn him into a pig, which would remind him of his happy days at Caer Dallben. Morda pretends to consider it, then exults that Taran has revealed his fondest wish, thus guaranteeing that’s the one thing he’ll never be. Jerk. Taran says – as Gurgi finishes chewing through his bonds – in that case, he’ll keep his own shape, thank you! He jumps up, draws his sword and stabs Morda right in the heart: yikes! But Morda, unharmed, just laughs creepily. He says he would have taken Taran’s sword if he thought it could harm him. His life isn’t in his body; it’s hidden far away, somewhere safe. So he has a Horcrux! And that’s when Taran notices Morda is missing the pinky finger on one hand.

He's like the six-fingered man from The Princess Bride.
Except with two fewer fingers.
Morda finally settles on a shape to transform Taran into: a worm. But as he tries to cast the spell, nothing happens. “As if I struggled against myself,” he says in disbelief. Taran, putting two and two together, slowly reveals the bone fragment in his pocket. Yes, indeed, it’s Morda’s little finger! He put all his life into it and sliced it off, then hid it away so he could be immortal. Terrified, the wizard begs Taran to give him the bone, and to take the gem of Angharad in return. Taran says the gem is not Morda’s to bargain with, but he nonetheless won’t kill him, since his evil is not for Taran to judge. He commands Morda to restore his companions and come with them to Caer Dallben, where Dallben will bring him to justice. At that, Morda swings the necklace like a whip, and the gem slashes Taran’s face. Taran, blinded by blood, drops the bone, and Morda grabs him by the throat. Taran is thisclose to being strangled to death when Llyan comes to the rescue! She bursts through the door and grapples with Morda. Taran retrieves the bone and tries to break it. It resists. The chapter ends ...

... but it’s the shortest cliffhanger ever, because by the second paragraph of the next chapter, Taran succeeds in snapping the bone in two! It crumbles, and so does Morda. The companions are instantly changed back to themselves – including Doli, who was carried in by Llyan – and there’s some comic relief as Fflewddur tries to get out of his wicker basket and get his nose to stop twitching. Kaw brings Angharad’s jewel to Taran. Doli recognizes it as a Fair Folk treasure, given to Princess Regat on her wedding day, and handed down to her daughter. Taran briefly wonders if he can use it to bargain with Orddu for the truth about his parentage. But then he realizes the honorable thing to do is to give it to Doli, and he does.

They leave Morda’s hut, and Taran asks Doli about the Mirror of Llunet. Doli hasn’t heard of it, but he knows of a “Lake of Llunet in the Llawgadarn Mountains.” Then, noticing Taran’s horn, he asks where it came from, and Taran says it was a parting gift from Eilonwy. Doli says it’s a Fair Folk horn, with one magical summons left in it. He whistles “three long notes of a pitch and sequence strange to Taran.” (I like to think that it’s “Hot Cross Buns.”) He tells Taran if he ever needs help, to sound those exact notes on the horn and help will come. He warns him not to waste it: “Someday, your life may hang on that call.”

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 8 – The Wall of Thorns

Accompanied by Gurgi and Kaw, Taran heads off to Morda’s stronghold, leaving Fflewddur in the forest, along with Doli-as-frog. (Seems like Fflewddur could have just kept on carrying Doli and come with them, but whatevs.) Arriving at an impenetrable wall of thorns twice his height, Taran, after much labor with his sword, manages to carve only a small hole, through which he spies a rough dwelling made of boulders and sod. Guessing that Morda must have a secret passage through the wall of thorns, Taran sends Kaw to look for it. Dusk falls, but Kaw doesn’t return, so Taran and Gurgi decide to try climbing the wall. Nearly at the top, they spring a trap and are thrown over the barrier to the ground below, upon which Taran loses consciousness: Drink!

Taran comes to in a dimly lit chamber, and sees that Kaw and Gurgi are there as well. The bald, unblinking, creepy wizard Morda demands to know who Taran is, what he wants and if the crow belongs to him. Taran says Kaw got lost on their way to the Llawgardarn Mountains and the companions stumbled into Morda’s wall by mistake while looking for him. Morda thinks Taran is lying. Taran notices that Morda wears a crescent moon on a silver chain around his neck. It’s identical to the one Eilonwy wears, except that Morda’s has a clear, carved gem suspended between the prongs of the crescent. Taran blurts out: “The emblem of the House of Llyr!”

Morda’s like, oh, so you came to steal it from me? Now that the Princess Angharad is dead, he says, he alone owns the gem’s secrets. Years ago, Eilonwy’s mom – searching for her kidnapped baby daughter – came to Morda’s house and asked for shelter in return for the amulet. She was feverish and died that night. Morda kept the necklace and the apparently empty book she carried with her. Later on, he sold the book to Glew, never realizing its power.

Morda, who was born human but considers the human race beneath him, had been looking for the secret to eternal life, said to be contained in a Fair Folk treasure trove. With the help of Angharad's gem, he was able to raise the wall of thorns and turn a Fair Folk sentry into a mole. His next move, he tells Taran in that old Bond-villain trope of revealing your entire plot to your prisoner, will be to enslave the entire realm of Fair Folk! At that moment, Fflewddur (who’s apparently no better at waiting than Taran is) crashes through the wall of thorns. Morda ties him up and drags him into the chamber as well. Fflewddur says at least Doli is safe enough, and Morda says they will all share Doli’s fate. Taran warns Morda: they are under Dallben’s protection, and Dallben will put the smack down on Morda if he harms them. Morda scoffs at this, and uses the gem to transform Fflewddur into a hare and Gurgi into a mouse. (Why not more frogs? I guess he likes variety.) Then, Morda turns “his unlidded eyes on Taran.” Creepy cliffhanger! What will Taran’s new form be? Like Orddu, I'm voting for hedgehog.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 6 – A Frog – and Chapter 7 – Friends In Danger

Exhibit A.
Taran, Fflewddur, and Gurgi ride out of the Valley Cantrevs and into the Hill Cantrevs. Fflewddur remarks that the Hill Cantrevs used to be rich pastureland for sheep with “fleece so thick you could sink your arm in it up to the elbow!” But, much like the farmers of the valley, the shepherds of the hills were robbed of their secrets by Arawn, and now the land is gray and dense with brush. Gurgi doesn’t much care, and wishes he were back at Caer Dallben. Fflewddur says he’s looking forward to heading home himself, to his realm in the north, and loses a string when he says his subjects are always anxious for his return (though his strings hold fast when he says that Prince Gwydion is a distant kinsman).

Exhibit B.
They stop so Fflewddur can repair his harp, and Kaw arrives, bearing news that Eilonwy is well and that Dallben’s potion succeeded in returning Glew the giant to normal size. Then the crow snatches up Fflewddur’s tuning key and mischievously flies to the top of an oak tree with it. Fflewddur commands him to drop the key, and Kaw does – right into the hollow oak. Gurgi climbs the tree to retrieve it, and finds something else hidden in the trunk. He brings down a small, locked box made of iron. Wondering if it contains treasure, the companions pry the hinges off with their swords, and reveal the box’s contents: “no more than a slender piece of bone as long as Taran’s little finger.” Taran wonders why something so seemingly worthless would be locked up and hidden away. Fflewddur thinks it reeks of enchantment and suggests they get rid of it. Taran says whatever it is, “it’s not ours to take.” (Then why’d you break into the box in the first place?) He puts the bone back in the box and convinces Gurgi to return it to the hiding spot.

Exhibit C...
They return to the horses to find that Llyan has wandered off. She quickly returns, proudly carrying a large frog in her jaws, which she drops at Fflewddur’s feet. He praises her, explaining to Taran that she does this often with mice and other creatures and he always makes a fuss over them (Alexander must have had cats). Turns out the frog is still alive, though badly dehydrated. Taran thinks they can save him; Fflewddur is skeptical. Just then the frog croaks: “Arrad! … Urgghi! … Ood! … Elpp!” Fflewddur – or Ood, as I will now call him (at least for the rest of this paragraph) – says hey, that’s odd, it sounds like the frog is calling for help. Then the frog says something else to Taran, something which makes him gasp and announce: “It’s Doli!” Quickly, they douse the frog with water, and he starts to sound like good old grumpy Doli again.

