The Castle of Llyr

The third book in the Chronicles of Prydain series

A novel by Lloyd Alexander

Author's Note

IN THIS CHRONICLE OF PRYDAIN, following The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron, what befalls the heroine is as important, and perilous, as the hero's own quest. Princess Eilonwy of the red-gold hair does much more than face the unavoidable (and, in her view, absolutely unnecessary) ordeal of becoming a young lady. As Dallben, the old enchanter, warns: 'For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are.' And this holds true for princesses as well as assistant pig-keepers.

The Castle of Llyr is, in a sense, more romantic than the preceding chronicles? Taran is noticeably aware of his feelings toward Eilonwy. And it is sometimes more comic? for example, the utter despair of the companions in trying to cope with the well-meaning but hapless Prince Rhun. The mood, perhaps, is bittersweet rather than grandly heroic. But the adventure should hold something beyond the fairy-tale elements of a magic golden bauble, a vengeful queen, a mysterious castle, and rivals for the hand of a princess. The nature of fantasy allows happenings which reveal most clearly our own frailties and our own strengths. The inhabitants of Prydain are fantasy figures; I hope they are also very human.

Prydain itself, however, is entirely imaginary. Mona, background for The Castle of Llyr, is the ancient Welsh name of the island of Anglesey. But this background is not drawn with a mapmaker's accuracy. My hope, instead, is to create the feeling, not the fact, of the land of Wales and its legends.

Some readers may indignantly question the fate of several villains in this tale, especially that of one of the most reprehensible scoundrels in Prydain. I should point out that while The Castle of Llyr, like the previous books, can stand as a chronicle in its own right, certain events in it have far-reaching consequences. Beyond that, I will hint no further but only recommend one of the more difficult virtues: patience.


Chapter 1

Prince Rhun

EILONWY OF THE red-gold hair, the Princess Eilonwy Daughter of Angharad Daughter of Regat of the Royal House of Llyr, was leaving Caer Dallben. Dallben himself had so ordered it; and though Taran's heart was suddenly and strangely heavy, he knew there was no gainsaying the old enchanter's words.

On the spring morning set for Eilonwy's departure, Taran saddled the horses and led them from the stable. The Princess, looking desperately cheerful, had wrapped her few belongings in a small bundle slung from her shoulder. At her neck hung a fine chain and crescent moon of silver; on her finger she wore a ring of ancient craftsmanship; and in the fold of her cloak she carried another of her most prized possessions: the golden sphere that shone at her command with a light brighter than a flaming torch.

Dallben, whose face was more careworn than usual and whose back was bowed as though under a heavy burden, embraced the girl at the cottage door. 'You shall always have a place in Caer Dallben,' he said, 'and a larger one in my heart. But, alas, raising a young lady is a mystery beyond even an enchanter's skill. I have had,' he added with a quick smile, 'diffi­culties enough raising an Assistant Pig-Keeper.

'I wish you a fair voyage to the Isle of Mona,' Dallben went on. 'King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleria are kindly and gracious. They are eager to stand in your family's stead and serve as your protectors, and from Queen Teleria you shall learn how a princess should behave.'

'What!' cried Eilonwy. 'I don't care about being a princess! And since I'm already a young lady, how else could I behave? That's like asking a fish to learn how to swim!'

'Hem!' Dallben said wryly. 'I have never seen a fish with skinned knees, torn robe, and unshod feet. They would ill become him, as they ill become you.' He set a gnarled hand gently on Eilonwy's shoulder. 'Child, child, do you not see? For each of us comes a time when we must be more than what we are.' He turned now to Taran. 'Watch over her carefully,' he said. 'I have certain misgivings about letting you and Gurgi go with her, but if it will ease your parting, so be it.'

'The Princess Eilonwy shall go safely to Mona,' Taran answered.

'And you,' said Dallben, 'return safely. My heart will not be at ease until you do.' He embraced the girl again and went quickly into the cottage.

It had been decided that Coll would accompany them to Great Avren harbor and lead back the horses. The stout old warrior, already mounted, waited patiently. Shaggy-haired Gurgi, astride his pony, looked as mournful as an owl with a stomach ache. Kaw, the tame crow, perched in unwonted silence on T aran's saddle. Taran helped Eilonwy mount Lluagor, her favorite steed, then swung to the back of Melynlas, his silver-maned stallion.

Leaving Caer Dallben behind, the little band set out across the soft hills toward Avren. Side by side Taran and Coll rode ahead of the others to lead the way, Kaw meanwhile having made himself comfortable on Taran's shoulder.

'She never stopped talking for a moment,' Taran said gloomily. 'Now, at least, it will be quieter in Caer Dallben.'

'That it will,' said Coll.

'And less to worry about. She was always getting into one scrape or another.'

'That, too,' said Coll.

'It's for the best,' Taran said. 'Eilonwy is, after all, a Princess of Llyr. It's not as if she were only an Assistant Pig-Keeper.'

'Very true'' said Coll, looking off toward the pale hills.

They jogged along silently for a while.

'I shall miss her,' Taran burst out at last, half angrily.

The old warrior grinned and rubbed his shin­ing bald head. 'Did you tell her that?'

'Not? not exactly,' faltered Taran. 'I suppose I should have. But every time I began talking about it I? I felt very odd. Besides, you never know what silly remark she'll come out with when you're trying to be serious.'

'It may be,' replied Coll, smiling, 'we know least what we treasure most. But we will have more than enough to keep us busy when you come back, and you will learn, my boy, there is nothing like work to put the heart at rest.'

Taran nodded sadly. 'I suppose so,' he said.

PAST MIDDAY THEY TURNED their horses to the west, where the hills began a long slope downward into the Avren valley. At the last ridge Kaw hopped from Taran's shoulder and flapped aloft, croaking with excitement. Taran urged Melynlas over the rise. Below, the great river swung into view, wider here than he had ever seen it. Sunlight flecked the water in the sheltered curve of the harbor. A long, slender craft bobbed at the shore. Taran could make out figures aboard, hauling on ropes to raise a square, white sail.

Eilonwy and Gurgi had also ridden forward. Taran's heart leaped; and to all the companions the sight of the harbor and the waiting vessel was like a sea wind driving sorrow before it. Eilonwy began chattering gaily, and Gurgi waved his arms so wildly he nearly tumbled from the saddle.

'Yes, oh yes!' he cried. 'Bold, valiant Gurgi is glad to follow kindly master and noble Princess with boatings and

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