The Castle of Llyr, Chapter 14 – The Empty Book
Taran thanks Rhun for saving their lives, and asked how he managed to climb down into the cavern. An apologetic Rhun says he didn’t climb, just jumped, and now he’s afraid he’s trapped them again. Taran says they can form a ladder like last time, but then Fflewddur points out a crack in the wall where Glew’s roars shook the rock apart. Glew is still unconscious, and Fflewddur wants to dispatch him, but Taran takes pity and plans to ask Dallben to help the sad giant, despite everything. He’s a good egg, that Taran.
As the companions start to pick their way through the rocks, Rhun suddenly misses the book they found in Glew’s hut and goes back to look for it. It’s lying on the floor of the cavern, but by the light of the bauble they can see that it’s no longer empty – every page is covered with writing! Rhun is sad that it can no longer be used as a notebook, but Taran recognizes the script as ancient and carefully written. They leave the cavern, and in the sunlight, Taran tries to show the writing to Fflewddur – but it’s gone! Some confusion ensues, until they finally realize that the writing can only be seen by the light of the bauble. Fflewddur can’t read it, and says the book makes him uneasy; he recommends they destroy it. But Taran wants to solve the mystery and decides to hold onto it.
They arrive at the riverbank and find the remnants of their raft. By nightfall, they’ve repaired it and are afloat down the river. Taran wonders aloud why the bauble lit for Rhun, when it had never done so before. Fflewddur says that he knows a lot about these kinds of enchantments, causing a harp string to break (which I think is only the second time that’s happened in this book, and I must say I’m glad Alexander decided to go easy on that gimmick in subsequent books, after its heavy usage in The Book of Three). He amends that he knows very little about them, but if pressed, he’d say that the bauble seems to light when you are thinking more of others than of yourself. Taran remembers that when he thought of Eilonwy, the bauble glowed, and so it must have worked for Rhun when he was ready to sacrifice his own safety to help the others. Fflewddur says once you learn to put others ahead of yourself, “you’ve discovered a great secret indeed,” which is the kind of moralizing sentiment I’d expect more from Gwydion than from the bard. And speaking of Gwydion, he shows up again at the very end of the chapter: the river ends in a bay, and the companions pole the raft to shore. Taran walks up the hill in the moonlight, and his old buddy Gwydion warns him from the shadows to be careful: “Achren’s eyes are sharp.” Things are about to get good!
I don't get a sense of moralizing sentiment from Fflewddur here. In fact I find it a pattern that in the midst of all his comedic relief, every now and then he has something surprisingly profound to say – isn't he the one who explains, in TBC, how knowledge, truth, and love are in their summation one of the greatest powers there is? I think he's more or less the voice of the author in a lot of ways – both in wisdom and humor – and his occasional proverbs come out with a lot more simplicity than Gwydion's constant pontificating.
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