... aaaand D.
Fflewddur asks him why he decided to be a frog, and Doli harrumphs that he was bewitched through no choice of his own, by an enchanter named Morda. King Eiddileg had sent Doli on a mission to find out who was behind a recent theft of Fair Folk treasure. He tracked Morda down, but was turned into a frog before he could find out why Morda stole the trove. He urges his friends to take him back to Morda’s stronghold so that he can find out what the wizard is planning and warn Eiddileg. They ride deep into the forest, and then Kaw suddenly swoops down with the bone fragment in his beak, and gives it to Taran. Taran wonders if Morda might be the one who hid the bone, which he puts in his pocket for safekeeping. Doli is ill and despite their attempts to keep him hydrated, getting sicker. Taran leaves him with Fflewddur and Gurgi, and sets out alone to find Morda. He’s terrified of being turned into a frog before completing his quest, but his desire to provide us with some sick cover art for this installment of the series wins out. Seriously, almost every edition of the book has some version of Taran confronting Morda on the cover!

Monday, November 7, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 5 – A Judgment

In a feat that seems to defy the laws of physics, Taran single-handedly rescues Smoit, dragging the bleeding king from the whirlpool at the foot of the waterfall and managing to avoid drowning himself. Fflewddur says Smoit has “cracked his skull and half his ribs” (which he somehow can tell without an X-ray) and that they should take him to Caer Cadarn. Taran envies Smoit for being unconscious, which is usually Taran’s job, and suggests instead taking him to Aeddan’s farm, which is closer. He doubts they’ll be able to find Cornillo and the herd now, but just then Gurgi hears “cooings and mooings!” The cows are calmly grazing just past the trees on the riverbank. Smoit comes to and thanks Taran for saving his life: “Claim any favor, it is yours.” He sends two horsemen to tell Gast and Goryon to meet him at Aeddan’s hut. Taran then coaxes Cornillo and the herd to follow them there.

Map probably not to scale.

But Aeddan is not so happy to see them. He bursts from the hut with blazing eyes and a drawn sword; the feuding warriors have trampled his one good field (and for some reason he blames Taran for this?) and now he and his wife will starve. Taran is heartbroken at the sight of the wrecked field. Gast and Goryon arrive, in answer to the king’s summons, each shouting and accusing the other of being a liar and a thief. The enraged Smoit says he’ll throw them both in his dungeon and claim Cornillo for himself as a prize of war. But Taran asks Smoit if he may now claim the favor Smoit offered him for saving his life. He implores him to set Goryon and Gast free “to labor beside Aeddan and strive to mend what they have destroyed.” (Good call, Taran – definitely a more useful sentence!) He also asks Smoit to give Cornillo to Aeddan, who needs her more than Smoit needs a war prize, and grant Gast and Goryon her next set of calves. As for the rest of the herd, Taran decrees that Goryon will divide them in equal portions, and Gast will choose his half. Smoit agrees with me that this is pretty damn clever: “It takes two thieves to strike an honest bargain!” Aeddan thanks Taran for being a friend. He’s traveled down the road and back again. His heart is true, he’s a pal and a confidant…

That night, back at Caer Cadarn, Smoit takes Taran aside and thanks him again for his wise judgment. He’s decided to have his useless dungeons walled up immediately, and he asks Taran to stay on as his advisor. When Taran says he has to learn who his kinsmen are, Smoit says, “There’s enough of me to make all the kinsmen you could want!” He reveals that he’s a widower with no children, and offers to adopt Taran as his son and heir to the throne of Cadiffor. Taran thinks King of Cadiffor sounds a lot better than Assistant Pig-Keeper, as titles go, and that a throne would give him something to offer Eilonwy in marriage. But, he thinks Eilonwy could never respect him for abandoning his quest, nor could he respect himself. He thanks Smoit and says he must first complete his quest. If it turns out he has royal blood in his veins, he will gladly accept Smoit’s offer, but he has to know for sure who he is. Smoit is sad but wishes Taran luck in his search.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 4 – A Matter of Cows

Taran, Fflewddur, and Gurgi arrive at the castle of King Smoit, who greets them effusively and comments that the last time he saw them, Taran was as “scrawny as a plucked chicken,” implying – without actually saying so – that Taran has filled out some since then. Taran asks Smoit if he’s ever heard of the Mirror of Llunet; Smoit hasn’t, but says the Llawgardarn Mountains are in “the land of the Free Commots,” and the residents there are “a stiff-necked breed.” Fflewddur exposits that Annlaw Clay-Shaper, plus a bunch of other craftsmen with mad skillz, live in the Free Commots. They have no ruler except the High King Math, and Smoit says “there’s more peace and neighborliness in the Free Commots than anywhere else in Prydain.” (The word “neighborliness,” which is just beautiful – in both sound and meaning – is ripe for a revival, don’t you think?)

Smoit advises Taran to forget about the Mirror of Llunet and hang out with him in Cantrev Cadiffor, where they’ll enjoy feasting and hunting and put even more flesh on Taran’s bones. But Taran won’t be deterred from his quest, and so, the next morning, they go to Smoit’s storehouse to get outfitted with some gear for the journey. A guard bursts in to say that the cantrev lords are fighting again: Goryon has stolen Gast’s fancy COW – which I sure hope you all remember from the last chapter! – and the rest of his herd as well. Smoit roars that he’ll throw Gast in his dungeon, and Taran is confused – isn’t Goryon the thief? Smoit says that no one knows who Cornillo’s rightful owner is; she’s been stolen back and forth by the two squabbling lords for years. The companions mount their horses (and Llyan) and ride from the castle at a breakneck pace, accompanied by a dozen of Smoit’s warriors.

Smoit, who can never go very long without eating, soon calls a lunch break, and starts to chow down on a “joint of meat” from his saddlebag (hooray for the naming of foods instead of mysterious references to “provisions!”) Taran suggests that there must be some way to achieve peace between Goryon and Gast. After all, Smoit’s thrown them both into his dungeon many times, but it never seems to work. Smoit says Taran may be on to something – then, hilariously, posits that the dungeon’s not damp enough and vows to have it “well watered down tonight.” Taran’s like, um, that’s not exactly what I meant.

A messenger from Lord Goryon rides up and begs the party for help in defending Goryon’s stronghold from Gast’s army. He says that when Gast attacked, the cows got scared and ran off, and now both lords are swearing vengeance for the herd’s loss. Smoit is ready to crack some skulls, and even Fflewddur gets caught up in the battle lust. Taran sensibly says that maybe someone should go find the cows, but Smoit ignores him, and the war party rides off in the direction of Goryon’s stronghold. On the way, they take a detour through some woods, and find themselves at the bank of a swiftly moving river. The reckless king gallops on in, and Taran watches in horror, as the current pulls Smoit from his mount and carries him over the edge of a waterfall. And on that cliffhanger, we end chapter 4, so until next time: Peace and neighborliness to you!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 3 – Goryon and Gast

Taran and Gurgi ride to Lord Goryon’s stronghold, which is described as “a large huddle of buildings circled by a barricade of wooden stakes lashed with osier,” which made me so happy, because I recently learned what osiers are! They find a stable boy, and Taran asks him if a gray stallion was recently brought in. The boy exclaims, “Gray dragon, rather!” Melynlas, it seems, bit him and has thrown off both Lord Goryon and the Master of Horse multiple times, but Goryon is determined to break the stallion’s spirit, “even if he must first break its back.” Alarmed, Taran runs in the direction the boy indicated and sees Melynlas, surrounded by a ring of armed warriors, fling a bearded man to the ground.

Taran runs to Melynlas and takes hold of his bridle. The would-be rider, Lord Goryon, sputters, “Insolence! Impudence!” and orders Taran thrashed. But Taran says he does no more than claim his own horse, and Goryon’s like, that’s impossible, my men rescued the horse from six giants. Taran says there were no giants, just him, Aeddan, and Gurgi, but when Goryon blusters that his men are not liars, Taran thinks quickly and posits that the long shadows caused by the setting sun could understandably have made their height and numbers seem greater. The Master of Horse challenges Taran to try mounting Melynlas, which of course Taran does with ease. He continues thinking on his feet by offering to give Lord Goryon his “pig-keeper’s nag” as a gift. Goryon is outraged by the impudence and tells Taran and Gurgi to get lost and take the horse (and Gurgi’s pony, barely mentioned up till now) with them. And so they ride off, Taran having channeled his inner Odysseus in a way that’s effective if not quite consistent with what his character has been in the books so far.

