Friday, June 15, 2007

Taran Wanderer

Book Four of the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander

This has forever and always been my favorite book of the series. It is bristling with stickie notes marking passages that speak to me. There are many pages with a corner turned down, indicating passages that have spoken to me.

In TARAN WANDERER, Taran leaves home in search of his true identity and in search of his parents. He is still a little obsessed with being born of noble blood so that he will be worthy of Eilowny, but by now, the reader (and Gurgi), at least, know that his nobility has nothing to do with his parents. He is engaged in the universal process of a person striving to become his own (noble) self.

Reading this book was a real surprise. I kept waiting and waiting for the part when Taran learns from the craftsmen of the Free Commots. In my memory, that was the whole book, but in reality it is only the final third! Before Taran gets to the Commots, he meets a king who rules with an iron fist who needs to learn compassion and mediation, and another who believes himself to be generous, but who is actually very stingy. "Indeed, is a man truly what he sees himself to be?" Taran wonders.

In two moments of foreshadowing, Taran learns that the people of the Free Commots are not beholden to any Cantrev Lord, rather they rule themselves. "Indeed, true allegiance is only given willingly," Taran muses. (Perhaps not the USA in actuality, but certainly the ideals of our country.) And Taran has an opportunity to mediate a conflict between the iron-fisted ruler and the not-so-generous ruler, showing a glimmer of leadership skills that will be a part of his destiny later on.

Here's more on the Free Commots: " man lords it over his fellows because he had the luck to be born in a king's castle instead of a farmer's hut. What matters in the Free Commots is the skill in a man's hands, not the blood in his veins."

And here's what Taran learns in the Free Commots:

"Life's a matter of luck. Trust it, and a man's bound to find what he seeks, one day or the next...Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer. But don't forget to put our your nets!" (Which I've also heard as "Trust Allah, but tie your camels!")

"Life's a forge! ...Yes, and hammer and anvil, too! You'll be roasted, smelted, and pounded, and you'll scarce know what's happening to you. But stand boldly to it! Metal's worthless till it's shaped and tempered!"

Life is "...a loom, rather, where lives and days intertwine; and wise is he who can learn to see the pattern."

"Craftsmanship isn't like water in an earthen pot, to be taken out by the dipperful until it's empty. No, the more drawn out the more remains. The heart renews itself, Wanderer, and skill grows all the better for it."

"Stale water is a poor drink. Stale skill is worse. And the man who walks in his own footsteps only ends where he began."

The quest for one's true self never ends. Because of that, this book remains timeless in its messages to those who seek to be more than they are at the moment.

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