Fflewddur Fflam

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Fflewddur Fflam, son of Godo, is a cantrev lord in the fictional country of Prydain in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. He is referred to as a King, but makes it perfectly clear that he is a very minor king of a tiny kingdom at best, much less important than the High King who is the ruler of Prydain. His kingdom is described as being dreary and dull. As a result, he often leaves it to go wandering about as the world's most unofficial bard in the mystical land of Prydain. Though he returns from time to time to rule, he once mentions that he gets the feeling that the people of his country get along just fine even if he is not there.

Character description[edit]

Fflewddur is described as a tall, thin man with spiky blonde hair, although in the Disney film The Black Cauldron he is depicted as a white-haired older man, semi-lanky, with a bit of a pot belly. The Disney version of Fflewddur has apparently been stripped of his royalty, or at least it never gets mentioned, and is the object of intense, disturbing attraction from the overweight enchantress Orwen, one of the witches of Morva (especially when he repeatedly rejects the advances of Orwen the witch). However, Fflewddur stands up to the witches so that they can revive Gurgi at the end of the film. (The reason why Taran wants to trade the Cauldron for Gurgi is that he never needs a sword to be a hero.) He is voiced by Nigel Hawthorne, who would later go on to voice Professor Porter in Tarzan.

In the film and its sequels, one of the witches of Morva, Orwen, has a soft spot for Fflewddur. Fflewddur becomes increasingly frustrated with Orwen's insistence they marry and repeatedly rejects her advances because he knows his companions Taran and Eilonwy are more important than being involved with the three witches of Morva.

Fflewddur Fflam is a good-hearted soul, much less interested in the pomp and circumstance of his role than in doing right—if children wander into his throne room, he'd far rather play hide-and-seek with them than chase them out. Inside, though, he has the heart of a bard; he is restless and prone to wanderlust, and in fact he is mostly met more or less accidentally on one on his wanderings. His catchphrase is "Great Belin!"

Alexander has indicated that he modeled Fflewddur Flam partly after himself: "Rumor has is that we have very similar personalities. I will neither confirm nor deny that".[1]

Despite his bard training and the use of a magical harp, Fflewddur has a distinct manaphobia (fear of magic), and is especially fearful about what he considers "black magic". He steadfastly refuses even to look at magic things unless they have proven themselves to be harmless (like Eilonwy's Pelydryn) or are bardic in nature (his own harp and Adaon's brooch).

Character history[edit]

After obtaining a harp and practicing, Fflewddur set out for Caer Dathyl, the seat of the High King and Chief Bard Taliesin, hoping to be admitted. Unfortunately, his tests did not go at all well. However, the Chief Bard took pity on him and offered him a wonderful gift in the form of a magical harp that "almost plays itself," in Fflewddur Fflam's delighted words. Unfortunately, the harp has a flaw: Every time Fflewddur Fflam stretches the truth, a string will snap on the harp. This happens often, for he is frequently inclined to "add a little color the facts. They need them so badly." Fflewddur's penchant for theatrical exaggeration ensures that he spends more time mending the harp than playing it; even so, he is able to make beautiful music when he is called upon to do so (or whenever he feels in the mood). Alexander has said that this property of Fflewddur's harp had been inspired by a harp in his possession whose strings kept breaking because of temperature changes.[2] At the end of The Book of Three, Fflewddur is rewarded for his services with a single magical harp string that will not break, no matter how outrageously he lies.[3]

Fflewddur Fflam meets the hero of the series, Taran, and Princess Eilonwy at Spiral Castle, the home of Queen Achren. Purportedly having no ear for music, Achren imprisoned him in her dungeons, where Eilonwy mistakenly frees him on Taran's request. The three become good friends and end up sharing many adventures together.

Besides his harp, Fflewddur Fflam has another unique possession, if it may be called that, in the form of a giant mountain cat named Llyan, easily big enough to ride as a horse. Llyan was enlarged by a series of potions force-fed to her by Glew, an unsuccessful would-be wizard turned giant by the same potion that made Llyan grow so large. Llyan loves Fflewddur Fflam's harp music; it is often the only thing that can calm her when she is agitated.

In The High King, Fflewddur shows his courage by accompanying Taran, Eilonwy, Gurgi, Doli, and the Commot Folk to hold back the Cauldron Born and infiltrate Annuvin. When the group is in danger of death from the cold, he breaks his enchanted harp and has Doli set it on fire to warm them. Because of the magic of the harp, the fire burns long and warm. When it finally goes out, all that is left is the magical unbreakable string.

At the end of The High King, Fflewddur is told he must leave Prydain for the Summer Country as he is (distantly) related to the Sons of Don. Though Fflewddur is reluctant to leave, he is assured that Llyan will remain with him and that he will be given a new harp, with strings that won't break. Before leaving, he gives the last piece of his enchanted harp to Taran: the unbreakable magical string he had received in The Book of Three.[4]

As with many other characters in the Chronicles, Fflewddur Fflam is based on a character in the Mabinogion, a collection of Welsh legends. Fflewddur Fflam is mentioned in two of the legends as a prince at King Arthur's court, but little else is revealed about him.[5]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "A Visit With Lloyd Alexander"
  2. ^ "A Visit With Lloyd Alexander"
  3. ^ The Book of Three
  4. ^ The High King
  5. ^ The Prydain companion: a reference guide to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain chronicles by Michael O. Tunnell, Lloyd Alexander. page 99.