As night falls, they arrive at another stronghold, and Taran calls to the guard in the watchtower that he is a friend of King Smoit’s. The name-dropping works, and Taran and Gurgi are invited into the Great Hall, where a war lord is listening to a harp played by none other than Fflewddur Fflam! The bard greets them, saying he really did intend to try staying in his kingdom and ruling, but then spring came, and “here am I.” As reasons for inserting him into the storyline, that’s barely better than the Dinas Rhydnant one, but I love Fflewddur, so I’m not complaining. He plays a tune of his own composing, busting a harp string when he says it’s been “praised by thousands.” Oh, that Fflewddur. Always exaggerating his YouTube reviews.

Lord Gast makes a big show of being generous, while stuffing himself and barely sharing any of his food with the assembled guests. When he finally passes out at the table, the companions are able to eat a little bit before retiring to “a meanly furnished chamber” for the night. The next morning, Gast shows off his treasures, which include a beautiful wine bowl Fflewddur recognizes as the work of “Annlaw Clay-Shaper… the most skilled potter in Prydain.” Taran wonders how Gast came by it, and Fflewddur says probably the same way Goryon acquired Melynlas. Finally, Gast shows off his cow, “Cornillo, the finest cow in all the land!” Cornillo, he says, can pull a plow better than an ox and her milk is always sweet cream. This section of the book, to be honest, feels a little bit like a video-game tutorial. Did everyone notice the WINE BOWL? The fancy COW? OK then. Just checking.

Finally, Taran, Gurgi, and Fflewddur, who has agreed to accompany them (riding Llyan), are allowed to go. As they ride away, Taran wonders aloud how Gast and Goryon see such good qualities in themselves. But Fflewddur says not to judge the cantrev nobles too harshly – they’re all hoarders, sure, but he’s known them to be extremely generous at times, including laying down their lives in battle for a comrade. And then, going on a bit of a tangent, he says that stories of valor in battle tend to be exaggerated with the passing of time, and if everyone had a harp like his, “what a din you’d hear from every stronghold in Prydain!” And that’s the third chapter in a row that ends with riding away from one place and heading to another – this book is episodic as hell – but since chapter 4 is titled “A Matter of Cows,” I have a feeling we’re going to see more of Lord Gast. Hope you all noticed the fancy COW a few pages ago. If not, please repeat the tutorial level before moving on.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 2 – Cantrev Cadiffor

Taran and Gurgi leave Morva and head to Cantrev Cadiffor, ruled by King Smoit, who Taran plans to ask for sturdier gear for the long journey ahead. They stop to camp for the night, but are set upon by a group of five armed horsemen. The rough-looking riders who demand to know who Taran is, and jeer when he introduces himself as “Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper.” Which, seriously, Taran. If ever there was a time to haul out “Prince Glessic,” this would be it. They ask how a punk like Taran came to have a fine-looking steed like Melynlas, naturally don’t believe him when he says that Melynlas was a gift from Gwydion, and proceed to force him out of the saddle, striking him on the head with the flat of a sword. Surprisingly, Taran doesn’t lose consciousness from the blow, but by the time he regains his footing, Melynlas has been horsenapped!

A stranger with an oaken staff drives the riders away, and tells Taran not to worry, Melynlas will be all right: “The henchmen of Lord Goryon treat steeds better than strangers.” He introduces himself as “Aeddan Son of Aedd,” and invites Taran back to his farm to heal his broken head. At the farmstead, Aeddan’s wife Alarca gives Taran a dry jacket to wear and mixes a poultice for his wound. Aeddan shares his food with Taran and Gurgi, and it’s an exciting moment, because for what I think is the first time in the entire series, we’re told what a meal consists of: “bread, a cheese, and some dried fruit.” He apologizes that they don’t have much to offer guests, seeing as how they’re dirt-poor and their crops have failed the last two years in a row. I wait for Taran or Gurgi to say, that’s OK, we have a magical wallet full of jerky and lembas, so we wouldn’t dream of eating what little food you have saved, but they don’t.

Aeddan says that in his ancestors’ day, the people of Cantrev Cadiffor had magical plows and scythes that worked the land, but that Arawn stole these treasures along with their secrets of making the soil rich and fruitful. Now Aeddan has to work for his neighbors to make ends meet, and “the more I must toil for others, the less I may work my own fields.” Alarca adds that they also lost their ox and cow to illness and that their son, Amren, whose jacket Taran is wearing, died defending the fields from raiders. Taran tries to console her by saying her son is a hero. She replies, “My son is slain.” The raiders, like the farmers, were starving, all thanks to Arawn. Aeddan says that most of their farm is now fallow; they only have one field planted, and if it fails, they’re goners. This sounds like pretty ominous foreshadowing, you guys.

In the morning, Taran and Gurgi work alongside Aeddan and Alarca to help repay the couple for their hospitality. Once again, I wonder if they plan to share some of their literally limitless supply of food, but if they do, it’s not mentioned. Aeddan compliments Taran on his mad farming skillz and tells him he’s welcome to stay longer. But Taran’s gotta find Melynlas, so he gently returns Amren’s jacket, and they say farewell.

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.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Three Down, Two to Go!

Last year, I started recapping Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series chapter by chapter, as a way to indulge my fandom and remember what it was like when I read the books for the first time. So far, I've made it through three books in the series (if you’d like to re-experience them in order along with me, click the links below to go to chapter 1 of each book, then click Next Post to advance to the next chapter). New readers, be warned – my childlike joy at revisiting these books is tempered with a fair amount of grown-up cynicism! Feel free to take me to task in the comments, but please know that I snark with love.
Since I started this recap project, to my utter surprise and excitement, Disney has announced plans to make a live-action Prydain movie! If you’re as breathless with anticipation as I am and feel like the film can’t come soon enough, here are a few awesome sites put together by other Prydain fans to tide you over:
Do you have a Prydain fan site, or did I miss your favorite one? Post a link in the comments below, or connect with me on Facebook or Twitter! I’ll be taking a short hiatus before coming back to recap book 4, Taran Wanderer. Exciting things are afoot, so I encourage you to subscribe to my newsletter for the latest updates!

Monday, August 22, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 20 – The Pledge

Eilonwy awakens, and answers Taran’s anxious “Do you know us?” by addressing him as “Taran of Caer Dallben” and saying that “only an Assistant Pig-Keeper could ask a question like that.” So her memory’s back and she’s fine, yay! She tells the companions the story from her point of view, warning them beforehand that it’s not very interesting. In a nutshell, Magg came up to her in the castle and said she needed to come with him, which she did despite knowing he was up to something, and then he bound and gagged her and dragged her onto his boat, at which point she dropped her bauble. “Since I was gagged, I couldn’t make him understand I wanted it back.” Hee. Magg took her to Achren, who put her under a spell, and after that everything was a blur until the moment when she had the bauble back. She felt torn between destroying the spells and taking the opportunity to become a powerful enchantress. She tells Taran that now she understands how he felt in the Marshes of Morva when he had to give up Adaon’s brooch. And now that the book is gone, apparently she’ll never be magical. She doesn’t miss the book, but she wishes she hadn’t lost her bauble. And right on cue, Kaw flies in with the bauble in his claws.

They set out for Dinas Rhydnant, with Rhun vowing to take a more active role in governing Mona, since he partly blames himself for Magg’s power grab. Achren consents to come with them to Caer Dallben and chill, Fflewddur is headed back to his own kingdom with Llyan, and Gwydion agrees that they can stop by the cavern and seek help for Glew. Eilonwy and Taran have a quiet moment standing by the edge of the sea. A battle horn washes up, the last remnant of Caer Colur. Eilonwy gives it to Taran and says that after she’s done with her young-lady training, she plans to rush home to Caer Dallben. Taran says that the king and queen plan for Eilonwy and Rhun to marry. Eilonwy bristles that they “shall do no such thing” and that she’s not speaking to Taran (drink!) then softens it by saying “for a little while.” End of chapter and end of book!

