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Rowan and the Travellers
General information
Series

Rowan of Rin

Author

Emily Rodda

Publication
Publisher

Scholastic Press

Published

1994

Chronology
Preceded by

Rowan of Rin

Followed by

Rowan and the Keeper of the Crystal

Rowan and the Travellers is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the second book in the Rowan of Rin series. The book takes place six months after the events of Rowan of Rin.[1][2]

Book description[]

A mysterious danger threatens Rowan's village, Rin. But who is the enemy? And what is the strange spell that is putting all the townspeople to sleep?

The Travellers, a roaming people who are friends of Rin, might be able to help, but Rowan isn't sure he can trust them. Especially since they tell him that to find the answers to Rin's problems, Rowan must go to the legendary, noxious Pit of Unrin, from which no living thing has ever returned.[1]

Plot[]

It is Springtime, and the Travellers are on their way to Rin. Seeing the Forerunners' kites in the sky, the children of Rin excitedly spread the news of their arrival. This is good news to some because the Travellers bring with them games, stories, music, dancing, and trade. For others, the arrival of the “Slips” is bad news because they will disrupt the settled life of Rin, as they do not care for rules and hard work. By the bukshah pool, Rowan is unsurprised as the restless bukshah had raised their heads towards the hills, having heard the Travellers' pipes. Among the happy are Strong Jonn of the orchard and Timon the teacher, as well as Allun the Baker and his mother Sara who have a close relationship with the Travellers. Allun is excited to share the tale of the journey up the Mountain. However, Sara feels a flicker of fear as she wonders why the Travellers have returned a second year in a row – an unusual action for the nomadic people.

Unlike Sara and Allun, Bree and Hanna of the gardens despise the Travellers’ arrival. Food from the gardens always have a habit of disappearing in the night when Travellers are present. This year in particular warrants stronger protection of the gardens because of the new plant brought down from the Mountain by Allun. The Mountain berries are delicious – sweeter than the hoopberries in the orchard – and guarantee wealth. Not wanting the Travellers to find out about this new crop, Bree and Hanna call for a meeting. As the meeting bell rings, Sheba the Wise Woman jerks awake, plagued by words and images – three kites, Rowan’s face, and a golden owl with emerald eyes. Sheba stands up and realises she must go about her work, and makes her way to the hills to collect slip-daisy roots.

Jonn, Allun, Marlie and Rowan stand on the hills for the Welcoming, ready to meet the approaching Forerunners. The middle Forerunner blows a pipe, signalling to the Travellers waiting safely in the distance. As they descend, Allun tells of his regrets, of leaving before he could train as a Forerunner – a dream of all Traveller children. The Forerunners land, approach the welcoming party, and accept the slip-daisy leaf held out by Jonn. The middle Forerunner introduces herself as Zeel, adopted daughter of Ogden the storyteller. She explains the Travellers have no news to share, and there is no special reason for their visit. Unconvinced, Jonn tells Rowan to notify the village of the Travellers’ explanation. As Rowan runs towards the village, his eyes begin to water and his nose becomes blocked, brought on by the slip-daisy’s pollen. Rowan thinks of the strength he lacks as he is the only one in the village who is affected by the slip-daisy’s pollen, and the only one who drinks the 'vile concoction' made by Sheba. As he enters the shade of the orchard, his eyes adjust too slowly to notice Sheba and is stopped by her grip on his shoulder.

Sheba's grip tightens as she begins telling Rowan of the slip-daisy roots she picked for her concoction – enough to fill a cauldron. She asks why the Travellers have come, and knows the Travellers have lied. Rowan tries to find out what Sheba knows, but is met with anger and insults of his fearful nature. Shocked at first, Rowan looks to the Mountain and remembers the lesson it taught – "only fools do not fear". He stands his ground, and when Sheba's jeering expression drops, he notices her fear. Sheba tells Rowan of the words and images that plagues her, when suddenly she begins to quiver, her eyes roll back in her head, and she begins to chant:

Beneath soft looks the evil burns,
And slowly round the old wheel turns.
The same mistakes, the same old pride,
The priceless armour cast aside.
The secret enemy is here.
It hides in darkness, fools beware!
For day by day its power grows,
And when at last its face it shows,
Then past and present tales will meet—
The evil circle is complete ..."

