November 28th, 2011, 10:10 am

Being More Than What We Are

I finished "Castle of Llyr" over the Thanksgiving. It didn't take me too long - the Lloyd Alexander book is less than two hundred pages. It doesn't hurt that I practically know the book by heart now. I read the book at least once a year.

"The Castle of Llyr" is the third book in the Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. You may be familiar with the first book in the series - "The Book of Three". I know a lot of people read the book in middle school (I wasn't that lucky.) If its still not ringing any bells, you might have heard of the second book in the series - "The Black Cauldron". "The Black Cauldron" was turned into a Disney animated feature film - and its name inspires infamy as a box office failure (it doesn't help that Disney struggled with the darker elements of the book while still finding time to replace a major character with a cute animal sidekick). "The Castle of Llyr" is the third book in the series.

For who have seen "The Black Cauldron", there are very little of that darkness is "The Castle of Llyr". There are no witches and no undead warriors. Aside from a particularly nasty sorceress, the darkest thing in this book is a giant-sized house cat (which is pretty dark if you've ever cleaned up for a cat before).

The core of this story is a boy and a girl - namely the heroes of the Pyradain Chronicles, Taran and Eilonwy. Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran is charged with accompanying Princess Eilonwy to the Island of Mona, where Eilonwy is, much to her chagrin, to learn to behave like a lady in court. Taran soon learns of a plot against Eilonwy, but his efforts to protect Eilonwy by bossing her around don't go to well. Hilarity ensues - until Eilonwy disappears. Taran must mount a rescue effort - one which includes Prince Rhun, a dim-witted man who hopes to wed Eilonwy, much to Taran's chagrin.

There's a lot of Taran in Jared Davenport. In the foreword, Alexander notes there is always a time "when we must be more than what we are." Whether its the assistant Pig-Keeper like Taran or the son of a superhero like Jared, both characters have lofty dreams of heroes and chivalry. Their perspective is skewed by their expectations. Both have very specific views on what a hero is and isn't - views which are very quickly blown out of the water. Strong-willed Eilonwy forces Taran to re-think his concept of heroism and nobility, often quite hilariously. I hope the same can be said for Lena with Jared, though I may have said too much with that comparison.

Regardless, "The Castle of Llyr" is a book I read every year. Mostly I read it because it is a fantastic, enjoyable, and otherwise short read. But I also read it to remind myself there's always a time "when we must be more than what we are." We often face challenges which far above and beyond our capabilities, but whether we are desk jockeys or Assistant Pig-Keeper, we can find a way to meet our challenges face-to-face - and often heroically than we initially expect.

(That's it for this rant. Check out an new Blue Yonder Wednesday.)

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