Finally squeezing in an update!
Yay update! The layout of this page is great! And those silhouettes are really cool. Also, I would give one of my fingers to have Taran's eyes. They're so pretty, argh!
I've been rereading The Black Cauldron, by the way. It's definitely my favorite.
He has his mother's eyes...no wait, wrong series. It occurs to me that in all my fic I have never, not once, speculated on his parentage. I guess because their unknown-ness is such a major plot point, but now, suddenly, the wheels are turning.
Beautiful page! I'm glad of the update, though I understand your stress.
I like to think Taran was just some random villager's kid. Maybe his father was one of one of the local cantrev lord's men. A foot soldier, a grunt, but a good man and proud of the work he did, and his wife was proud of him. But then they both died in the slaughter Dallben describes in The High King. Sad, but hardly a great, extraordinary tragedy, at least not in poor, war-torn Prydain. Alexander's whole point is that nobility is grown with a person's character, not present in them with a gentle birth. Most of his worst characters are nobility or high-ranking servants.
A bit sad Eilonwy's weakness is getting cut. I don't think it is a concession to convention. At this point in the story, Eilonwy trying to do more than she can feasibly do is as much a part of her character as rushing into a thorn bush is part of Taran's. She's brave and smart and capable--but she's so desperate to prove herself as such that she overreaches. As you point out, she's lived in a castle, while Fflewddur is a warrior of some renown and Taran is used to strenuous physical labor. It also gives Taran (and Fflewddur) lovely opportunities to be nice to her. While sexism is irritating, chivalry is not.
It's not completely cut. I'm just doing some trimming for time/space, and some of that is the part they hoist her onto Melyngar. But she's still the first to tire, grow almost ill from exhaustion, etc. And honestly, I haven't even done the page yet. It could change. I'm just concerned about the pacing a little bit.
Glad to see that Eilonwy is simply heading Taran's aggressive chivalry off at the pass. She's probably faster than the other two anyways.
She's still ticked off with him.
In the text she is the first to tire and they do wind up putting her on the horse, which I think is a mildly disappointing concession to convention on the author's part. For practical reasons of efficiency I'm going to truncate some of the next stage of the journey, and that part's going to be almost axed...accusations of bowing to my own idealogical notions might not be unfounded. Though to be fair, of the three of them, she'd be the most unused to long-endurance physical exertion.
Yeah, I'm with LMS on this one; it reads more like a concession to realism than convention. There's no way the girl who's grown up in a castle is going to match the endurance of a wandering bard or a farm-bred boy when running through the woods, even though she might well be quicker than Taran over a short distance. (Flewddur should be the fastest of the three, having much longer legs than either of the youngsters.) Her manner of dress, and especially footwear, also put her at a disadvantage, making her far more prone to scratches, scrapes and bruises on her feet and shins than the others, not to mention that she's carrying the heaviest and most unwieldy weapon of the three human members of the group.
Taran's concern for her health later in this chapter -- trying to make her as comfortable as possible after she collapses from exhaustion, and giving her the last of the group's rations -- is another nice little window into the best part of his character, much like that scene near the end of chapter eight where he instinctively shielded her from the explosion of Spiral Castle. They're too young and too new to each other for the shipping to appear as overt attraction yet, but it shows through in her need to prove herself to him, and his need to keep her from harm (which we also see reciprocated in the final confrontation with the Horned King).
You are so right on both points. All right, all right! I'm outnumbered. I concede! ;)
Taran's face is looking pretty grimy -- nice detail.
I used to scratch him up in every panel but I start to forget those details until we get a close-up. Nice to have the chance to throw it back in.
Yayyy, update :D
*lol* Eilonwy... <3
I just hope she can run with her skirt/dress... =S
Beautiful, beautiful last panel! I love all the colors...
Potential spoilers below for those who haven't read the books -- both the Prydain series and the first book in Lloyd Alexander's Westmark trilogy.
The discussion you had on page 140 with commenter CM about Taran and Eilonwy's personalities got me thinking about the parallels and differences between the core group of characters in the Chronicles of Prydain and their counterparts in Alexander's second-best-known work, the Westmark Trilogy. Theo is a lot like Taran, of course, but slightly older at the start and less of a naïf, having grown up in a town in a post-Enlightenment setting as apprentice to a printer, rather than at a rustic farm in a medieval setting with minimal interaction with anyone except Dallben and Coll; his adolescent foot-in-mouth disease is a lot less severe than Taran's, though he still stumbles now and then.