The words run round in Rowan's head, and his breath catches in his chest when he becomes aware of one line – "The secret enemy is here".

When Rowan finally reaches the village square, he is met with an impatient crowd. He takes in the different emotions of the villagers as he deliberates over telling everyone about Sheba's rhyme and his thoughts that the Travellers were lying. Wanting to seek Jiller's and Jon's advice first, Rowan simply repeats the Travellers words. Some of the villagers are suspicious of the Travellers' reason for visiting and worry about their secret mountain berries being discovered. Lann decides to prohibit the Travellers from entering the village, despite the mistrust such a choice may cause. As Rowan leaves the meeting feeling uncomfortable with the decision, he is stopped by Annad who asks where he is going. Rowan explains he needs to return the bukshah to their fields because they strayed and is met with a "why?". Rowan jokingly answers the question and assures Annad that he will meet Jiller, Jon and her at the Travellers' camp if he misses dinner. Thinking about Annad's curious mind and her constant questions of "why", Rowan makes his way to the bukshah pool. Seeing the beasts have strayed again, Rowan asks the same question. He wonders why, in an unchanging village, have the bukshah strayed, the Travellers returned, and Sheba become afraid at the same time. Wondering if its bad luck or all connected, Sheba's rhyme rings in his mind.

Still with worries, Rowan nevertheless joins the others visiting the Travellers camp in the evening to hear Ogden's tales by the fire. He was later surprised and became flushed when Allun stepped forward to tell the story of the journey up the Mountain six months ago. When Annad jumped up in anger to the Travellers' mockery of a story from Rin, Rowan hushed her but knew his sister was not the only one infuriated by the teasing. As Allun told his tale, Rowan fidgeted and felt uncomfortable being called a hero but did not leave because it would have been a discourtesy to do so. He tried to avoid the curious eyes of the Travellers but was soon called to speak with Ogden who was interested with him. Rowan answered Ogden truthfully but was puzzled by the trivial questions.

Rowan later returns to the village with Jiller, John, and Annad. During their conversation, Jiller brings up the possibility of Allun's betrayl in telling the Travellers about the Mountain berries, in which Rowan protested that Allun would not betray them. They soon come across the unconscious Bree and Hanna who were guarding the gardens when John tries to part with them for the night. When at last Annad fell asleep as they checked on others, Rowan finally revealed Sheba's rhyme to John and Jiller. Gathering Timon, Marlie, Allun, and Lann, they makes plans for the night and decide to seek Sheba for more answers. After meeting the fearful and distressed Sheba, Rowan, Jiller, and John only leave with a few hints from the visions that plagued her.

Troubled and fearful, Rowan and the others soon assume that the unnatural sleep afflicting the villagers may be because of the Travellers–who may have been bribed by invading Zebak. Rowan soon travels with Allun to the Travellers camp to seek answers but find the camp empty. Returning to the village, they find everyone under a trance. When Allun also begins getting drowsy, Rowan urges him forward as becomes distressed that even the bukshah would be affected by the strange sleep. Unable to lift the others inside for safety, the two made the difficult decision to leave them and run out of the village to find the Travellers.

When Allun expressed that the drowsiness fading as he moved, Rowan felt dread as he slowly accepted that the Travellers seem to be the main culprit of the strange sleep. Rowan also questioned if the Travellers would keep their promise to come in times of trouble for Allun's mother, Sara, when they used her reed pipe to call them. In moments the two meet with the Forerunners and fly with them to Ogden, who waits at the Pit of Unrin. Filled with fear and worry, they confront Ogden of the illness that befell Rin. Rowan especially fights tears and is shocked when the Travellers seemed to think the people of Rin were the betrayers instead.

