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Rowan of Rin
General information
Series

Rowan of Rin

Author

Emily Rodda

Publication
Publisher

Scholastic Press

Published

1993

Chronology
Followed by

Rowan and the Travellers

Rowan of Rin is a fantasy novel written by Emily Rodda. It is the first book in the Rowan of Rin series.

Book description[]

"Seven hearts the journey make. Seven ways the hearts will break ..." The witch Sheba's prophecy is like a riddle. A riddle Rowan must solve if he is to find out the secret of the Mountain and save his home. To the sturdy villagers of Rin, the boy Rowan is a timid weakling. The most disappointing child ever.

Yet, incredibly, it is his help they need when the stream that flows from the top of the Mountain dries up. Without its water, their precious bukshah herds will die, and Rin will be doomed.

The six strongest villagers must brave the unknown terrors of the Mountain to discover the answer to the riddle. And Rowan, the unwanted seventh member of the group, must go with them.

Plot[]

Chapter 1: The Meeting[]

Rowan is considered a weakling and a coward by most in Rin, only good for tending to his beloved bukshah herd. His mother Jiller worries for him constantly, for he is very frail and so different from others in her family and even the entire village; his younger sister Annad on the other hand is bold and courageous, and everything that is expected of a child of Rin.

One day, the stream that runs from the Mountain through the village dries up. The stream is a major part of Rin's survival and growth as it provides water for the bukshah, whose hide is used for cloth, and milk for drink, butter and cheese. As the people of Rin know well, if the stream dries out their village will die with it, for they will have nothing to live on. Bronden suggests that the flow has probably stopped due to a problem on the Mountain, and that the villagers should climb it to investigate. There is some argument among the villagers due to the dangers of this plan, especially due to the dragon that lives at the peak of the Mountain. Rowan realises that the dragon has not roared since the stream dried up (which is normally does every morning and nightfall).

At a meeting, after considering many options, the villagers agree that they must brave the Mountain, one way or another, to find the source of the problem and eliminate it. Marlie the Weaver says they should talk to the Wise Woman Sheba first, as she knows the way up. Marlie and "Strong" Jonn of the Orchard go to visit her, with Jonn telling Rowan to fetch some cheese to present to Sheba as a gift. Rowan is afraid of Sheba and hestiates to go until prompted by Jiller. As he leaves, he hears Val mutter that, "He will never be the man his father was."

Chapter 2: Sheba[]

As Rowan brings the cheese to Sheba's hut, he thinks about his late father, Sefton. Sefton returned home from market one night shortly after Annad's birth to find his house on fire. He managed to rescue Jiller and Annad from the house, before going back in to save Rowan. Sefton threw Rowan to safety from the attic window, but was then killed when the house collapsed. Rowan knows that many of the people of Rin believe that, "the exchange had not been a fair one." The people of rin are descended from warriors, and ae expected to train in athletic and martial skills. However, Rowan is shy and small for his age. He was given the task of caring for the bukshah because it is easy and safe. Despite this, he loves the herd and takes great pride in caring for them, especially his favourite bukshah, Star.

Marlie, Jonn, and Rowan visit the spiteful and ill-tempered witch, Sheba at her hut. She tells them that the stream flows underground for most of the mountain, so they will have to reach the peak to find the problem. Despite accepting their gift, Sheba seemingly refuses to answer any of Marlie or Jonn's questions. She mocks them, telling them that the Mountain will destroy them. Jonn tells her that she is only suceeding in scaring Rowan, to which she replies that Rowan is the only one with any sense. She throws a stick at Marlie, who dodges, leaving Rowan to be hit by it. She then says the following rhyme:

"Seven hearts the journey make.
Seven ways the hearts will break. Bravest heart will carry on
When sleep is death, and hope is gone.
Look in the fiery jaws of fear
And see the answer white and clear,
Then throw away all thoughts of home
For only then your quest is done."

Sheba refuses to tell them anything else, and the three head back to the centre of town.

