Coming in on this a day early - I'm not holding myself to update schedules right now, because I hope to crank them out faster than twice a week for a little while. I'm very happy with how this page turned out - landscapes are so much better in sunset.
People can be so complex.
"Faster than twice a week"?
My friend, you have made me rather excited. Life is hectic, though--don't overdo it.
Also, I seem to recall discussions in the past (forgive me, I haven't gone back through the whole comic and read the com boxes) about Taran's angsty moments, his self-recrimination and blame, his regret. Somehow I remember talk of this as being more of Taran's immaturity. It may be, in a fashion, insofar as he sometimes blames himself for things that he could not have controlled, or overdoes it a bit. Still, this is part of Taran I love: his seriousness, his high-mindedness.
At the start, it's all swordplay and bravado. How quickly it becomes a true sense of responsibility, real (if young) nobility of spirit, and an earnest, praiseworthy drive for honest excellence: an excellence that transcends himself, his fantasies, his fear of how out of his depth he is. But--depth. How deep is his real concern for others, below the initial show of "I shall do it all myself!"
He tries to act older than he is at times, yes. Boys do that. Heck everyone does that, right? Sometimes it makes him look ridiculous, because he's putting on airs. (Of course, if he *did* act his age, we'd all be screaming, "Get it together, kid! you've got a mission and this is adult swim!") But that's not the case here. Whether through the upbringing he received through Dallben and Coll, or through his own native potential and character, or (I would say) a combination of the two, plus exposure to Gwydion--brimming beneath the surface, Taran possesses great profundity that wells up to wisdom beyond his years. I am loving the chance to rest with him and savor this.
I think I, as a young boy first reading this, frequently lost patience with Taran: I wanted him to be the always mature, always wise wunderkind he wanted to be. So much so that I think I missed so much of what, even in the first book, makes Taran such a great character, so lovable, so noble, so full of potential, so primed for real sagacity and heroism.
Taran. My boy. You got this.
Love this comment! Of course, Taran's ideas of swordplay and bravado didn't survive much past the farmyard. He ran away from a villain who hurt him, was wounded more than once, nearly drowned, saw men being burned alive, was captured and held prisoner, has seen a couple of companions close to death already (because I think Eilonwy was in seriously bad shape for a while), thinks another has actually died, and has run nearly off his feet. And this book still has a ways to go. Taran can't be the kid in Coll's forge anymore. He's voluntarily taken on sole responsibility for saving the Sons of Don from having their capital city sacked--a responsibility previously borne by a man probably three times his age, and a prince. And Fflewddur's let him. Taran now knows adventures are "nasty, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner." And of deadly importance, too. He could probably use some serious counseling at this point, honestly.
He's handling it so much better than he thinks he is, considering he's an extremely sheltered young teenager. But he doesn't know that. All he sees is that he's not handling it like Gwydion could. But like you, I love him for not cutting himself a break. It's his high aspirations and unreachable moral standards that spur him on to become someone completely worthy of the devotion Gurgi showed him before he'd earned it, and the devotion of many others besides.
And Saeriellyn, his eyes in that last panel. Fantastic.
I can't promise more than twice a week, or even that they'll come twice a week at all, mind you - I just don't want to be held to a schedule, in case I should happen to be extra productive.
All this is so beautifully stated and I couldn't agree more - though I would add that Taran adds to his high-mindedness the equally attractive quality of humility. It's hidden at first, because his bravado often makes him seem arrogant, but it leaks out in moments like this. For all his foibles, he never fails to realize - sometimes well after the fact, but even so - when he's been a jerk. And he admits it both to himself and others. It's an absolutely enormous plot point in TBC when he has to deal with Ellidyr, but we already get several glimpses of it in the first book, and I enjoyed drawing it out of him here. His exact words in the book are slightly different, but I pulled out various thoughts he'd had over the course of the last chapter and had him speak them out loud, and I think the effect is the same.
It's an interesting paradox, really, as I find in real life it is those who hold themselves the most rigorously to high-minded moral standards are often the least humble, mentally condemning the failure of their fellow man to live up to those same standards, whether they admit to it or not. Taran rarely does this, but perhaps it's because he's adept at recognizing his own failure to follow his code of ideals very well. It's a shrewd observation on Lloyd's part that character is only character if it is tested to nearly or past the breaking point.
You touched on something I almost did. I held back because there are people reading the comic who haven't read the series. In *this* book, Taran only has Gwydion, a man probably about three times his age, to compare himself to. (Fflewddur is such a different kind of man it's like apples to oranges--though I still think he, like Coll and Dallben, sets a good example of bravery and decency for Taran.) Gwydion, however, is Taran's role model--the kind of man he wants to be and fairly obviously the pattern he sets for himself. Of course, there's no possible way he can measure up in Book of Three.