Mickle likewise has several similarities to Eilonwy, but she's a lot more emotionally vulnerable, her trauma much closer to the surface of her personality. Eilonwy's childhood in Spiral Castle was abusive but also in some ways sheltered, whereas Mickle's life as a street urchin and apprentice thief was anything but. She's also illiterate, whereas Theo had access to a library of every book of which his master had ever printed copies -- he's better-read than many aristocratic university students in his world, and a major part of his interaction with Mickle in the first book consists of him teaching her how to read and write.
The age difference between Theo and Mickle is probably larger than that between Taran and Eilonwy as well -- Alexander is never very precise about his main characters' ages, but I read Taran in the first book as thirteen or fourteen, and Eilonwy as the same age or at most a year younger, but in some ways more mature (as girls tend to be around that age). I think Theo is supposed to be sixteen or seventeen in Westmark, while Mickle is probably no more than fourteen (it's hard to believe she would have lost the ability to read if she'd been older than seven or eight when the incident that caused her traumatic amnesia occurred, and that was six years before the story starts). As a result, he's less oblivious to her feelings than Taran was with Eilonwy, and she looks to him for comfort and affection to a degree that Eilonwy can't really do with Taran until the end of The Castle of Llyr. (Most of the times when she might have needed comfort up to that point were due to him saying or doing something insensitive, so she wasn't about to pick his shoulder to cry on.)
Anyway, I'm really enjoying this adaptation, and looking forward to seeing what you do with Eilonwy's attempt at arcane archery -- IIRC, the two riders chasing them now were the target of that effort. If I were adapting The Book of Three, and were to change one significant event in Alexander's narrative, I'd have that spell actually work. As written, it sort of makes Eilonwy look like a bit of a Faux Action Girl; having the web stop the cauldron-born long enough for the companions to lose them wouldn't have much effect on the narrative after it, since they rather anticlimactically turn and retreat toward Annuvin anyway, having reached the limit of their ability to remain outside that realm.
The obvious strategy that both the characters and the narrative manage to ignore during that pursuit is to cripple or kill the cauldron warriors' horses. Horses make much larger targets for archery than their riders, and it would be a lot easier for the companions to escape on foot from enemies on foot; also, without their mounts the wights would have to turn back toward Annuvin far sooner (though Taran & Company had no way of knowing how close they were to the limit of their operational range). Indeed, if they'd lost their horses just short of the point where they would have had to retreat with them, they might not have made it back in time at all, which presumably would have either destroyed them or left them immobilized unless and until someone else carried them back to Annuvin.
I'm ashamed to admit I never got past the first book in Westmark. I liked Mickle, and Theo was lovely, but overall the mood of the story was more dour, and that period and setting is not one that captures my imagination much. I feel I should finish the series just out of my sense of loyalty to LA, but haven't had a chance to do it yet.
You bring up a very good point about the archery scene, which I'm very much looking forward to. Why not just kill their horses? My animal-tender heart finds it hard to stomach, which makes me think our companions might feel similarly, though Fflewddur might be the one most likely to look upon it as a practical means of survival, since he's got some battle experience. I suppose we could write it off by suggesting:
a) Killing the cauldron-born's horses requires getting too close to the cauldron-born, and
b) At the point that proximity actually occurs, they're too distracted by Eilonwy's shenanigans to perform any themselves. Taran's first idea is that he and Fflewddur will hold off the CB long enough for Eilonwy and Gurgi to escape - it may be that disposing of the horses would have been their first action had she not taken matters into her own hands.
Westmark itself is indeed darker in tone than at least the first four Prydain novels, and also has a weaker plot than any of them, IMHO, but the characters are wonderful. Aside from Theo and Mickle, Las Bombas and Musket are hilarious, Florian is intriguing, Cabbarus is viscerally scary in a way that none of Prydain's villains quite matched for me, and Skeit is one of the most deliciously detestable blackguards in the genre. (The contrast between Cabbarus' self-righteousness and Skeit's gleefully amoral venality reminds me a bit of Javert and Thenardier -- they're both horrible people, but in such opposite ways.) The Kestrel is darker still, but it's also, from a literary standpoint, probably the single best book that Alexander ever wrote. It's a deeper exploration of one of the themes of The High King -- how the realities of war can force a kind-hearted, virtuous person who abhors violence to mold himself into a cold-blooded killer, and what it takes to come back to oneself after such a transformation.