I have to say, I have mixed feelings about The Castle of Llyr. It’s a quick read – the shortest book in the series – but I struggled to recap it at points, because not much happens. It’s ostensibly about Taran and Eilonwy’s budding relationship, but she’s barely in it. And while I’m grateful that Doli didn’t get shoehorned in at least, it still felt like there were too many characters and not enough for them to do, even with Gwydion and Kaw absent for chapters at a time. When we finally get live-action film versions of the books, it will be interesting to see what they do with the climax, which relies greatly on Taran’s and Eilonwy’s internal struggles (and on Gwydion’s intuition) and allows both principal antagonists to survive. But, however that turns out, I just hope they cast someone good as Rhun, since his arc is more interesting than any belonging to the main characters.

And that’s a wrap, folks! I’ll be taking a short hiatus before coming back to recap book 4, Taran Wanderer. Please subscribe to my newsletter for updates about the blog and my other projects, which include a fantasy stage musical and a YA historical novel. And I hope to see you at Dragon Con!

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 19 – The Flood

Achren runs screaming from the hall with Gwydion and Fflewddur in pursuit. Taran, assisted by Gurgi and Rhun, lifts Eilonwy and carries her out of the flaming chamber. Fflewddur returns to announce that Magg has opened the sea gates, and the water comes rushing in, destroying Gwydion’s boat and breaking down the walls of Caer Colur. Taran holds Eilonwy tightly as the castle crumbles and the waves claim them, and he passes out. If you’re drinking – drink!

Just for fun, let’s look at how many times Taran has lost consciousness so far in the series:

It’s amazing the poor kid has survived this long.

Taran wakes up on a beach, with Llyan standing over him. Fflewddur says she means no harm, and tells her to behave: “Don’t stand on my friend; he’s not up to it yet.” Loving the “yet.” Apparently, everyone was half-drowned, not just Taran, and Llyan helped get them all to shore. She’s in love with Fflewddur’s music, and he’s going to keep her, or vice versa. Rhun and Gwydion are fine; Eilonwy and Achren are alive but unresponsive. Gwydion says Achren no longer has any power. Taran asks Gwydion why he gave up the hiding place of the book and the bauble. Gwydion says (stretching all plausible credibility, in my opinion) that he suspected the bauble had the power to destroy the spells, and set Eilonwy free. Hmmm. He says that now they must wait for Eilonwy to wake on her own, if she ever does. Taran says that he’d give his life for hers, not that the life of an Assistant Pig-Keeper is worth much. Gwydion counters that Taran saved Prince Rhun from harm, and refuses to believe that it was only due to the oath he swore. Taran agrees, saying they needed each other, just like how Gwydion helped him when they first met.

Achren, having awakened during their heart-to-heart, accuses Gwydion of having denied her the sweet release of death. She conjures a dagger from a piece of driftwood and tries to stab herself in the heart. So dramatic, that Achren. Gwydion wrestles the dagger away from her. As she crumples to the ground, sobbing, he gently advises her: “Seek life, Achren.” Oh, get a room, you two! Achren says no life remains to her “but that of an outcast.” Gwydion knows just the place for her. The Island of Misfit Toys! No, he says she can take refuge at Caer Dallben. They hang out on the beach and watch over Eilonwy all morning. A little after noon, she finally stirs and wakes up. But is her memory back? We’ll find out in the final chapter!

Friday, August 5, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 18 – The Golden Pelydryn

Poor Rhun realizes his mistake immediately, and turns away in dismay. Achren says all she needs to fulfill her plans are the book of spells and the Pelydryn, and she commands Gwydion to turn them over. Gwydion says they are well-hidden and out of her reach. Achren says it will be easy to make them talk, especially Rhun. Rhun tells her to go ahead and torture him, then. Gwydion tells Achren if she harms any of the companions, he’ll kill her. Achren says if he tries to harm her, she’ll kill Eilonwy. It’s a stalemate!

Eilonwy says that her bauble should not be “in the hands of strangers.” Taran gives an anguished cry at this, and Achren quickly susses that hearing Eilonwy call him a stranger hurts Taran more than any physical torture. She offers to give back Eilonwy’s memories of Taran in exchange for the book and the Pelydryn. Even more than that, she will make Eilonwy a queen, and “who shall be her king? … Achren gives favor for favor.” She says she knows Eilonwy is promised to Rhun, but she can change all that. Taran is completely torn up by this, moreso than you would think given how he’s stood up to psychological torments in the past – the promises of Orddu, for instance. He’s crying, and has his head in his hands, trying to block out Achren’s voice.

Then Gwydion cries out, “You shall have what you ask!” and straight up tells Achren where he buried the goods. (So did he think Taran was going to break? Or was he just trying to spare Taran from being tormented?) Magg runs out to the courtyard and retrieves the book and the bauble. Achren gives them to Eilonwy. Magg is like, yay, now I get to be a king, and Achren tells him not so fast – he’s lucky she lets him live. So much for her promises of Turkish Delight!

As Eilonwy holds the bauble, it starts to glow, and she seems to recover some of her memory. Shaking violently, she struggles against the enchantment, as Achren urges her to read the spells. Finally, Eilonwy throws the book to the ground, where it bursts into flame. It burns up completely, and then the curtains catch fire. Achren is apoplectic with rage at the loss of the book. Eilonwy, exhausted, passes out. Fighting off spells is hard!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 16 – A Meeting of Strangers – and Chapter 17 – The Spells of Caer Colur

Eilonwy seems to have completely lost her memory. She introduces herself formally, and asks Taran again who he is. He says she’s dreaming and implores her to wake up. She says yes, she was dreaming, before he so rudely awakened her: “A pleasant dream – with a pig in it – and someone who – no, it’s gone now, faster than a butterfly.” Taran notices that her eyes lack depth, and fears she’s been drugged or is under a spell. He begs her to climb down the rope with him, but she’s like, slide down yourself, dude, and let me go back to sleep. Taran starts desperately dropping names: Hen Wen, Coll, Caer Dallben. Eilonwy thinks maybe Caer Dallben was in her dream, too. She was climbing an apple tree, fell off, and was caught by someone: “Could it have been an Assistant Pig-Keeper? I wonder what became of him.” Taran says quietly that he’s here, and I’ve got legitimate chills; it’s so beautiful and sad. Then there’s a great moment where Eilonwy, for a second, seems as if she’s going to remember him, then dismisses it all as simply a dream.

Taran grabs Eilonwy’s arm, saying that Achren has done this to her. That’s the wrong move, as it turns out. Eilonwy jerks away from him, slaps him in the face and then runs into the hallway, shrieking for Achren to help her. Taran chases after her and is seized by Magg, who pulls a dagger on him! Gwydion and the others show up just in time. Fflewddur wastes no time in setting upon “the spider,” Magg. Gurgi helps Fflewddur pin Magg down, while Rhun manages to save Taran’s life, by killing a guard who has Taran cornered. Gwydion kills two guards, and the others flee at the sight of the blazing Dyrnwyn. At the end of the hall, Eilonwy appears with Achren beside her.

Achren warns the companions that if they kill her, Eilonwy will die also. Gwydion believes she’s telling the truth, and tells the others to stand down. Achren gives Gwydion a lingering look, and says it’s a pity Gwydion didn’t become her consort when he had the chance. Gwydion commands her to release Eilonwy. Achren says that Eilonwy is there willingly to claim her birthright – the castle of Caer Colur and all its enchanted treasures, and Eilonwy, still speaking like she’s in a trance, agrees with her. Poor Gurgi tries to appeal to Eilonwy’s memory, saying he waits to serve her, as always. Achren demands that Fflewddur release Magg, and in one of the most upsetting scenes of the entire series, Eilonwy basically puts the Cruciatus Curse on Gurgi, torturing him until Fflewddur obeys. And then Gurgi says he forgives Eilonwy, and I love his poor tender head so much! It’s just the saddest thing ever.

