In my reading life, I often come across characters I would like to be, or to be friends with. Eilonwy is both. Heir to the House of Llyr and daughter of a formidable enchantress, Eilonwy wields powers of her own. She’s the keeper of a golden bauble that turns out to be a magical artifact known as the Golden Pelydren.
The princess is fairy tale lovely – slender of build with red-gold hair and blue eyes – but is given to dressing simply and prefers bare feet to boots. When sent away for a more proper upbringing, Eilonwy is indignant.
“What! I don’t care about being a princess! And since I’m already a young lady, how else could I behave? That’s like asking a fish not to swim!”
She’s quick-witted, outspoken, impatient. She’s also good-hearted and deeply caring. It’s a nice balance for the broody irritableness in which Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran stews for a goodly part of the first three books. Though she starts as an annoyance, albeit a capable and helpful one, their friendship grows into something much greater.
Eilonwy is a fighter. Through strength of will she resists a bewitchment and sacrifices the Book of Llyr, an irreplaceable tome of spells, to save her companions.
Told to stay behind during battle, she refuses to sit by when those she cares for are in peril.
“’Go back’ Taran shouted at the top of his voice.’Have you lost your wits?’
Eilonwy, for it was she, half-halted. She had tucked her plaited hair under a leather helmet. The Princess of Llyr smiled cheerfully at him. ‘I understand you’re upset,’ she shouted back, ‘but that’s no cause to be rude.’ She galloped on.”
With her magic and the light of the Golden Pelydren, she alerts her friends to a trap and simultaneously fulfills part of a prophecy. As you do. When the battles are done and Prydain reclaimed, all things magical must depart for the Summer Country. Taran is offered the opportunity to travel with them, to be with Eilonwy forever, but makes the heartbreaking choice to remain behind. He made promises to those who gave their lives for freedom, for peace. She accepts this… briefly.
“Eilonwy was about to turn away, but suddenly her blue eyes flashed furiously and she stamped her foot. “It’s not fair!” she cried. “It’s not my fault I was born into a family of enchantresses. I didn’t ask for magical powers. That’s worse than being made to wear a pair of shoes that doesn’t fit! I don’t see why I have to keep them!”
She relinquishes her magic, choosing a mortal life with the one she loves. She’s fierce, determined, passionate, and fully in charge of her own destiny: all things I continue to strive for. I might never be Eilonwy, but I’m so glad I know her.
**Huge thanks to saeriellyn for amazing Eilonwy/Prydain fan art**
Honorable mention: Errol the Swamp Dragon