Your explanation regarding the horses makes sense to me; for most of the chase, the Cauldron-Born would have been beyond the maximum range of the companions' bows, and they were trying their best to keep it that way. Once that proved impossible, Eilonwy had what would have been a better idea if she'd been able to make the spell work, and Taran was too alarmed by her apparent recklessness (not without cause, given some of the things he'd seen her do before that) to think of taking up a bow himself; he'd already experienced the futility of fighting Cauldron-Born firsthand, and his immediate impulse was to protect her.
If they'd communicated better, the other two might have grabbed bows as well (assuming they had more than one -- it does say that Eilonwy took a bow and quiver, implying that they had picked up multiple bows) and shot at the horses, but given the time pressure and their fear and exhaustion at that point, that would have been a lot to ask of any of them. It does make sense that they'd only have time for one shot, with their enemies approaching at a gallop; once an opponent gets into sword's reach, you really don't want to be holding a bow instead of a sword unless you're a world-class archer, which we have no reason to think any of the companions were.
I have to say that "You were more interested in [the spiderweb]; you didn't care whether I was in danger" might be the single most blatantly irrational thing to come out of Eilonwy's mouth in the entire series; Taran obviously didn't know about the spiderweb before she cast it, and all his effort was directed at protecting her. Further evidence of her bad socialization under Achren's "care" -- the poor girl has no idea how to accept sincere praise, so she falls back on suspecting ulterior motives for it, no matter how implausible, and ignores that the reason for Taran's interference that so annoyed her a moment before was that all he cared about was whether she was in danger.
Lol-ing at your words on her comment: don't you see she's completely flustered and disarmed by the fact that he's actually paid her a compliment? -the "first polite thing" he, and probably anyone else, has said to her. You can bet once her initial pleasure at this runs up against her wall of invulnerability, her first instinct is to grab her upper hand back again by willfully misunderstanding him and saying something insulting. It's also a little bit of a cover for her own annoyance with herself for responding so instantly to his admiration (the blush and smile). And while it IS irrational to accuse him of not caring, he is kind of insensitive in the way he exclaims over her abilities before first expressing happiness that she's safe - it speaks to the same sort of dynamic they run into shortly after this during his apology; he says something about being grateful for such brave companions, and she gets angry because she clearly wants him to value her as a person, not for whatever skills or advantages she brings to the mission. In which case her comment here is a bit insensitive and ill-timed, but not, perhaps, as irrational as it appears.
Hah! I'm honored to receive such a mention above!
I agree that Eilonwy's response to Taran's comment about the web isn't simply "irrational" (in one sense of the word). It's almost calculated. 1) She's really still mad at him and doesn't want to open up to much or let her guard down. 2) She doesn't want to show that she is really is very much in need of affirmation and approval and affection. 3) So she pretends as if Taran is in the wrong when he clearly WAS concerned about her safety (this is the whole reason he chased after her in the first place) and even gave her a compliment to boot. 4) She also tells him *exactly* what her problem is (or at least part of it) with how he is failing her, but tells him in a way that allows her to pretend as if she isn't goading him to say, "Hey, no, I was concerned about *you*."
So it's not simply irrational.
Of course, one could read Taran's comment about her magical abilities as being directed to affirming her value to the mission (which she seemed eager to show earlier), and so her anger might seem particularly strange. But, really, I don't think she fully understands what it is she wants from him at this point (though she does by the end of the novel, at least).
True, the motivation behind the statement makes more sense than the statement itself. You can see why Taran was frustrated, though, since he had been trying to protect her -- he was ready to make a suicidal stand against two Cauldron-Born in an effort to buy time for her and the others to escape. Just as well Fflewddur advised him to drop it; there was nothing to be gained in arguing the point right then.