Magg says Fflewddur will pay dearly when he is king of Dinas Rhydnant: “Magg the Magnificent!” Fflewddur corrects him: “Magg the Maggot!” (That one’s a little too easy, Fflewddur.) Achren says she will make Magg’s kingdom great, and that Arawn will pay. Then she goes off the deep end a little bit, railing against her ex, saying that he betrayed her and she will topple him. I kind of picture everyone else shifting around during this rant, like “Awkward!” Especially Gwydion, whom she was just hitting on a few minutes ago. I’m guessing he’s not regretting the decision not to hook up with her one bit. He tells her that she doesn’t have the power to awaken Eilonwy’s enchantments. She tells him he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. And then Rhun, channeling his inner Screech from “Saved by the Bell,” chimes in enthusiastically that yes, he does! They have the book and the bauble and they’re never giving them up!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 15 – The Island

Gwydion steps out of the shadows, still in his shoemaker’s disguise, with Kaw perched on his shoulder. Rhun asks where his sandals are. Taran quickly whispers to him – like, no dude, be cool, this guy is a Prince of Don – which cracks me up. I suppose he could be whispering so that they won’t be overheard by Magg or Achren, but it totally reads like he’s whispering an aside to Rhun to keep him from embarrassing himself in front of Gwydion. And, because Gwydion is a douche, he just says that the sandals will have to wait, without bothering to introduce himself to Rhun at all or explain why he posed as a shoemaker. Then he proceeds to apologize to Fflewddur, for not revealing himself when they shared a stable together, which makes his behavior to Rhun seem even ruder. Oh, Gwydion.

Taran tells Gwydion that Magg has taken Eilonwy, most likely to Caer Colur. Gwydion already knows this, and in fact has already been to Caer Colur, but he was too late. Eilonwy is now Achren’s prisoner, guarded by a crew of “hirelings and outlaws,” but fortunately no Cauldron-Born, since Achren no longer has Arawn’s protection. Taran is all for going and attacking right now, but Gwydion says there is more to fear than swords. He leads them down to the beach, where they board a small boat that he obtained from one of Mona’s fishermen. Taran is surprised by how far away Caer Colur is, based on Glew’s descripton of it having broken off from the mainland. Gwydion is like, whoa, you met Glew? Taran hands him Eilonwy’s bauble and shows him the magic book. Gwydion can’t read the writing either, but says it’s a treasure of the House of Llyr. He exposits, “For generations the daughters of the House of Llyr were among the most skillful enchantresses in Prydain, using their powers with wisdom and kindliness.” Two of their most magical treasures were Eilonwy’s bauble, aka the Golden Pelydryn, and the book of spells that went with it.

Although Eilonwy grew up believing her kinsfolk had sent her to live with Achren to learn to be an enchantress, Gwydion explains, in reality, Achren kidnapped her. But Achren couldn’t take the Pelydryn away from Eilonwy, because it would lose its power, and with the book of spells having been lost there was nothing she could do with it anyway. The spells wouldn’t have helped Glew, even if he had the bauble to read them by, continues Gwyddie, because only a daughter of the House of Llyr who “has reached the threshold of womanhood,” as Eilonwy is about to do, can command them. (Is that a euphemism for getting her period?) Taran says that Achren won’t dare harm Eilonwy, then, and Gwydion counters that Eilonwy may be “in greater danger than before.”

They arrive at the fortress of Caer Colur (aka the titular Castle of Llyr, y'all)! Gwydion goes ahead to check out the guards, coming back to report that they are mostly asleep. They all sneak in easily, and Kaw identifies the tower where Eilonwy is being held. Gwydion says one of them must climb up and see if they can free her, while the others stand guard. Taran turns to Rhun and says it should be him, since he’s her betrothed and all. Rhun says he no longer needs to prove his valor to Eilonwy: “I’m quite content proving it to myself.” And, he adds, Eilonwy would probably rather see Taran first.

Gwydion buries the book and the bauble under some loose stones in the courtyard, to keep them safe until they come back. (Um, wouldn’t it be smarter to have Kaw carry them somewhere else, like to the boat, perhaps?) Then he gives Kaw the end of a rope, which the crow secures to the top of the tower, and Taran climbs up. Eilonwy’s in the tower! She’s asleep on a couch. Taran wakes her, exclaiming that Gwydion, Gurgi, Fflewddur and Rhun are all with him. Eilonwy sleepily says, “That’s very interesting.… But who are they? And … who are you?”

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 14 – The Empty Book

Taran thanks Rhun for saving their lives, and asked how he managed to climb down into the cavern. An apologetic Rhun says he didn’t climb, just jumped, and now he’s afraid he’s trapped them again. Taran says they can form a ladder like last time, but then Fflewddur points out a crack in the wall where Glew’s roars shook the rock apart. Glew is still unconscious, and Fflewddur wants to dispatch him, but Taran takes pity and plans to ask Dallben to help the sad giant, despite everything. He’s a good egg, that Taran.

As the companions start to pick their way through the rocks, Rhun suddenly misses the book they found in Glew’s hut and goes back to look for it. It’s lying on the floor of the cavern, but by the light of the bauble they can see that it’s no longer empty – every page is covered with writing! Rhun is sad that it can no longer be used as a notebook, but Taran recognizes the script as ancient and carefully written. They leave the cavern, and in the sunlight, Taran tries to show the writing to Fflewddur – but it’s gone! Some confusion ensues, until they finally realize that the writing can only be seen by the light of the bauble. Fflewddur can’t read it, and says the book makes him uneasy; he recommends they destroy it. But Taran wants to solve the mystery and decides to hold onto it.

They arrive at the riverbank and find the remnants of their raft. By nightfall, they’ve repaired it and are afloat down the river. Taran wonders aloud why the bauble lit for Rhun, when it had never done so before. Fflewddur says that he knows a lot about these kinds of enchantments, causing a harp string to break (which I think is only the second time that’s happened in this book, and I must say I’m glad Alexander decided to go easy on that gimmick in subsequent books, after its heavy usage in The Book of Three). He amends that he knows very little about them, but if pressed, he’d say that the bauble seems to light when you are thinking more of others than of yourself. Taran remembers that when he thought of Eilonwy, the bauble glowed, and so it must have worked for Rhun when he was ready to sacrifice his own safety to help the others. Fflewddur says once you learn to put others ahead of yourself, “you’ve discovered a great secret indeed,” which is the kind of moralizing sentiment I’d expect more from Gwydion than from the bard. And speaking of Gwydion, he shows up again at the very end of the chapter: the river ends in a bay, and the companions pole the raft to shore. Taran walks up the hill in the moonlight, and his old buddy Gwydion warns him from the shadows to be careful: “Achren’s eyes are sharp.” Things are about to get good!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 12 – The Tomb – and Chapter 13 – The Ladder

Having trapped the companions, Glew apologizes from the other side of the stone. He says he only asks one thing of them: to help him brew a potion that will change him back to normal size. Fflewddur protests that he can’t force them to be test subjects for the potions. Glew promises they won’t have to try a drop – he only needs one of them, and he promises what he needs will be quick and painless. Taran puts it together, correctly guessing that Glew wants to kill one of them for potion ingredients. Glew whines that this isn’t easy for him either: “I’m fond of all of you, especially the little fuzzy one, and I feel dreadful about the whole thing.” In fact, he doesn’t want to choose which one will be his victim. He tells the companions that they must choose, and he’ll shut his eyes so he doesn’t see who gets picked. “Then, after it’s over, we’ll try to forget about it. We’ll be the best of good friends – those of you remaining, that is.” (Heh. I’m enjoying the dark humor, which is a place these books don’t go to very often.) He goes off to prepare the other ingredients.

The companions try, and fail, to dig their way out of the chamber with their swords. Finally, Rhun says the only way out is to capitulate to Glew’s demands. Terrified Gurgi volunteers “his poor tender head for broilings and boilings.” Taran and Fflewddur think they all should fight to the death first. Rhun disagrees. He says he’s obviously the most expendable person in the group, and that by volunteering for the sacrifice, at least he can be useful to Eilonwy. Taran respects Rhun for the offer but reminds him of his oath to the king to protect Rhun from harm. Smiling, Rhun says he will lift the oath from Taran, and then wonders aloud where all the bats have gone. Taran shines the bauble around the chamber: no bats, so there must be a way out! After some searching, they find it – a passage at the top of the sheer stone wall. Fflewddur says that short of turning into bats themselves, there’s no way they can reach it. Taran suggests they make a ladder by standing on one another’s shoulders, enabling the top person to reach the exit. Taran decides Rhun should be the one to go. He gives him Eilonwy’s bauble, saying, “May it shine brightly on your wedding day.” Sob!