Later, in BC and CoL, Alexander juxtaposes Taran against three young men at or around his own age. These are young men against whom the reader can judge Taran more fairly--and against whom Taran can better judge himself, in a way that he may not have had the chance to do before. To the reader, Taran measures up to the best of these other examples and seems to better the other two--but Taran never sees this. Even when he's exasperated with them, his tendency is to praise their moments of cleverness, their successes; forgive their failings; and focus most of all on where he can mend his own character deficiencies.
This is all the more striking in BC because Ellidyr, Taran's clearest foil in the series, is so obviously aware of (and angered by) all the ways he falls short of this seemingly disadvantaged, nameless nobody pig boy. But Taran, while he makes an immature bid for inclusion and reacts to Ellidyr's insults, in the end condemns his own behavior more than Ellidyr's and directs his focus toward being the best *he* can be, measuring up to that same sky-high yardstick with more attention to his failures than to how well he is succeeding.
It's a thoroughly winning personality trait of his, and I'm glad you decided to give it a little more focus here.
Ellidyr and Adaon I have always thought represent archetypes of what Taran could become, depending on his choices and attitude.
You’re absolutely right about his self-insight; the thing I love is that all his growing maturity and strong moral compass don’t make his choices any easier; he doesn’t loftily rise above the petty insults. He reacts, he’s hotheaded, he struggles, he has to lose a lot before he comes to a good resolution and lays down his pride. And it works because it makes him human and aspirational at the same time; without that struggle he’d be boring.
I suppose I differ in finding humility to be a part of genuine high mindedness and the virtue of greatness-of-soul: knowing your worth, which includes owning up to your faults. Ellidyr is a great example of faux-greatness-of-soul, imagining that putting on airs and demanding respect is compatible of with it—indeed, even generative of it, in some way. This is never Taran’s mode of operating. His hardness on himself is part of his great soul, while Ellidyr’s is part of his general smallness of soul. (Of course Ellidyr has his own moment of true heroism.) Taran has moments of trying to command respect and authority before he can truly do so (a moment near the beginning of CoL comes to mind), but he never does it in a haughty or “entitled” way.
Now, he doesn’t know his worth, generally, placing too much value on externals, and later dwelling on the lowliness of his birth and station far too much, without recognizing all the ways in which he is virtuous. (This arguably also informs his sorrow over the sacrifice he makes in The Black Cauldron, in giving up “virtue” that wasn’t really his, and failing to recognize the virtue that is. If I recall correctly, he is willing to make the sacrifice necessary to destroy the Cauldron as well. I could be wrong.) But with all this said, he knows a) what he wants to become, and knows how far he is from it. He knows the worth to which he feels called, and repeatedly, naturally makes choices pointing him to this, though he always finds himself falling short, and admitting this. And, b) he is ultimately, again and again, willing to take the hard road to do what is right and to set aside the externals he himself tends to value so highly in order to do what is truly valuable, out of a deeper virtue that is more properly his. (E.g. letting Ellidyr take the credit in TBC, rejecting Smoit’s offer of adoption in TW, etc.)
Taran’s whole journey could be understood in terms of knowing his own worth, not that conveyed by others—and in knowing his worth as being at the service of others. This is definitely highlighted in TBC and TW, especially in the latter, as the whole motive of his wanderings, and of his realization at the Mirror of Lunet.
But we see him coming to some of these realizations here. And also being faced with a choice he will have to make again and again, and definitively at the end of the series.
I should also clarify that I would say true greatness of soul requires other virtues, including the aforementioned humility, and that we see many of them on display in Taran from pretty early on, especially after he loses Gwydion: courage, perseverance, patience, courtesy (he struggles with this one, at times, let's be honest--but does better than he gets credit for), a spirit of self-sacrifice, of service.
These, as well as the examples of his heroes, are what lets Taran overcome the undue pride we see rise up in him from time to time. Taran wants to be a hero himself--a real hero. This is noble and good, and it brings out what is noble and good in Taran. One of his problems, however, is that he is constantly faced with things that look heroic or noble, or have the trappings of heroism and nobility, but are either falsities and fakes, or perversions, or shortcuts. And he is tempted towards these things, or angered by the fact that others have what he wants (or seem to) without having worked for it like he has, or without having deserved it. So he gets angry, and begins to demand that what is due him is given him--but he's always having to let go of these things, to let go of what matters to him--sometimes rightly, sometimes not--in order to do what he should.