Both that interaction and Taran's botched attempt to apologize underscore the fact that Eilonwy develops romantic feelings for him faster than he does for her. Part of it, of course, is that the mission to warn Caer Dathyl of the Horned King's impending attack is a higher priority for him than it is for her; he traveled with Gwydion, blames himself for the Prince of Don's apparent death, and his upbringing by Coll and Dallben has given him a patriot's loyalty to the House of Don and the idea of Caer Dathyl, even though he's never been there. Eilonwy, on the other hand, is on this journey partly in defiance of Achren and her own upbringing, partly because she has nowhere else to go, but mostly because Taran is both the first real friend she's ever had and a young man she finds attractive and intriguing. Her tension between wanting him to care about her for her own sake and not wanting him to know how important that is to her shows clearly in scenes like this.
I love your posts. Well thought out and articulate. I agree with most of what you've said here, but I'm not sure I agree that Eilonwy has romantic feelings for Taran this early--or at least that they are her primary motivation. I'm not sure she understands the nature of her attraction to Taran at this point. She latches onto him, yes, and very strongly. Even when she wants to rip his face off, she is determined that no one's going to make her leave him. But at least in this first book, I've always imagined that had more to do with her upbringing and her loneliness.
Taran isn't always very nice to her--at least not nice the way she instinctively feels that he should be. He's got a lot to learn. But for all that, he's still nicer than anyone else she can remember has been, and he's the first person she's met at or around her age. Then you go back to "nowhere else to go," and you can see how that might be her primary motivation in not only helping Taran but in staying with him as well. Like many neglected or abused children, Eilonwy doesn't know how to treat her new friend (any more than the kid Dallben and Coll raised knows how to treat a girl), but clings to him tightly all the same. He's all she has. When Eilonwy chooses to help him escape from Achren and Spiral Castle collapses, of course she goes with Taran.
In my head, once this first book closes, Eilonwy could have had a couple options. They probably could have contacted her distant kinsmen on Mona at that point and sent her home. She would have been welcome in Fflewddur's cantrev or in Caer Dathyl. Or she could go to Caer Dallben with Taran. Since it was decided before Taran asks Dallben at the end of the book, I'm assuming someone intervened on her behalf before he did. Fflewddur would be my guess--he observes the children, notes the strength of Eilonwy's attachment to Taran, and probably thinks both kids would be better off for growing up together for a bit. They have a lot they can teach one another, whether they start a romance or not.
If I had to guess as to when Eilonwy realizes she's developed romantic feelings for Taran, it's probably either at the very end of this book or in between this one and the opening of BC. But I'm firmly convinced that by the time Taran does everything he does in *that* book, Eilonwy's made up her mind she's going to marry him someday. And even if he hasn't put words to it (because he probably wouldn't think to do so), Fflewddur has as good as sworn loyalty to Taran, too.
I agree that there are no romantic feelings on either side at this stage. Eilonwy has grudgingly accepted that she can no longer maternize Taran like she did on familiar territory, but that does not mean she will subordinate herself - she has had enough of that from Achren. What she needs most is plain comfort. Taran is the only straw she can cling to and, having little notion of the gravity of events ahead of him, she is afraid of being let down more than anything else - especially since he has disappointed her so terribly already the night before.
Taran OTOH has bravely saved and sheltered the damsel in distress like any mythological hero in the Book of Three would, isn't that great? Now, however, he finds himself stuck not with a pretty fairy-tale character but with a severely traumatized teen slashing out in all directions. Of course he gropes in the dark about how to handle her - even Gwydion would in his place.
Mark me down as another who enjoys the Westmark Trilogy, particularly The Kestrel. I hadn't read them until last summer, and was completely engrossed by the darker turn the second book takes. The novel Westmark itself is an exciting kid's adventure...but its sequel gets downright harrowing.
I won't be tired of saying "great layout! wonderful page".lol
I never get tired of hearing it!
Melyngar thinks, “Well, this is different!”
Cheers for Eilonwy: They are running for their lifes and she still has the breath to be pissy. Not to admit that Taran might have had a point about "burdened with a girl", of course. She forgets, though, that she is youngest of the gang and for that reason already of shortest endurance.
As for taking out the horses of the cauldron-born: I don't remember whether Fflewddur has experience in archery but I doubt that Taran can hit anything more mobile than a barndoor at short range. Don't let the kid play with real weapons, he has enough cuts and bruises already! /gr/
If there's anyone present who may know of potential weaknesses of the cauldron-born that might be exploited, it should be Eilonwy. She has seen Achren dealing with them! But of course it comes into no one's mind to ask "this girl". And she is still too upset to provide unsolicited services.