Could it be I’ve finally finished the five book series in an effort to read year 1969??? Well, no. Not yet. But I did finish book four this afternoon (cheers are heard throughout the land) and it was just so darn good that I wanted to tell you about it.
Before each of his stories Lloyd Alexander writes an “Author’s Note.” I love these because, in a way, he tells the reader how to approach each book. I also like this personal touch to each story because it further connects story maker to story reader. In the prelude to Taran Wanderer, book four in the Prydain chronicles, Mr. Alexander lets us know that this is a story of personal development.
“No longer as Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper but as Taran Wanderer, he learns to reshape his life out of his own inner resources; for there must not only be an end to childhood but also a beginning of manhoood.”
In the preceding chronicles Taran is, at times, a little bit of a blundering annoyance; however, in this story he begins to come into his own and show wisdom beyond his years.
A little bit of background: Taran is an assistant pig-keeper living with Dallben and Coll at Caer Dallben (a fictitious world with strong Welsh influences) with no clue regarding his parentage. In the very first book he befriends Gurgi, Flewddur Flam, Doli and Eilonwy. These characters remain consistent throughout the series while new friends as well as foes also pop up. In this particular book Taran goes on a quest to find out who he really is, or in other words, find out who his parents are.
In the course of the story there are adventures enough to satisfy most but what really caught my interest and made me evaluate my own life was the meeting of Llonio, Hevydd, Dwyvach and Annlaw. (Thankfully, in addition to the authors note there is also a Prydian pronunciation guide at the end of the book.) Each one of these individuals teaches Taran a valuable lesson about life. Llonio believed that life was full of luck but that luck was what you did with what life gave you; Hevydd, the Smith, viewed life as a forge where you must accept the poundings and firings in order to come out as anything worthwhile; Dwyvach the weaver thought life was much more like a loom: “A loom, rather, where lives and days intertwine; and wise he is who can learn to see the pattern” (p 185); Annlaw the Potter saw life as something to be molded and shaped.
“Llonio said life was a net for luck; to Hevydd the Smith life was a forge; and to Dwyvach the Weaver-Woman a loom. They spoke truly, for it is all of these. But you,” Taran said, his eyes meeting the potter’s, “you have shown me life is one thing more. It is clay to be shaped, as raw clay on a potter’s wheel” (p 217).
For some reason all of these concepts about life are extremely potent for me right now. As children we are able to view life with such anticipation because so much lies before us. We can dream of being astronauts, ballet dancers, dump truck drivers or whatever else suits our fancy, but once adults the dreams either turn into reality or die. Now, as adults, is the time for action and adventure. Now is the time for choosing what we will be and continually pursuing what our hearts are most passionate about even as it changes while we grow and change.
On another topic: the weather in Portland has been beautiful this weekend. The sun has been warm but not too warm and it’s been a weekend of cleaning/organizing, Farmers market and Alberta Art hop and reading in the sun (until a huge black spider showed himself and then I just let him have the deck). At the moment we’ve got pork on our little charcoal grill, baked potatoes in the oven and broccoli about to be steamed. And even though I have only one more book to go in the Prydian chronicles (and by george! it’s the Newbery winner!) I’m going to take yet another break and read The Elegance of the Hedgehog. Sound like a kids book title? It’s actually a grown up book. As soon as I started reading it I realized a dictionary might be helpful with all the big words I couldn’t understand. It’s good for me to read my own age appropriate genre. But only once in awhile. :)