Chapter 3: The Heroes[]

The village gathers again, this time to decide who will climb the Mountain. Marlie, Jonn, Bronden the Furniture-Maker, Val and Ellis of the Mill, and Allun the Baker volunteer to go. Some of the villagers are reluctant to let Allun go, as he is half-Traveller and considered weak by some. His mother - Sara - fell in love with a Traveller, and lived with him until he was killed in the War of the Plains. Rowan feels close to Allun because of their shared nature as outcasts. The villagers return to their homes for the night, and Rowan is tormented by nightmares.

Chapter 4: Seeing is Believing[]

In the middle of the night, Rowan wakes from a nightmare and is terrified of going back to sleep. Pulling on his day clothes, he finds a hidden clasp on the stick from Sheba and discovers that it is a map of the Mountain. Rowan and Jiller show it to the six heroes, but find that Sheba has bewitched the map to reveal itself only in the hands of Rowan. In addition, any attempts to copy the map are foiled by magic. Despite arguments of Rowan's frailty, age and the dangers of the Mountain, he agrees joins the Mountain party as their guide (motivated by his love for the bukshah), bringing the group to seven members as Sheba’s rhyme foretold.

Chapter 5: The Mountain[]

After leaving the village, the group walk beside the dry bed of the stream until they reach the point where the water gushes from the Mountain, at the base of a high cliff. At Allun's suggestion, Rowan brings the map out so they can read it. Using it they see where they must go next — up a steep track toward the Mountain and through a forest ('a flat walk, due west'). Where the forest trees end, they must walk north-west, along lower ground, until they reach the top. It seems easy, for they have three compasses, as well as landmarks to follow. However, Marlie points out that if it were so easy, they would not have needed a map to guide them. They notice six white patches on the map. beside the marked path. The group climbs up the cliff, which Rowan finds especially frightening as he is scared of heights, but they eventually make it to the top.

Chapter 6: The Forest[]

After rousing Rowan, who has fainted from exhaustion, they look at the map again, and are surprised to find a rhyme written in the space beside the beginning of the forest path:
"Let arms be still and voices low,
A million eyes watch as you go.
The silken door your pathway ends,
There fire and light will be your friends.

Then see yourself as others may,
And catch noon's eye to clear your way."

They theorise that the map is telling them to be silent, and hints that noon is an important time. They set off again into the forest with Allun leading. As they go deeper into the forest, they begin to hear a "twittering sound" which grows louder. Intrigued, Allun walks faster then halts suddenly, causing the others to cannon into him. They soon see what he has seen — that the sides of the path before them are filled with thousands of large spiders, which Rowan realises are the "million eyes" the rhyme spoke of.

To everyone's astonishment, Ellis panics upon seeing the spiders. Val reveals that he is deathly afraid of spiders, and states that he cannot go on. Despite Jonn's encouraging words, the man cannot take it and flees out of the forest. The others are forced to walk carefully to avoid touching the webs that line the path. Eventually they reach the door the verse speaks of. It is a "huge, gleaming white web" surrounded by spiders. As they debate the best way to get past it, a ray of sun touches the forest floor, causing the spiders to withdraw slightly. Rowan realises that they do not like the light, and that this is the "fire and light" the rhyme was referring to.

Bronden suggests throwing a torch at the web, but they realise that all the torches were carried by Ellis. Allun then comes up with an alternative, and uses his tinderbox and Marlie's handkerchief to create a flame, which he throws at the web. However, this only temporarily drives away the spiders, and they quickly return to mend the hole after the flames die down. After recalling the final lines of the verse, they realise what they must do next and use Marlie's mirror to catch the sun's rays to repel the spiders while they hurry through the hole in the web.

Chapter 7: Dreams[]

The group makes it past the web, and continues due west along the path. As they travel, the ground becomes increasingly marsh-like. As they rest for a moment, Rowan consults the map. He finds another riddle:
"Nothing here is as it seems;
Dreams are truths and truths are dreams.
Close your ears to loved ones' cries,
Die if you believe your eyes.
Bind with ropes your flesh and blood,
And let your guide be made of wood."

