The Prydain Project

Thirty years after first devouring Lloyd Alexander's Prydain books, I'm rereading them to see if the magic is still there. If you've arrived at this blog because you loved Prydain as a kid, I hope you’ll enjoy the chance to revisit it along with me. To read the recaps in order, start here: "The Book of Three," Chapter 1

Monday, 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!