I loved mythology and fantasy as a child. I suppose that was inevitable, considering that my mom, as a nine-year-old, attended the world premiere of the Wizard of Oz. More to the point, I was lost in a haze of my own thoughts almost all of the time. My parents were not neglectful, but were certainly uninterested in us children. My brother bullied me constantly, and my sister ignored me.
By the time I was ten years old, I had read the Greek Myths, all of the Oz books, the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, the Narnia series, Grimm's Fairy Tales, etc., etc. etc.. So it was natural that, when I heard about Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain, I would run to read them. And so I did. As much as I loved the whole series, it was Taran Wanderer which struck me the hardest.
More below the orange waves:
To make a long story short, Taran Wanderer details the journey of an assistant pig-keeper, as he tries to find out who he really is. Along the way, he meets many people, faces mortality, struggles against magic, and learns to accept himself. The title of the first chapter sets up the whole narrative: Who Am I?
As Taran wandered and tarried, I was caught up in his journey. At the age of ten, I was asking myself, for the first time, that very same question. I had been introduced to archaeology that year, and had heard Louis Leakey speaking at the local community college that year. So, for the first time, I had a tangible ambition for my life. But who was I really? I wondered.
At times like this in life, it helps to have a mentor. Mine was a teacher named Mrs. Duncan. It was through her I learned of the Maya, ended up sifting dirt at a burial site, took innumerable field trips to explore nature, religion and art, and, most importantly, embraced the reader that I already was. I don't know who I might have become without her influence, but I do know that my love for learning began with Mrs. Duncan. To this day, I remain curious, driven ever to expand my knowledge and remain open to ideas.
Taran Wanderer was different than the first three books in the Prydain series. They were more "epic" or "heroic". This book was an inner journey, which led me to seek myself as I follow Taran through his travels. One quote still resonates today:
Llonio said life was a net for luck; to Hevydd the Smith life was a forge; and to Dwyvach the Weaver-Woman a loom. They spoke truly, for it is all of these. But you,' Taran said, his eyes meeting the potter's, 'you have shown me life is one thing more. It is clay to be shaped, as raw clay on a potter's wheel.I had not, up to that point of my life, thought about what the future held, or how I would influence it. After reading Taran Wanderer, I became open to a world of possibilities. A world that saw me embrace a career unheard of in my family, become the first person in my family in five generations to go East, and, in general, to live with courage, accepting who I was. Now, all of that was filtered through a Pandora's Box of family dysfunction, addiction and all that mess, but that's a story for another time. Today, I leave you with Hope.