They form the human (+ Gurgi) ladder – with poor Fflewddur on the bottom, then Gurgi, then Taran – and Rhun climbs up. He manages to reach the ledge and pull himself up, just as Glew returns and rolls away the stone. In the dark, Fflewddur, Gurgi and Taran try to defend themselves against Glew, who can see better than they can. While trying to avoid being trampled, they knock over the giant’s potions table, and then Taran falls into one of the underground pools. He tells the others to run, as Glew reaches for him. Then suddenly, a bright light fills the cavern. Glew, blinded, screams and retreats. His roars of pain shake the cave, bringing a crystal down on his head that knocks him out. Taran jumps up to see Rhun, returned already, with “the bauble blazing in his hand.” Zero to hero, just like that!

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 11 – King of the Stones

The giant, Glew, rises to his feet. He’s three times Taran’s height, and commands them again to “Tremble!” Fflewddur is like, “I don’t need to be told!” and Gurgi covers his face and wails. The giant is impressed that they are in fact shaking in fear — not just humoring him — and excited that they’ve heard of him. Rhun mentions Llyan, and Glew sniffles that he wishes she were here to keep him company. I assume Rhun pronounces her name the same way Glew does, otherwise they would have a whole “Lion? You mean Lee-AHN?” thing happening. Glew complains about how scary and icky the cavern is, populated by worms, bats, and “things that are just — just things! They’re the worst.” So I Google-image-searched “gross things in caves” to try to come up with an illustration, but all I found were spiders, and sorry, Glew — I'm a fan of those.

Taran asks Glew to show them the way out. Glew says he doesn’t know of one. He swallowed the potion on his way into the cave, with Llyan tailing him. Then he kept growing and growing while running deeper into the cavern, looking for bigger chambers, until at last he reached a dead end. Taran whispers to Fflewddur that there must still be a passage big enough for them to escape, if they can get Glew to stop talking and show them. Glew catches on that they’re not listening to him and begins crying again. He never wanted to be a giant, he says. At first he wanted to be a great warrior, then a bard, then a hero, then a king. But all these things turned out to be uncomfortable and inconvenient, from “the harp rubbing blisters on your shoulder” to caged dragons that bite you when you try to slay them. The only thing left for him to try was enchantments, so he got hold of a book of spells that once belonged to the House of Llyr. Taran perks up at the mention of Eilonwy’s lineage and demands details. Glew says that the book came from Caer Colur, the “ancient seat of the House of Llyr” and a “treasurehouse of charms and enchantments.” It used to be part of Mona, but it broke off during a flood and became an island. Taran guesses that Magg must have taken Eilonwy there.

The wizard who gave Glew the book was “eager to be rid of it,” Glew exposits, and when he left Glew found out why – the book was completely blank. “Amazing!” Rhun exclaims; that must be the book they found in Glew’s cottage. Glew says they can keep it to remember him by, and begs them to help him get out of the cavern. Taran says that he’ll ask Dallben to help, if Glew will show them the way out. Glew agrees, if the others will call him “King Glew.” Fflewddur, who actually is a king, hilariously says he’ll call him king, prince or whatever, if he’ll show them “a way out of here – Sire!”

Glew leads them past his makeshift potion-brewing workshop to a tunnel and tells them to go straight on through it. They push through, only to collide with a stone wall. Taran spins around, dropping Eilonwy’s bauble, to see that Glew has rolled a massive stone over the opening, trapping them!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 10 – The Cavern

Taran jumps into the pit after Rhun, who is lying unconscious at the bottom, bleeding from a head wound. Damn those osiers! Fflewddur and Gurgi try to pull Taran and Rhun up with vines, but the ground gives way. They decide they’d do better with all of them lifting Rhun, and Fflewddur and Gurgi jump into the hole as well. The prince conveniently comes to – “Hullo, hullo!” – which I’m happy about, even though I would think that a massive gash to the head would have knocked him out longer than a few minutes. To make matters worse, he falls again while trying to climb out of the hole, and this time the whole pit collapses around the companions and pushes them down into a completely dark crevice. They confirm that they’re all OK, so Rhun’s head wound really must not have been that deep. But poor Gurgi has lost his “fire stones,” and without a light, they’re trapped.

Then Taran remembers Eilonwy’s bauble. He tries to light it, but it doesn’t work for him. Rhun already knows his effect on it, so Fflewddur and Gurgi each take a turn without success. Taran is about to put it back in his pocket, but holds it for a minute. He envisions Eilonwy’s face and imagines the sound of her laugh, and lo and behold, the bauble lights up! That’s the power, that’s the power of love! The glow from the bauble reveals they’re in an enormous cavern. It appears to be deserted, and therefore, Fflewddur concludes, probably not a realm of the Fair Folk (unlike the last giant cavern they were in, in a chapter I recapped exactly 11 months ago)!

Taran is super-stressed because they are the only ones who know which direction Magg took Eilonwy. (But wait, isn’t Kaw still out there? Can’t he go to the search party and set them on the right track? Oh well, I guess Taran doesn’t think the search party will listen to Kaw. Or maybe he thinks Kaw is still busy with Llyan.) Anyway, he gets crabby when Rhun calls “Hullo” to see if anyone else is within hearing range, and scolds him for risking their lives. Taran has taken on Gwydion's mantle of douchery, and the circle is complete. They hunt for a way out, the path becoming more difficult as they go, and notice a bunch of strangely shaped rocks, including one that looks like “a hen’s egg sticking halfway out of a nest.” As Rhun draws closer to inspect it, the shape starts to move. Whoa! It’s the head of a giant, huddled against the wall and covered in moss and mold. The giant starts to stand up, and shouts, “Puny things! Tremble before me! Tremble, I tell you! I am Glew!”

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 8 – The Harp of Fflewddur – and Chapter 9 – The Luck of Rhun

Fflewddur orders the others to flee the cabin while he has Llyan under his musical spell. Taran hesitates, but for once concedes some authority to Fflewddur and obeys. The horses have fled, so they escape on foot. Rhun is a poor runner (of course), and Taran and Gurgi have to help him along. When they finally stop to rest, Rhun tells Taran he knows that their situation is all his fault, that he hates “being a blunderer,” and that he wants to be worthy of marrying Princess Eilonwy. Taran is surprised that Rhun knows about the betrothal, and apologizes for giving him such a hard time about his royal birth. Then he says that, as much as they both want to rescue Eilonwy, they’ll never keep up with Magg without horses. They only have one choice: to return to Dinas Rhydnant. When Rhun protests, Taran tells him about the oath he made to keep Rhun from harm. Rhun sadly says he should have known he wasn’t truly in command.

Fflewddur comes running toward them, none the worse for his captivity with Llyan, except for some blisters on his fingers. (Now I have Dire Straits in my head: “Maybe get a blister on your thumb…”) He’s been strumming for nothing and singing for free ... until Llyan finally fell asleep, at which point he grabbed their swords and ran off. He warns that they had better get going before she wakes up and comes looking for him. But just then, Kaw shows up, croaking “Eilonwy!” The crow confirms that Magg has taken Eilonwy to the river Alaw. Taran says they can’t lose any time trying to return to Dinas Rhydnant or sending word to the search party for reinforcements. They follow Kaw to the river, where they find hoof prints, boat tracks, and Eilonwy’s bauble. Dun dun DUN!

These are osiers. You're welcome.

CC BY-SA 3.0
The companions use branches and vines to build a raft. Just as they’re finishing, Llyan appears. She spots Fflewddur, gives a “questioning cry,” and then advances, purring. Kaw attacks, flying at her face and pulling her whiskers, giving the others time to escape. But their raft soon starts to fall apart in the strong current. They swim to shore and begin to repair it. Then Rhun suddenly vanishes again, falling into a large hole (amid a clump of osiers, which I had to look up. I love that I can still learn new words from a YA novel at my age). Fflewddur, who has lost all patience with Rhun, cries, “If there were a field with one stone he’d trip over it!” Hee.