Allun remarks that this verse is more confusing than the last, but as Marlie says, it must be as important. They quickly decide that it means they are going into danger, and must be led by one of their party who is 'like wood' — hard, unfeeling, strong, incapable of pain. The least emotional of their party.

Bronden offers to lead them, stating that she has no family or loved ones, and believes only in what she sees with her own eyes. The others agree, and they walk again. Soon they come to a swamp filled with mist. As they continue on Rowan sees a panicking Star trapped in the mud, being sucked down. Without thinking he runs into the mud himself in an attempt to rescue her, and is almost killed if not for Jonn, Bronden and Val, who pull him out. An angry Bronden snaps at him for his behaviour, while Jonn tries to convince him that the Star he saw was not real. Marlie realises that the map warned them of this, and says that there are spirits in the swamp that do not wish them well. Though the others listen to her, Bronden is skeptical, and claims that Marlie has been spending too much time with Allun and should not believe his tales.

As the group moves on, Marlie begins to complain of someone touching her. While Allun claims that it is only the mist, he sees an illusion of his mother, and quickly runs to save her. Jonn stops Allun from running into the mud and holds him back despite Allun’s punches. Somewhere ahead, Bronden sees something which makes her cry out. Struggling to pull Bronden from the mud, Val cries out for help.

Chapter 8: Flesh and Blood[]

Marlie and Rowan come to Val's aid, and see Bronden fighting to get to something in the mist. With Rowan holding her ankles, Marlie crawls into the mud beside Val and loops rope around Bronden's waist to help pull her in. However, Rowan cannot hold Marlie's heavy weight for long and begins to lose his grip. He calls for help from Jonn, but it is Allun who comes to their aid, pulling Marlie and Bronden safely onto the path again.

Rowan discovers the reason for Bronden’s breakdown, and her animosity towards him, is because of Bronden’s childhood friend, Minna. Bronden had seen her friend in the mist, a sweet and quiet keeper of the bukshah who was like Rowan himself. Minna had been killed falling into a mine-shaft as a child while searching for a missing bukshah calf. Terrified and broken by what she has seen, Bronden refuses to go on, and runs back the way they came. Val goes with her, for she cannot stand being away from her brother. The remaining four go on, tying themselves together with rope as the rhyme advises. When firm ground becomes difficult to find, the group realise the last line of the rhyme is literal, and use cut branches to guide their way through the deep mud.

Chapter 9: Moving On[]

After leaving the swamp they sleep for a time, and start to bond with the more hostile members of the group gone. Rowan realises that Allun's sense of humour is in part a defense mechanism. Later they consult the map again:
"Look for the hand that points the way,
And take the path where children play.
Then, where the face with breath that sighs,
Bends to admire its gleaming eyes,
Your way is marked by lines of light,
That mean escape from endless night."

It seems like the second line suggests that there will be people somewhere ahead, but Marlie warns that the people would just as likely be antagonistic as friendly. They decide to rest for the night before continuing on. The following morning, they find their path blocked by a smooth cliff of red-gold rock. While the cliff is too smooth to climb, the party finds a cave that seems to lead upwards. Entering the cave, they see a boulder that looks like a pointing hand.

Chapter 10: Endless Night[]

The cave itself is filled with stalactites of various colours, as well as strange rock formations on the floor. The compass stops working, likely due to metal in the rock. Rowan notices that some of the rocks on the ground resemble crawling and tumbling children, and these seem to form a path.

Following this path, the group eventually comes to a stretch of water that blocks the pathway ahead of them, so deep that they will have to swim across. On the opposite shore they see the face the rhyme mentions in a wall of rock, eyes gleaming with light, and seemingly breathing as air moves through its openings. It is here that Allun reveals he cannot swim, and thus cannot continue on their quest any longer. Rowan and Jonn are shocked, and Marlie especially so, as all Rin children must learn to swim at a young age. Allun reveals that because he spent his early childhood with the Travellers, he did not learn to swim since it was not necessary. Mercilessly bullied because of his Traveller heritage, he could not bear to reveal this 'weakness' to the Rin children, and avoided swimming lessons. Allun apologises for not being able to go with them any longer, and the group say their farewells. They leave Allun to wait three days at the mouth of the cave for them to return, and swim across the chamber.

