“Who am I?”
That is the question Taran seeks to answer in book four of the Chronicles of Prydain. Taran has already had many adventures, fought many foes, won several battles, and fallen in love with Princess Eilonwy. He is held in high esteem by all who know him, yet he is still an Assistant Pig-Keeper, an orphan with no known history. Were his parents peasants, or could he be of noble blood, making him worthy of the princess? This is what he seeks to learn, and he covers all of Prydain in his quest.
Taran Wanderer at first seemed a little pointless. There was no evil to defeat, no plot to foil. Taran simply began wandering with no clear direction and no clues to help him. “What I seek, I do not know. But, alas, I know it is not here.” But the old crew soon joins him—Gurgi, Doli and Ffluddur Flam—and the adventures start rolling in. The book grows as rich as ever, with the most important battle being waged inside Taran. It is exquisitely written. Once again I have page after page of notes, beautiful quotations, and nuggets of wisdom that give such deep insights into life. I just love this series.
In his travels, Taran is offered King Smoit’s kingdom and refuses it. He’s offered a stone of power by the wizard Morda and refuses it. He shows excellent leadership abilities, he judges disputes with the wisdom of King Solomon, he repays friendship with aid, he inspires courage and displays loyalty. In every respect, he acts admirably and proves himself noble. Before his quest ends (I won’t tell you if he’s nobly born or not), he realizes the folly of looking to blood to prove one’s worth: “When I was a child I dreamed of adventure, glory of honor in feats of arms. I think now that these things are shallow….As for my parentage, it makes little difference…manhood is not given but earned.”
Here are a few more quotes that I really like:
“Once the apple is ripe, no man can turn it back to a greening.”
“Was a royal robe enough to hide a dishonorable deed?”
“If I fret over tomorrow, I’ll have little joy today.”
“Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer, but don’t forget to put out your net.”
“Craftsmanship isn’t like water in an earthen pot, to be taken out by the dipperful until it’s empty. No, the more drawn out the more remains.”
“Life is clay to be shaped.”
Though I have not looked at the final book in the series, I believe this one sets it up in some important ways. As a result of his journey, Taran has established relationships all over Prydain, he’s learned the hardships its people face, and he’s seen how Arawn, the evil Lord, has devastated the land. He has also gathered a great deal of experience, wisdom and confidence. I believe in the next book, The High King, that Taran will face Arawn in a final battle and emerge as the leader of all Prydain. He has certainly proved himself able. I also think the princess Eilonwy will make a significant return to the series. I missed her fiery personality in this one.
Though I can make some strong predictions as to the tale’s ending, I wouldn’t miss the reading of it. This series has been phenomenal. Truly the sweetest of adventures! I’m off to purchase the last book now…
Here are my reviews of the other books in the series:
- Book One: The Book of Three
- Book two: The Black Cauldron
- Book three: The Castle of Llyr
- Book five: The High King