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, 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!).


  1. Just laughing at your annoyance with Gwydion. I feel the same way. He almost comes off as...what's the word? Affected? Except it's obvious Alexander intends him to be taken completely seriously.

    In real life, someone as verbally straightforward as Eilonwy would have zero patience with him. I find it a bit odd that she has so little interaction with him in the books. We always see him through Taran's POV, and the hero-worship just fogs every scene.

    1. Sunrise, do you mean affected in the sense that he's pompous or in the sense that he's touched in the head? I could get behind either definition. ;) If they ever get around to making the movie, it will be so interesting to see how he comes across on screen.

      In this chapter, he tried my patience even more than usual, what with all his elliptical statements. I feel like Gwydion the dog would have been more informative! I agree that if Eilonwy were in this chapter, she would have questioned him more directly than Taran does. After all, she asked him point-blank what the Horned King's secret name was, despite clearly being a little star-struck by him herself.