Maybe it's stress? Holding themselves most LOUDLY to the most rigorous standards may be a reinforcement mechanism for those about to stress.
That disclaimer aside, just yesterday I got serious attitude from a check-out clerk at Trader Joe's in my home-state for asking for plastic bags (We have a trash system that relies on those instead of the big garbage bags - savings all 'round) instead of paper (in my neck of the woods, one burns more petro-chemicals making paper than plastic bags - though that was not my goal - I am cheap and don't like wet bulky paper I have to throw away). Anyhow, I find my enemy of the planet persona amusing.
Sorry someone was giving you a hard time.
I know I tend to be much harder on myself than I am on anyone else. I'm not saying I'm especially virtuous or good (I'm neither), but I do have aspirations and high ideals, like our awkward hero, here.
Thank you if that commiseration was meant for me, and dittos if it were meat for Saeriellyn, and right back at you in either case.
That was gracious.
Meant for you.
'Course, I'm happy to commiserate with Saeriellyn, too!
I love the purples! Now I want to see you do a fake update next April Fool's Day and go completely Lisa Frank on us.
Lol oh my. With kittens and unicorns. Where can I shoehorn them in?
The purple is a bit more vivid than I intended; I’m working on a new computer and its interface with my monitor is resulting in some odd color calibration. But we’ll just pretend the sunset is especially magical.
It looks like a monsoon-season Arizona sunset; the intensity seems entirely appropriate for Medwyn's valley.
I'm pretty sure I've said this on a previous page, but this is by far my favourite scene in the Book of Three. And after reading The Black Cauldron, this scene still remains my favorite.
It's slow, it's calming, it's character driven, its not about flashy imagery (all though you seem to do it perfectly still), and that's so rare in a lot of high fantasy stories.
Again, incredible work here! So excited to see more.
Come to think of it this scene really is quite unique in all the books. While there are others that are also very character driven, this really is an oasis of peace in the middle of all the plot momentum, and I can’t think of any other time something like this happens, at least offhand.
I hope you’re continuing to read! Castle of Llyr up next and then Taran Wanderer, which I predict will wind up being your favorite.
I most certainly am excited for Castle of Llyr. I hear it centered around Eilonwy.
Don't get me wrong, I love Taran, but I find it interesting when a series shifts to different perspectives of characters. Makes it feel bigger I guess. But I guess I'll have to find a copy to find out.
Hm. Well, the story directly involves Eilonwy, and what happens to her is the major plot point. Unfortunately, she’s not actually present for most of the book, and it’s still told solidly from Taran’s POV.
Not to put you off reading it at all, just don’t want you to go in with incorrect assumptions.
I look forward to doing my own rewrite of that book, eventually. ;)
So reading your comment about the POVs here got me thinking, and I would say that one of my few qualms with the books is that all but a few chapters in the last book are told from Taran's POV. I get that he's the main character and all, and that's mostly fine, but I do think that the story could have been even better with a little more variation on perspective. In fact, when the POVs do expand a bit in High King, I think it adds greatly to the overall narrative.
Most notably, I would have loved to see some Eilonwy chapters (especially in CoL) but I also think that a few Gwydion chapters here and there could have added a lot as far as background info and the big picture story is concerned.
Overall these books are awesome so I'm not complaining, just an observation. I think that if they ever get around to making film adaptations (haha) this would be one area where they could expand.
Also, this is yet another awesome looking panel!
I don't know...books that jump around in multiple POVs are often off-putting to me, to be honest; I think perhaps the omniscient ability to know what's going on with that many characters makes me distance myself from them emotionally. And of course, in many cases, it would be detrimental to certain plot elements if we knew what was happening to characters whose fate is supposed, for story reasons, to remain a mystery until another time. The chapters in The High King where we skip around make me impatient to get back to the main action - with the exception of following Eilonwy's detours and returns to the group, unsurprisingly; I'm usually more interested in what she's doing than anyone else.
I do very much wish Lloyd had given us that Eilonwy-centric companion novel to Wanderer! I'll always be a bit bitter over its omission.
I suppose the exception to this distaste on my part would be Lord of the Rings, though I'll tell you straight up I had trouble getting into The Two Towers for this very reason, after spending all of Fellowship in a nice little intimate POV.
Fair points. As I said I'm not in favor of lots of POV shifting, I just think a couple chapters from other POVs at key points could add to the story.
You're right about the companion novel, that would have been awesome. In addition to providing some likely great Eilonwy stuff, it could have potentially helped set the stage for the events of the High King. I always found the jump from TW, the most micro-level story in the series, to HK, the most macro-level one, to be a bit jarring. I still think that potential films (again not holding my breath) could fill-in some of the gaps and provide depth--at least how I'd imagine them, haha.
