The Castle of Llyr


Lloyd Alexander


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

November 20, 2022

he Castle of Llyr is the third book in the classic children's series The Chronicles of Prydain. First published in 1966, this timeless tale can still be enjoyed by readers of all ages. I first read it decades ago, and forgot almost all of it. Which made my rereading seem like a new story. The Castle of Llyr is not as dark a story as the first two books, the machinations of the dark Lord Arawn do not appear in this tale. But our brave companions do face peril, and must triumph with a mixture of courage, luck and fortitude. Once again, Taran learns that the world works differently than he expects, as he takes another step on the road to maturity. Taran is again accompanied by his faithful companions Gurgi and Fflewddur. Unfortunately, Princess Eilonwy is off stage for much of this tale, so her banter with Taran is missed. Once again, Gwydion, the Prince of Don, makes an appearance, just as he did in the first two books - I didn't even remember him from my first reading, but he has played a crucial role in every story so far. Joining the companions is the inept Prince Rhun, the son of the King and Queen of the Isle of Mona. Prince Rhun is good-natured and earnest in all of his attempts to participate, but he is unfortunately clumsy and unskilled in just about everything. But, Rhun is a prince, much to Taran's exasperation; whilst Taran's only title is Assistant Pig-Keeper, which is not the loftiest of positions in Prydain.

The novel begins with Dallben's decision to send Princess Eilonwy to the Isle of Mona to learn the art of becoming a princess. Eilonwy has been working as a scullery maid at Caer Dallben and doesn't mind the work, but her royal blood means she must soon assume the responsibilities of being the heir to the Royal House of Llyr. The plan is have Taran and Gurgi accompany her to the Isle of Mona, and once she is safely ensconced in a role suitable for her position, Taran and Gurgi will sail back to Caer Dallben. Taran is deeply troubled in his heart by this decision, even as he knows in his mind accepts that Dallben's decision is the correct thing to do. Although it is obvious to the reader that Eilonwy and Taran love each other, Taran cannot admit it to himself; Taran knows that Assistant Pig-Keepers do not marry princesses, no matter how much he wishes things were otherwise.

Taran and Gurgi and Coll accompany Eilonwy to the nearest harbor, where they meet a ship from the Royal House of Mona. Stumbling down the gangplank, and ultimately tripping and falling into the water, is Prince Rhun. With boundless cheer, Rhun welcomes Eilonwy aboard. Coll takes the horses back to Caer Dallben, and the companions set sail. It soon becomes clear that although Prince Rhun is nominally in charge of the ship, the sailors ignore his commands and stick to doing their jobs correctly. Taran is stunned that such an incompetent young man can be a prince.

The ship lands at the Isle of Mona, and Eilonwy is welcomed by the King and Queen. Soon Eilonwy will learn essential skills such as embroidery - princesses don't go out on adventures! The only good news is that Taran discovers that his good friend Fflewddur is working as a bard at the Castle of Mona, and so the companions are reunited. Taran also discovers that Prince Gwydion is in disguise at the castle, and he warns Taran that Eilonwy is in terrible danger. The dreaded sorceress Achren did not perish with the collapse of the Spiral Castle, and now Achren has set her sights upon Eilonwy and her royal magical heritage. Gwydion warns Taran that he must protect Eilonwy at all costs!

Naturally, things quickly go awry, and adventure ensues. And inevitably, Prince Rhun ends up with Taran and his companions as they try to rescue Eilonwy. Danger and magic and feats of daring are the result.

I enjoyed my reread of The Castle of Llyr and will now move onto book 4. Hopefully new generations of readers are discovering these tales and enjoying them also.