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

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 17 – The Weir

Were you waiting with bated breath to find out if Taran goes to the river with Llonio to check his nets? Well, the answer is yes. Yes, he does. Whew, I’m glad that tense cliffhanger is resolved!

Lloyd Alexander taught me about osiers in “The Castle of Llyr,” and in “Taran Wanderer” I learned another new term. Weir means a barrier across a river (in addition to being the surname of the family in “Freaks and Geeks”).

A weir is usually constructed to alter the flow of a river, but in this case, as Taran observes, Llonio has set one up to sift the water and catch things floating in the current. Today he’s caught an old horse’s bridle, which Taran thinks is a piece of crap but Llonio is all excited about. They continue foraging, and find some mushrooms, herbs and roots for dinner. Taran bruises his shins on a large rock and curses his luck, but Llonio points out that the large, flat, smooth stone could be useful, and insists on bearing it home with them.

Taran and Gurgi stay the night with Llonio and his family, and in the morning a sack of wheat is discovered in the weir. They all take turns grinding it into meal, and Llonio urges Taran to stay another night. Taran is happy to do so, and over the next few days, he notices how everything the family needs seems to “appear from nowhere.” Taran says he envies Llonio’s luck, and Llonio winks and says he’ll tell him the secret behind it one day.

Next, Taran uses the large stone he tripped over, along with a second one of the same size and some pieces from the bridle, to fashion a labor-saving windmill to grind wheat for the family. He should change his last name from Wanderer to Engineer! After that achievement, he decides it’s time to move on. As he and Gurgi say goodbye to Llonio, Taran asks about the secret of Llonio’s luck. Llonio is like, duh, I have the same luck as everyone else. To be as lucky as he is, he explains, “You need only sharpen your eyes to see your luck when it comes, and sharpen your wits to use what falls into your hands.” Good advice!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Taran Wanderer, Chapter 16 – Taran Wanderer

Taran is sick with a fever for about two weeks, during which time Gurgi tends to him, and Fflewddur and Kaw return to Craddoc’s cottage. Fflewddur explains that when he got to Caer Dallben, Dallben told him that Taran was not Craddoc’s son, so Fflewddur rode straight back, but got lost and had to shelter from the snowstorms in a cave for a while. Taran beats himself up about his moment of hesitation while Craddoc lay on the ledge, and Fflewddur tries to console him, saying that he wouldn’t be human if he didn’t feel fear: “Count the deed, not the thought.” Taran, who can’t give himself an ounce of credit about this, says he held back not out of fear, but out of shame at being the son of a herdsman. “Now my shame is for myself.”

We jump ahead to the end of winter. Taran has recovered his strength, and Fflewddur says the passes should soon be clear of ice so that they can journey to the Lake of Llunet. Taran, however, has changed his mind and says he wants to give up his quest. He’s disgusted by how badly he wanted to be of noble birth, when those he deemed beneath him – like Craddoc and Aeddan – were the truly noble ones. Fflewddur suggests returning to Caer Dallben, but Taran can’t face Dallben or Coll until he’s learned to stand on his own. He remembers Orddu’s saying that “the robin must scratch for his own worms” and feels like he now understands what that meant. Fflewddur responds with the wonderful observation: “Scratching for worms is unappetizing… But it’s true, everyone should have a skill.” Then he snaps a harp string by praising his own talent as a bard. Poor Fflewddur.

Taran decides he will journey to the Free Commots and try to find an apprenticeship there. Fflewddur has to return to his own kingdom, and Kaw goes with him, but Gurgi once again insists on staying with Taran. They head east the next morning, with Craddoc’s flock tagging along. After several days, they arrive at a farm, with an empty but well-maintained sheep pasture and a river with nets and fishing lines in it. A bunch of children see the sheep and rush out of the farmhouse, laughing and shouting “They’re here!” (not in a Poltergeist-y kind of way, one hopes). Their dad, a skinny man with patched garments, introduces himself to Taran as “Llonio Son of Llonwen.” Taran says his name is “Taran.” Llonio says that’s a pretty short name; who does Taran think he is, Madonna? Taran says he’s a wanderer, and so Llonio dubs him “Taran Wanderer.”

The sheep are put to graze in the pasture, because it turns out, Llonio doesn’t have a flock of his own. Taran is like, why’d you waste your time creating a pasture then, and Llonio says if he hadn’t, Taran wouldn’t be offering him a flock right now, would he? Llonio is the kind of guy who believes in being ready for miracles. He sends his little daughter, Gwenlliant (which is my second favorite name in the series, after Arianllyn), to get an egg from the henhouse. She returns with a single egg, which, when mixed with a number of other ingredients, becomes a cake that feeds the whole family. Taran is blown away by this, which is kind of silly given that he’s been eating an endless supply of lembas and jerky from Gurgi’s magically restocking wallet for several books now. But there you have it. They all eat their fill, and then Llonio says he’s going to check on his nets and invites Taran to come along. Will Taran accept? We’ll have to wait until the next chapter to find out!