The Book of Three, Chapter 16 – Doli

Taran accuses King Eiddileg of hiding the truth about Hen Wen; Eiddileg retorts that Taran didn’t ask him. Eilonwy thinks Eiddileg should be ashamed of himself. The king says that the Fair Folk rescued Hen Wen, who was being pursued by the Horned King’s warriors, and brought her there via underground tunnels, which is why her tracks disappeared. He doesn’t intend to give her up, until Taran says it is a “question of honesty and honor,” to which Eiddileg reacts much as Marty McFly does to being called chicken. He says they can leave, and take Hen Wen with them, and agrees (albeit with much agitated blustering) to supply them with weapons, provisions, and a guide to take them to Caer Dathyl. Eilonwy kisses the top of his head and calls him a “perfectly lovely king.” He hollers at them to get the eff out, but then Taran looks back and sees him “fondling his head and beaming happily.” It’s pretty cute.

They follow the armed guard out of the throne room and into a vaulted dome space, with gems glittering above them as bright as sunlight. The landscape is one of blue lakes and green lichens and dotted with small houses, making the companions feel as if they are outside. Fflewddur wonders if Hen Wen might not be safer to remain here until they can return for her, but Taran says he doesn’t think Eiddileg would make it easy for them to come back, and that he doesn’t want to let Hen Wen out of his sight again. At that there is a “Hwoinch!” from one of the pens, and Taran is reunited with his snuffling, wriggling pig, who is clearly overjoyed to see him. Gurgi reminds everyone that he found her, and Taran assures him that “there’s no chance we’ll forget it.”

They meet their guide, Doli, who has red hair and eyes and carries an axe, a sword, and a bow, so he’s like a third of the Fellowship of the Ring all in one, though of course the character he most resembles is Gimli. In greeting, Doli holds his breath until his face turns bright red, then releases it with a snort. Taran asks him what’s wrong, and Doli says, “You can still see me, can’t you?” Taran is like, of course, why wouldn’t I, and Doli just humphs. The guards bring Melyngar to them, laden with provisions and weapons. Doli leads them up a dark, steep passage and they exit the Fair Folk realm through a waterfall.

Doli has two running gags: he’s grumpy and insults everyone, and he keeps trying to turn invisible by holding his breath. He was always my least favorite of the companions. But he turns out to be an expert guide, leading them much farther than Taran would have thought before night falls and they make camp. Gurgi is now the “official cook and firemaker,” and he proudly serves dinner without even saving “a private share for his own crunchings and munchings later on.” Hen Wen sleeps snuggled up to Taran, snoring and wheezing in his ear. Taran is somehow able to sleep through this cacophony, although I have trouble sleeping when my Boston Terrier puppy snores so I can’t imagine the noise level of a full-grown pig.

In the morning, they resume their travel, and Taran and Fflewddur wonder if they can get Hen Wen to prophesy for them. Eilonwy tries whispering a spell to her, but Hen Wen just grins and “Hwoinch!”es. Taran says they need letter sticks, and hopes that they have some in Caer Dathyl, although he’s learning that “Whatever Dallben has, it seems to be the only one of its kind in all Prydain.” A little later on, they hear a high-pitched shriek coming from a nearby thornbush, which upon investigation turns out to be coming from a gwythaint!