Anyhow, makes for good discussion. Hope I made sense!
Lord of the Rings was the first thing I read that really made me pay attention to POV and how an author uses it. As I recall, Tolkien's POVs followed a strict hierarchy, depending on which characters were present (and conscious) in a scene: Frodo>Sam>Pippin>Merry>Gimli>Aragorn. I think there might also have been one scene from Faramir's POV, when he and Eowyn are alone together in the Houses of Healing.
I always think about that scene as being from the point of view of the sunrise.
The Two Towers is the complicated middle novel, and it's my favorite. Faramir is my favorite character, and the awakening of Théoden is my favorite scene.
So much to catch up!
Yeah, Gurgi can be annoying some times, but he's still noble.
In his way! He's a faithful companion for certain.
There is an impressive amount of insightful analysis and commentary on this page, that I think gets to the heart of the Prydain chronicles and what LA hoped to accomplish with it. I think LA put himself into Taran- his insecurities, his aspirations and his morality and insight. And for his young readers - myself included - Taran was and is a guide for how to grow up, how to mature and begin to look beyond yourself. He's not for everybody - many people never seem to learn the lessons he learned, much less make the sacrifices he made. But for me, he's always been an inspiration and example of what a truly good person should be.
I’ve always hoped my own kids would be similarly inspired to true nobility by Taran’s story...they aren’t terribly interested right now though. With my eldest on the verge of entering the age range Taran is supposed to be at first, I’m seeing much of the same folly and occasionally hopeful signs of the sensitivity!
Thank you for making such amazing comics. This is my favorite book series and I look forward to see you finishing it in the future. I understand that you have a family and a life, and I respect that, I just wanted to thank you for bringing me such joy through these pages!When I discovered this graphic novel, I confess that I was drawn in, and read it in about an entire day, but I love your time, dedication and skill with vivid imagination. You need more recognition! Keep up the good work. ;)
Oh, my, thank you for taking the time to leave a comment! It is my pleasure to do this as I'm sure you've noted by now, but I do love to hear from fans of the series and am so glad for the opportunity to relive Taran's journey together.
You captured this scene really well. There is just something about alpenglow that brings a whole new aspect to things. I had a chance this July to experience a bit of it while hiking up Mt. Elbert in Colorado. Sunrise and sunset in the mountains is a magical time.
I don't know how it is that there's so much talk about the bigness of the Western sky, but none at all about how downright profound the sky is at heights like that. (Or, at least, the word "alpenglow" is a new one to me.) And the shallow lakes up there, with their red lichen... when I went, the Husky broke free, as Huskies are wont, and went tearing through said lakes with the aimless enthusiasm of a kid and the speed of a professional sprinter - but still the strongest impression I have is of the alien beauty of the place.
Believe it or not I've actually been to Mt. Elbert...or at least the town that bears its name; the trip there was harrowing, in the days before GPS - a bunch of college kids, lost, at 3 a.m. If I recall correctly my best friends and I wrote a song about it, a punch-drunk parody of Louie, Louie that demanded of our drivers where on earth we were. Thanks for that memory. LOL
And yes! Sunrise and sunset are profound wherever they are, really, if you catch them right - some of the most beautiful sunsets in my childhood were in the dusty, disc-flat, hot-sky Mississippi Delta, where the combination of dust and, probably, pesticide chemicals in the air combined for some of the most gorgeous blood-red skies imaginable. Now, my favorite sunrise locale is at the beach, watching the star rise out of the Atlantic. Every moment the light and colors change, every dawn the same thing happens and yet every day it's completely new and unique. I'm no poet, but I feel like one, watching it.
Anyway...I'm beginning to realize I've a habit of placing poignant moments in sunrise/sunset in this comic. Subconsciously, for the most part - most of the time I'm checking and re-checking the book trying to figure out exactly how many days have passed from one event to the next, and depicting morning and evening helps me anchor the timeline in my own mind. But it's turning out to be quite the dramatic enhancement, isn't it? Something in daybreak and evening speaks to the soul. Nobody writes poems about high noon, you notice.
True...there was a good movie about it though! ;-)
As the little kid said to Mr. Incredible, "That … was … awesome!"
Thanks! What was really awesome though, was Saeriellyn's lovely descriptions of sunrise and sunset....Funny the comment about the pesticide chemicals in the air, I remember lovely sunsets in North Carolina when I was a kid, when the sky would actually turn to a lovely shade of...green. Years later I realized it was because of chemicals spewing from the local coal fired power plant. Oh well.
What a beautiful page.
Such beautiful eyes in that bottom panel!!