09 May 2013 @ 02:59 pm
“It had never occurred to him until now that a hero would sleep on the ground”  

Finally finished the first Prydain book (Book of Three) today. There are some books that you don’t get around to reading long past when everyone else does, and you don’t really know why.

I was in just the right mood for this sort of immersive otherworld adventure, and I enjoyed it lots and lots, in spite of a few reservations: that Taran is a bit of a twit (but he’s supposed to be), that several characters are built largely around a single conversational tic or two (“munchings and crunchings” are fine and even lovely, “a Fflam always” was beginning to push it), and most of all the fear that as likable a female character as Eilonwy is likely to get tamed in later books rather than being allowed the spirited adventure-seeking life she deserved (Gwydion went down many notches in my regard when he began simultaneously flirting with and dismissing her).

But that’s not the real reason for this post. The real reason is a conversation lnhammer, who’d been rightfully telling me I needed to read these books for years.

Me: “I already knew Taran was an assistant pig-keeper. But I didn’t know the pig was important.”
lnhammer (looking up): “Some pig.”

Fanficcers, your mission is clear.

Mirrored from Desert Dispatches: Wordpress Edition.

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( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Rachel M Brown: Books: oldrachelmanija on May 9th, 2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
Eilonwy has some great moments coming up and remains spunky, but I doubt that you'll be happy with her overall treatment. It's not so much that her character gets more passive, as that the plot doesn't let her do that much. Unfortunately, the book which focuses on her is probably her worst portrayal.

Have you read Alexander's Westmark series? That has fantastic female characters, of many different varieties. There's one in particular who reminds me of what Eilonwy might have been had she been the co-protagonist rather than a supporting character.

Regarding the other characters, they keep their conversational tics but accrete a lot more characterization and depth as the story goes on. I don't think its spoilery to say that Taran grows up a lot over the course of the series - when I last re-read the books, it cracked me up how immature he was in this book.
Janni Lee Simner: Susan Pevensiejanni on May 9th, 2013 11:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, Taran's immaturity in the first book was so clearly deliberate it was hard to be irritated with it, except perhaps for its heavy handedness.

The summary I came upon for the Eilonwy focused book (something about how she has to stop being a heroine among heroes and start being a princess) did not give me much hope.

But yes about Westmark. I remember liking those books and the main female character a lot. He wrote those books later, right? They do strike me ... not as better books, but as more mature books.

(There have been authors where I look at a book that I know is more mature and stronger and find I can't love it as much in spite of this. Not here--I think I do tend toward Westmark slightly more so far, though its been ages. And there are things Prydain does, that are things I like, that Westmark isn't set up to do or trying to do. So in this case, "mature" doesn't mean better or worse but really just "different.")

Edited at 2013-05-09 11:20 pm (UTC)
fjmfjm on May 10th, 2013 02:12 am (UTC)
She gets to be a different kind of hero, and she is never really "a lady".
Janni Lee Simner: Susan Pevensiejanni on May 10th, 2013 04:13 am (UTC)
That's ... potentially hopeful.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on May 9th, 2013 10:53 pm (UTC)
I read the Prydain books as they came out, Eilonwy starting out at my age. She was my favorite character, and compared to so many other books, she had marvelous agency . . . until she got older. They didn't wear well for me (though are still worth reading!)

I think the best is the second one.
Janni Lee Simner: Susan Pevensiejanni on May 9th, 2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
There's a sort of spirited girl who in books before a certain time routinely gets tamed and civilized by the end, and loses her agency along the way ... Eilonwy strikes me as very much in this vein.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on May 9th, 2013 11:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah--I think Jo March was the model in American kidzlit.

Malkin Greymalkingrey on May 9th, 2013 11:45 pm (UTC)
I Have to Beg to Differ
The thing about Jo March is that she doesn't settle . . . she makes her choices and she sticks by them, and by the end of the books, in Jo's Boys, she's got the husband and the kids and the successful school and the writing career -- she's even got fans.

Jo wins, and I love her for it.
fjmfjm on May 10th, 2013 02:13 am (UTC)
I don't want to give away too much, but in book 5 Eilonwy takes on a rapist. She sent tamed that much.
Marissa Lingenmrissa on May 10th, 2013 03:14 am (UTC)
Re: I Have to Beg to Differ
Yes. This.

Of all people, LMA knew what victories for women of her age and class looked like, and she wrote Jo a happier ending than she got herself, by a longshot.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on May 10th, 2013 03:17 am (UTC)
Re: I Have to Beg to Differ
Yes indeed.
Sherwood Smithsartorias on May 10th, 2013 03:17 am (UTC)
Re: I Have to Beg to Differ
I do, too. But she does learn to tame herself, not to give up her dreams.

There's another Victorian writer (English) , who wrote at the same time as Alcott, who kept returning to the theme of wild, unconventional girls. They have varying endings, but most of the time the unconforming, impulsive girl is the one who comes off best. (Especially if they are Irish!)
Janni Lee Simner: Susan Pevensiejanni on May 10th, 2013 04:18 am (UTC)
Re: I Have to Beg to Differ
All of which makes clear I really need to read beyond Little Women some day. Mostly, I remember being annoyed at her being told she could do "better" than genre writing.

Also, I never understood why she and Laurie were incompatible, but that's irrelevant to the question at hand. :-)

And in spite of these things, her ending (as of Little Women) never did actually make me want to throw the book across the room. She seemed happy, in a way that I actually did believe.
fjmfjm on May 10th, 2013 02:14 am (UTC)
I love these books do much. My favourite is Taran Wanderer. On one level it's "middle book", education and training. And yet its so much more. Re book 5: you need a hankie.
Janni Lee Simnerjanni on May 10th, 2013 04:19 am (UTC)
This is lnhammer's favorite, too.
Rachel M Brown: Books: oldrachelmanija on May 11th, 2013 03:13 am (UTC)
That's my favorite too, with The Black Cauldron a very close second. The last book is great too, but... well, the but is spoilery. The only one I don't much like is The Castle of Llyr.
madrobinsmadrobins on May 10th, 2013 03:08 pm (UTC)
"That'll do, Pig."

One of the many pleasures of the Prydain books is watching Taran go from Twit to not-twit. My recollection is (and I haven't read the books in many years, and why on Earth is that?) that Eilonwy continues to be adventuresome and kick-ass, at least as long as Taran does. I should really re-read these books.
(Anonymous) on May 10th, 2013 05:30 pm (UTC)
I think your fears re Eilonwy will be assuaged as you keep reading. Taran stays a bit of a twit, but, yeah, by author's choice and not, now that I think of it, unlike some of Harry Potter's wisdom in the later books in that series.

Even Gurgi will get layers, I think.

LOVE the pig conversation. :)
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