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

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!