“Renton, people shouldn’t use up any more energy than what the sun shines down upon us. When you try to use up more than that, you end up having to dig for scubs to drain energy from, or having to build towers. You don’t have to do that. People can survive on what little land they are given to them.”
~Will Baxter, Eureka Seven
The announcement of Eureka Seven Ao last December sparked my dormant interest in its parent story, a story I began several months earlier and neglected six episodes later. Fueled by Twitter’s enthusiasm, I revisited Eureka Seven, swiftly engrossed in its universe. And as I huddled over the flicker of the 3.5” screen of my iPod Touch during the morning’s wee hours, Renton’s convalescence and education at the hands of William B. Baxter awoke memories of another tale. A tale of a young man on a journey not unlike Renton’s, encountering influential individuals not unlike Will Baxter. That tale was Lloyd Alexander’s juvenile epic, The Prydain Chronicles, and as a youth its perspective on everyday life influenced my own outlook on the world.
A children’s fantasy loosely based on Welsh mythology, Alexander’s tale focuses on the journey of a young orphan, Taran of Caer Dallben, as he is molded by the tumultuous events of life in Welsh-styled Prydain. Like Renton, the fatherless Taran yearns for the exciting experiences of the outside world beyond humble Caer Dallben, and in Taran Wanderer, the fourth novel of Alexander’s five book series, he journeys in hopes of discovering a noble birthright within the fog of his unknown heritage. His travel experiences, however, cast a pall on both the ardor of nobility and his own motives in seeking his own past.
“Secret? Have you not already guessed? Why my luck’s no greater than yours or any man’s. You need only sharpen your eyes to see your luck when it comes, and sharpen your wits to use what falls into your hands. . . . Trust your luck, Taran Wanderer. But don’t forget to put out your nets!”
~Llonio son of Llonwen, Taran Wanderer
After discarding the original purpose of his travels, Taran wanders aimlessly through Prydain, where he encounters the humble lifestyle of the farmer Llonio and his ample household. Like Will Baxter, Llonio’s view of life isn’t a struggle to assert his existence, erecting towers or creating an honorable legacy. With the assistance of luck and keen observation, Llonio supports his brood through the simple provision of the land—the tidings of a small stream or the detritus strewn about the earth by man and beast. And a meal that begins with a lone egg soon sees a pot overflowing with the loam’s bounty—savory herbs, a handful of flour, milk, cheese, and honeycomb—a feast fit for a family of eight and two guests, not for a meal but for a weekend.
Fed both physically and mentally by his convalescence with the farmer Llonio’s family and regirded for his journey of self-discovery, Taran again tramped through Prydain, this time hobnobbing not with the countryside noblemen but the common folk; the village artisans whose livelihood wasn’t measured in wealth and influence but in the relationships developed through their handiwork. Admiring the passion for their craft, Taran hunts for his self through apprenticeship as a blacksmith, a weaver, and finally a potter. While competent in these crafts, Taran learns that he is also not defined by them but by his experiences, decisions and relationships. Like Renton, Taran realizes the value of the home and family left behind, and returns able to do “all he set his hand to, whatever.”
“I saw myself. In the time I watched, I saw strength—and frailty. Pride and vanity, courage and fear. Of wisdom, a little. Of folly, much. Of intentions, many good ones; but many more left undone. In this, alas, I saw myself a man like any other. . . . Caer Dallben waits for me, as it has always waited. My life is there, and gladly I return to it.”
~Taran of Caer Dallben, Taran Wanderer
Now, Taran’s lessons served as a foundation not merely for a humble lifestyle but as a stepping stone for a nobler legacy, if beguiled by the mists of time and fiction. But for a twelve-year-old lad raised on epic grandeur the concept of satisfaction in a common life well-lived within the provision of land and company was appealing. The recognition that self-worth wasn’t defined by status or accomplishment was affirming at a time when a child begins to come to grips with life’s social realities. And seeing Will Baxter provide Renton with a similar education—again in preparation for greater responsibility—was a trip down memory lane that not only awakens fond remembrances but also an opportunity to reflect on how my own journey has shaped me since youth—the experiences, the decisions, the relationships—the provisions of the environment and people around me, no matter their humble status.
And now, dear Readers, I implore you: what tales from your childhood—either sketched in print or illuminated electronically—influenced you, and how have you seen these influences reflected in anime?