Monday, May 23, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 6 – The Potions of Glew – and Chapter 7 – The Lair of Llyan

Taran tells Fflewddur and Gurgi that when dawn comes, they should return to the search party, while Taran goes on after Rhun alone. Then he falls asleep, has scary dreams about Achren, and wakes at dawn to Fflewddur shaking him. Turns out they’re not quite so lost as they thought last night – they were just going in circles. They mount their horses, who lead them to Rhun’s mare, standing riderless next to a decrepit-looking cottage. The door opens and: “Hullo, hullo!” Rhun’s had a great night’s sleep in the abandoned hut. Taran yells at him for getting lost, and Rhun says he fell off his horse and had to go chasing after her, then, since it was getting dark, decided to spend the night in this convenient shelter. Besides, he wasn’t lost, because he’s in command. “Wherever I go, that’s where the search is, if you see what I mean.” Heh. Taran is of course furious at Rhun’s rank-dropping and almost tells him about his oath, but controls himself.

Fflewddur says he dislikes huts on the whole, thanks to Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch. This hut’s abandoned, however, with a thick layer of dust and leaves on everything. Gurgi finds sheets of parchment with writing on them, and under them is a leather-bound blank book. Rhun says he’d like to have it to write down “things I’m supposed to remember to do.” Taran gives it to him, saying, “if there’s anything that might ever help you do anything, you’re welcome to it.” What about something that helps him marry Eilonwy? Aw, too soon?

Taran is able to make out enough of the writing to discern that the pages are recipes for potions (I guess Dallben must have had him help with a few on occasion?) written by someone named Glew. The potions appear to be designed to make someone grow bigger and stronger. They spot some tiny boots in the corner and presume that Glew was “a little fellow.” Fflewddur takes over translating the notes, expositing that Glew tested his recipes on a mountain cat that he named Llyan, and that she grew so large he had to keep building bigger cages for her. The gang conjectures that Llyan must have gobbled Glew up.

Outside the hut, the horses start panicking, and then a huge shape bursts through the door! It’s Llyan! She’s a mountain cat larger than a horse, and the lash of her tail is enough to knock Taran down. She also knocks Fflewddur over when he draws his sword, then settles herself in the doorway, refusing to let the companions retrieve their weapons or leave the hut. While trying to think of a way out, Fflewddur starts to strum his harp. Llyan stops growling, but resumes every time he stops playing. She’s a music lover! Gurgi tells Fflewddur, “Do not leave off hummings and strummings!” The bard urges the others to flee, since apparently he’s going to have to stay in the hut and play music for Llyan for the rest of his natural-born life.

OK, nitpicking time. When I first read these books as a child, I didn’t have the benefit of a pronunciation guide, so of course I read Llyan as “lion” and not as “lee-AHN.” Now that I know how it’s supposed to be pronounced, I can hear it correctly in my head (unlike Prydain, which is probably going to require hearing it in the movies to actually sink in, if it ever does). But are we supposed to believe that Taran and Fflewddur, seeing the name written down, didn’t also pronounce it “lion”? Did Glew provide a phonetic spelling alongside his potion notes? And why would he choose that spelling if not to be intentionally confusing? Also: the solid orange, fluffy feline on the cover of my paperback looks not at all like a mountain cat.

Monday, May 9, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 5 – The Oath

Taran shouts to the king to call out the guard to help search for Eilonwy and Magg. The king, of course, thinks that the sea air has addled Taran’s brains, and asks why he accuses Magg of such an offense. Taran agonizes for about half a second over whether to reveal Gwydion’s secret, then tells all. He succeeds in convincing the king to call for Magg, who, naturally, cannot be found. The king then immediately believes Taran is telling the truth, which seems a little easy to me. King Rhuddlum forms two search parties, one headed by himself and one by Prince Rhun. Taking Taran aside, the king says he needs to speak to him about Rhun. Taran minces zero words in telling the king exactly what he thinks of the feckless prince. Then he tries to apologize, but it turns out the king is no dummy, and he’s quite aware of what a yutz his son is. He asks Taran to take an oath.

No, not that oath. Rhuddlum wants Taran to watch out for Rhun and make sure no harm comes to him. After all, he’s betrothed to Eilonwy. Taran is like, wait a sec, you mean my Eilonwy? Yes, that was the whole reason they brought her to Mona to begin with. Poor, tortured Taran gives his word to look out for his rival: “Your son will come to no harm if it lies in my power to keep him from it.”

As the search parties depart, Taran sends Kaw ahead as a scout. Fflewddur, riding alongside Taran, tries to reassure him that Eilonwy will be fine. Taran bitterly asks if he means the future Mrs. Rhun. Fflewddur immediately gets why Taran is so upset, saying he somehow always thought “despite all the squabbling and bickering between the two of you” that Eilonwy would end up with Taran. Taran reminds him that Eilonwy is a princess and has to marry one of her rank, and lies that he has never hoped for more. Fflewddur’s not buying it.

They ride on with no sign of Eilonwy or Magg. It’s nearly nightfall when Gurgi points out that Rhun has ridden off by himself and is likely to get lost. “Then cheerful hullos will turn to sad moanings and groanings!” The Master of Horse sounds a signal horn for the warriors to gather and make camp, but Rhun doesn’t return. Taran worries that Rhun may have fallen off his horse and gotten injured. He decides to head into the grove where Rhun was last seen. The companions lead their skittish horses through a wood filled with flickering, sinister shadows. Finally the horses refuse to go any farther, and an exhausted Taran agrees that it’s useless, Rhun is lost, and they should turn back. But Fflewddur points out that “unless you or Gurgi knows where we are, I rather suspect we’re lost, too.”

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 4 – Shadows

That evening’s feast is merry, though Taran can’t enjoy it at all, since he’s too worried about Eilonwy, who is chattering animatedly with Prince Rhun after pointedly reminding Taran that she’s not speaking to him (heh). Fflewddur performs the new lay he's composed, and afterward Taran tries to talk him into moving out of the stables and back into the castle, but the bard says he’s fine in the stables and doesn’t want to cause trouble with Magg. Taran asks Gurgi to keep an eye on Eilonwy’s chamber, then goes looking for Gwydion. He sees a shadowy figure ducking through an ivy-concealed opening in the stone wall around the castle, and follows.

The figure turns out to be Magg, who heads down a steep, rocky path to the harbor, stops at the edge of the water, lights a torch and waves it back and forth over his head. A tiny signal from the sea answers back (from a ship, Taran presumes). Magg then extinguishes the torch and heads back, right in the direction of Taran’s hiding place. Taran is cornered, until suddenly he’s grabbed from behind and hears Gwydion whisper “Make no sound!” Oh, that sneaky Gwydion. They hide until Magg passes, heading back to the castle. Taran is all for sounding the alarm right then and there, but Gwyddie’s playing a long con. He says he’s learned Achren is aboard the ship that Magg was signaling to, and that while he doesn’t like to use Eilonwy as bait in a trap, he needs to know what Magg and Achren are planning.

Taran says he’ll watch Magg, and heads back to the castle. He peeks into Magg’s chamber and sees the Chief Steward first brandishing a dagger and then eyeing himself smugly in a looking glass. Taran goes back to Eilonwy’s room; poor Gurgi is half-asleep outside the door. Taran sends him to bed and takes up watch, trying not to fall asleep himself. Morning comes, and Eilonwy is like, what the heck are you doing on the floor outside my door? The best lie Taran can think of is that it’s more comfortable in the hallway than in his room, to which Eilonwy responds awesomely: “[That’s] the silliest thing I’ve heard this morning. I may hear something sillier, because it's early yet, but I doubt it.” One of her all-time great lines! She drops the mic and heads down to breakfast. Taran doesn’t want to let her out of his sight, but is delayed by Prince Rhun popping up again – “Hullo, hullo!” – in that inconvenient way he has. By the time Taran finally gets free of him and makes it to the Great Hall, there’s no sign of either Magg or Eilonwy.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 3 – The Shoemaker

Taran is stunned to see the shoemaker is actually Gwydion, and confused by his message. He asks if Arawn has found them on Mona. No, says Gwydion. So are King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleria actually evil, then? Guess again, says Gwydion. Taran can’t think of anyone who would want to harm Eilonwy, especially since everyone knows she’s under Dallben’s protection. Gwydion says there is one person who would dare to challenge Dallben: Achren. Turns out, she didn’t die when Spiral Castle fell, she merely vanished. Gwydion went looking for her, and in his stilted mysterious Gwydion language says that after lots of journeying, at last he found “traces… rumors… a riddle.” You’re making my job as recapper difficult, Gwydion. What exactly did you find? All he really seems to know is that a) Achren fled Prydain, and b) she did not go to Annuvin, despite having “lived long as a consort of Arawn” and giving him his power “in the days when she herself ruled Prydain.” Sounds like an interesting story, if we ever get to hear it!

