Happy New Year, folks! Let’s get back into recapping the Prydain series, shall we? Some tough times are ahead for Taran, but we’ll get through them together.
After thwarting Taran’s attempt to sneak off, Dorath alleges that he and his men are owed a fee for feeding and sheltering the companions, and for guiding them to the Lake of Llunet. Taran says they’ll reimburse Dorath’s company for the food and shelter, but when it comes to “your protection on our journey, we neither ask it nor want it.” Dorath says that Taran has broken their bargain, and demands Taran’s sword as payment. Taran says no way, the sword was a gift from Dallben and girded on him by Eilonwy. Dorath, scoffing at Taran’s sentimentality, challenges him to an unarmed fight, and the winner will keep the sword. Taran can’t see a way to get out of it, given that the companions are outnumbered, so he agrees.
The two men start fighting. Taran begins to get an advantage, so naturally Dorath cheats, pulling a dagger from his boot. Once again, Taran considers sounding the Fair Folk horn, but instead he uses his cloak to defend against the dagger, ripping it from Dorath’s hand. Dorath cheats again, throwing a handful of dirt and pebbles into Taran’s face. He then kicks Taran in the ribs, laughs at him, and leaves with Taran’s sword. All things considered, I think it’s safe to conclude Dorath is not very nice.
|The only cover art to feature Craddoc.
Guess he’s not as photogenic as Morda.
Gurgi bandages Taran’s wounds, and the companions ride deeper into the Hill Cantrevs. Taran is smarting from the loss of his sword, but Fflewddur and Gurgi agree he was wise not to play “Hot Cross Buns” and waste the battle horn’s single call. Llyan spots a lost lamb trapped in a bramble bush. Fflewddur distracts by playing his harp, while Gurgi and Taran free the lamb. A scarred, weathered-looking herdsman appears, leaning on a crutch, and says the lamb is his. Taran immediately gives it to him, and the man, who was expecting a fight, is surprised and grateful. He introduces himself as Craddoc and invites the companions to his home to share a meal.
Gurgi carries the lamb, while Taran helps the limping Craddoc up the steep path. They come to his humble cottage, which is full of weeds and showing signs of various half-done repairs. He needs the “House Crashers” TV crew! Taran notices that a spinning wheel, abandoned in a corner, “betokened a woman’s tasks” but that there is clearly no woman living with Craddoc anymore. I can’t tell if it’s Taran or Alexander being sexist here, but either way, why does spinning have to be women’s work? Ah well.
Craddoc says that the land used to be much fairer and that “certain lords” tried to claim it for themselves. He and his friends fought to defend what was theirs. Many of them died, and Craddoc’s leg was maimed, but he was too proud to leave his land and go into service somewhere else. Taran tells Craddoc of his quest to find his parents. Craddoc seems about to respond, then abruptly goes out to check on his sheep. Taran tells Fflewddur he wishes he could help Craddoc, but “he needs more than I can give.”
Craddoc returns and urges the companions to stay the night. They eat some lembas and jerky from Gurgi’s magical wallet, then Craddoc tells a story of another “lost lamb.” Years ago, his wife died in childbirth, and he felt guilty for insisting they stay on the land, instead of taking her somewhere she could have had an easier birth. Her dying wish was for him to take the baby elsewhere, but he was too stubborn. In a few months, his son became sickly, and Craddoc was sure the boy was going to die. Then a passing stranger came along and, with Craddoc’s consent, took the boy away for a chance at a better life. And the stranger’s name… wait for it… was Dallben! Boom! Craddoc is totally Taran’s dad!