As the Forerunner Zeel cried out, Rowan soon realised that she was a Zebak and attacked her–though she did not defend herself. He soon calmed and quietened when Ogden pulled him away, unable to stay suspicious and angry seeing the hurt in her eyes as Ogden revealed she was found on the coast and adopted. When Ogden explains the true reason they visited Rin was due to a wrongness in the land, Rowan exclaimed that Rin's secretive and suspicious actions were due to the Mountain berries. This shocks the Travellers who cannot understand the ways of Rin, explaining that they thought Rin had made an alliance with the Zebak and so they left for the Pit of Unrin.

Rowan struggled to accept that Rin's illness was not because of the Travellers and repeats Sheba's rhyme to them when Ogden asked. Ogden suggested that the hidden enemy was not the Zebak but another enemy from before Rin's people arrived in the valley. Readying for Zeel to enter the Pit of Unrin, Ogden states that he is reluctant to let her go alone and chooses Rowan to prove that the old friendship between the Travellers and Rin is unshaken.

Together they enter the Pit of Unrin, both honestly fearful, and soon find themselves in danger when the flesh-eating trees start to attack them. Dragged by the roots of a tree, Zeel tried to tear him free but it only released him when he bit it. Fleeing, they ran forward and climbed up the jagged golden rocks of the cliff-face as writhing roots chased them. Reaching a ledge higher up, Zeel claims that the Travellers owe Rowan for saving her life since she could not do anything. She also reveals that there is nothing more past the Pit of Unrin as they could see from the ledge. As Rowan suggests the Valley of Gold exists elsewhere, paused after rubbing off the mud from the pebbles and stones on him to uncover gems. Rowan soon reveals to Zeel that the Valley of Gold and Pit of Unrin were one and the same.

Still, Rowan worries for his people's plight and comes across a sleeping bird next to a small Mountain berry bush–deducing that the sweet smell was the cause. Although Zeel is thrilled to find the cause, Rowan remains unsure and doubtful. Thinking of Sheba's rhyme, Rowan soon realises that the Mountain berry bushes were only the young form of the flesh-eating trees. They heaved their way up the cliff as the flesh-eating tree emerged from the rocky cliff to feed. In anguish Rowan urges the others to return to Rin.

In moments they returned to Rin and found the Mountain berries had spread everywhere across the village. Zeel attempted to burn a tree only for the adult to emerge in anger. With no other option Allun hastened to get the villagers out whilst the Forerunners followed him. When Ogden asks Rowan to repeat the rhyme for something they may have missed, he focuses on the priceless armour mentioned. He urges Rowan to think, who escaped the sleeping illness and saved himself and Zeel in the Pit of Unrin. Feeling hopeless Rowan soon remembered the voice of Sheba mocking his runny-nosed condition and realised the true reason the flesh-eating trees had not spread out of the Valley. Knowing what they now needed and where, Rowan led the others to Sheba's hut where he found a pot of the slip daisy medicine Sheba made. Showing that the medicine was the armour against the trees, they hurriedly took the medicine and fought the trees–Rowan fiercely doing so.

Finally the trees were defeated and the people of Rin awoke with joy, with Ogden later telling this tale over the fire in the evening. Finishing the tale with an applause, Ogden soon approached Rowan and gave Rowan a reed pipe as they owed him a debt for saving Zeel. Shocking everyone around them, Ogden also returned the precious gems Rowan left behind, suggesting he sell the rest but keep the golden owl.

Themes and inspiration[]

Reception and awards[]

Characters[]

Chapter Names[]

  1. Good News, Bad News
  2. Darkness Gathers
  3. The Forerunners
  4. The Rhyme
  5. Disagreement
  6. The Valley of Gold
  7. Allun Tells a Tale
  8. The Storyteller
  9. Trouble
  10. The Secret Enemy
  11. Betrayal
  12. The Wheel Turns
  13. The Call
  14. Shocks
  15. Darkness and Light
  16. The Nightmare
  17. Escape
  18. "And when at last its face it shows ..."
  19. Hurry!
  20. An End, and a Beginning

Gallery[]

Trivia[]

References[]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Rodda, Emily. Rowan and the Travellers. Scholastic Australia. 1994.
  2. Rodda, Emily. Rowan of Rin. Scholastic Australia. 1993.

See also[]

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