Taran asks if Achren could be on Mona; Gwydion doesn’t really answer him. Taran points out that Dallben must know that Achren is still alive, and wonders why he let Eilonwy leave Caer Dallben in that case. Gwydion says “Dallben’s ways are deep… and not always given to me to fathom.” Dallben sent Gwydion to Mona to keep watch, and told him “of certain other matters,” which Gwydion of course hints at maddeningly and won’t say outright. Arrrgh! This is just like when he told, or didn't tell, how he escaped from Oeth-Anoeth. I haven’t missed him. Gwydion warns Taran not to tell anyone that he’s here, not even Fflewddur. That seems a little unfair, since Gurgi and Kaw are right there in the room, and if those two can keep their mouths shut, then so can Fflewddur.

Rhun comes in, sees the sandals and says he’d like a pair himself, then remembers that his mother wants to see Taran in the Great Hall. Gwydion, as the shoemaker, goes off with Rhun. Taran reiterates Gwydion’s warning of silence to poor Gurgi, who wishes his head were “under kindly straw at Caer Dallben.” Then Taran goes to the Great Hall, where Eilonwy is regaling the court with stories of fighting the Huntsmen of Annuvin, to Queen Teleria’s dismay. Eilonwy has a new cloak and a new hairdo, and we get this beautiful line: “she shone like a bird of golden plumage; and, with a curious twinge of heart, Taran realized that had it not been for her chattering he might not have known her.” Awwww.

Teleria tells Taran to go with Magg to get some new threads for the feast they’re having that evening. Magg has already seen to it and hands Taran his new duds. Eilonwy pulls Taran away and excitedly whispers that she’s seen Fflewddur too, and she can’t wait to slip away after the feast and go adventuring with the old gang. Can Taran get her a sword? Gurgi can bring his magical lembas-and-jerky wallet, just like old times. Taran interrupts her to say that she must not leave Dinas Rhydnant. She’s replies that “the salt air must have pickled [his] wits!” Which is pretty good, as Eilonwy-isms go. Taran, instead of leveling with her about Gwydion, just growls that it’s too dangerous out there, and if she tries to leave he’ll tell the king to set a guard on her. At which she bursts into tears, naturally, and says Taran can’t wait to be rid of her, and she’s not speaking to him anymore (drink!).

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 2 – Dinas Rhydnant

Sorry for the delay in getting this recap up, folks – I’ve was out of the country, finally visiting England for the first time. London was amazing, though we didn’t make it to Wales, unfortunately – next time, I’ve got to see Anglesey, also known as the Isle of Mona! Which is where our companions arrive at the end of their sea voyage, disembarking at Dinas Rhydnant, a crescent-shaped harbor overlooked by cliffs, with a castle atop the highest peak.

Rhun manages to slash Taran’s cloak with his sword when saluting the Captain of Guards. Taran is all, thanks a lot, dude, now I’ll look like a bum in front of your parents. They meet the king and queen. King Rhuddlum is like an older version of Rhun, while Queen Teleria embraces them all, then tells Eilonwy how honored they are to have her, interspersed with commands that Eilonwy stand up straight and not fidget. She’s shocked at Eilonwy’s disgraceful clothes and (of course) Taran’s torn cloak. She says they have a “perfectly wonderful shoemaker,” who was just passing through but ended up staying at the castle, “cobbling away.” The Chief Steward, Magg, is ordered to show them to their chambers. Magg wears a lushly embroidered cloak and a huge iron key ring at his belt. He bows deeply and leads Taran and Gurgi to a chamber, then departs.

A moment later, guess who pops his head into the chamber? Why, it’s Fflewddur Fflam! Taran asks what brought him to Mona (other than being a major supporting character in the series, of course)? Fflewddur says he was trying in earnest to be a king, but when spring came, “everything indoors began looking unspeakably dreary,” and so he hopped a boat to Mona. Why Mona? Because he’d never been, “so that was the best reason in the world for going.” Ohhhkay. So in other words, Alexander just couldn't be bothered to think of a better reason for Fflewddur to be there. I'm a little disappointed in him. Taran asks where Doli is, because: see above about major supporting characters. Fflewddur says that he asked Doli to come along, but he got a message back that just said “Humph!” Personally, I’m relieved that Doli didn’t get shoehorned into this adventure as well – at least, not yet.

Fflewddur says he’s been sleeping in the stables ever since the Chief Steward found out he wasn’t a real bard. Right on cue, Magg shows up with the shoemaker. Fflewddur glares at Magg and stalks out. Man, I love Fflewddur. It’s not his fault that he’s here on the flimsiest of pretenses. Magg leaves, and the shoemaker, who is stooped, shabbily attired and has a croaking voice “much like Kaw’s,” starts pulling strips of leather from his bag. He says that to “go well-shod is half the journey… Is that not so, Taran of Caer Dallben?” Whoa! Surprise, surprise, it’s Lando – er, Gwydion – in disguise!

Gwydion shushes Taran and Gurgi and whispers that they should not tell anyone who he is. He’s there to give them an urgent message: Princess Eilonwy’s life is in danger, and so is Taran’s!

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 1 – Prince Rhun

The third chronicle of Prydain is, Alexander tells us in the author’s note, as much about Eilonwy as about Taran. He hints at romance growing between the two, as well as a storyline that is more bittersweet than its predecessors. “The nature of fantasy allows happenings which reveal most clearly our own frailties and our own strengths,” he writes. He reminds us that Prydain, while it resembles Wales, is imaginary, despite Mona being the ancient name for the Welsh island of Anglesey. He also teases a new comic presence in “the well-meaning but hapless Prince Rhun,” and a controversial resolution to the fate of “one of the most reprehensible scoundrels in Prydain,” advising patience for those who question it, as there will be “far-reaching consequences.” And with that, let us dive in!

Eilonwy is leaving Caer Dallben, journeying to the Isle of Mona to “learn how a princess should behave,” as Dallben puts it, from the king and queen of Mona, who have offered to take care of her in her family’s stead. Taran, Coll, Gurgi, and Kaw set off with her to the harbor. Taran tries to reverse-psychology himself out of missing Eilonwy, much to Coll’s amusement. They arrive at the river, where a white-sailed craft awaits them, and a blond dude in fancy clothing topples off the dock in his excitement. Dripping wet, he greets them – “Hullo! Hullo!” – and gives a formal welcome to Eilonwy, then cuts off in confusion as he realizes he doesn’t know the others’ names, and has forgotten to give his own (Prince Rhun, natch).

Rhun, Eilonwy, Taran, Gurgi and Kaw board the ship. Coll tells Taran he’ll see him when he returns, and heads with the horses back to Caer Dallben. I’m not sure why it’s necessary for Taran and Gurgi to sail to Mona, but chalk it up to Taran’s wanting to delay being separated from Eilonwy as long as possible. He’s unable to get a quiet moment alone with her, though, due to Rhun’s continual bumbling presence. Taran is all like, no way this joker is a prince. More like a “princeling,” am I right? Eilonwy says she thinks Rhun is nice, which of course makes Taran jealous, and he bitterly bemoans not knowing who his parents are. Because if he was a prince, see, then he’d be Rhun’s equal. Eilonwy says that if an Assistant Pig-Keeper and a prince both do the best they can, she thinks “there’s no difference between them.” Taran’s not buying it.

A storm blows in, and everyone’s miserable, except Rhun. At nightfall, the water calms down and the ship takes anchor in a cove. Eilonwy lights her bauble, to Rhun’s fascination. He takes it to examine it, but the light goes out. He’s dismayed, but Eilonwy reassures him that he didn’t break it. They go to sleep, Eilonwy in the cabin, the others on the deck. Rhun snores loudly (of course), and Taran, when he finally falls asleep, dreams of being home at Caer Dallben with Eilonwy.