Chapter 11: The Snare[]

After resting, they look at the map again:
"Left or right, which will you take?
For both of them your heart will break.
One is cruel, one is fair,
One a passage, one a snare.
Choose the one that hides the light,
And you will know your path is right."

The group inspects the eyes of the face, both of which look roughly the same; gleaming with bio-luminescent fungi, and with a faint breeze. First they try the right-hand passage (hoping the riddle is literal again), which they find turns into a low tunnel, barely large enough to crawl through.

At Marlie's insistence, they try the left-hand passage. This tunnel is larger and less winding. However, it eventually starts to head downwards steeply, with no handholds and a sandy floor that is difficult to keep a footing on. Jonn and Rowan suggest they try and crawl through the smaller tunnel, but Marlie tries to move past them. In doing so, she almost falls down the slope, dropping her torch which bounces and falls down a large cliff. All of them shaken, they take the right-hand passage again. Rowan realises that a sharp bend in this tunnel cuts off his view of the reflected light in the pool of water. The group leaves most of their possessions behind in order to fit through the tunnel. Marlie is visibly affected by it, though when this is pointed out by Jonn she says she can go on. However, she quickly panics when she tries to crawl into the tunnel, and is forced to admit that she cannot, for it is true what Jonn guessed – she is terrified of small spaces. Jonn tries to have Rowan return with Marlie, to keep him safe as he promised Jiller, but Rowan refuses to go, knowing that he is still needed to hold the map and guide Jonn. Unable to argue with him, Jonn agrees to let Rowan continue with him, while Marlie heads back to meet up with Allun.

Chapter 12: Bravest Heart[]

The two of them crawl up the tunnel for a night and a day. Though Rowan is terrified, he is able to calm himself by thinking of Star. The two finally emerge at the top of the Mountain, above the cloud, in a small cave next to a vast expanse of snow. The air is freezing cold. Jonn has visible weakened during his time in the tunnel, and Rowan builds a small fire. Rowan and Jonn read together the next rhyme on the map:
"Fire, water, earth and air
All meet in the Dragon's lair.
Six brave hearts have failed the test,
One continues in the quest.
Remember well the words you know,
When on to find your fate you go."

Rowan is confused at the mention of one continuing in the quest, for both he and Strong Jonn are still present. However, he sees Jonn is giving up hope, and realises that the Mountain has defeated him like it did the rest of the adults. Remembering the line, "sleep is death", Rowan begs Jonn to stay awake, believing that Jonn is the "bravest heart". However, Jonn tells Rowan that he is the bravest of them all, because he was willing to climb the Mountain even though he was afraid. Jonn falls into a doze. Refusing to give up hope as Jonn has done, Rowan tries to save the sleeping Jonn by shielding him from the wind, lighting a small fire and warming him with his body. Later, Jonn wakes up feeling stronger, and Rowan insists that they go into the Dragon's cave together. They arrive at the cave - a vast cavern of rock, snow, and ice - and are attacked by the dragon.

Chapter 13: The Answer[]

Rowan and Jonn come face to face with the Dragon in its lair. Jonn is quickly pinned to the wall by the dragon's tail. The Dragon is in a frenzy, and Rowan soon realises that it is injured — a bone is stuck in its throat, causing a lot of pain. Using his skills as a bukshah herder Rowan calms the Dragon and gently pulls the bone out. However, free of its pain and able to hunt, it is so hungry that it attacks Jonn and breaks his leg. Desperate to save Jonn, Rowan shields him from the worst of the attack, and consults Sheba's map for the last time. He finds that the final blank spot is filled by the very first prophecy.:
"Seven hearts the journey make.
Seven ways the hearts will break.
Bravest heart will carry on
When sleep is death, and hope is gone.
Look in the fiery jaws of fear
And see the answer white and clear,
Then throw away all thoughts of home
For only then your quest is done."

Doing as the rhyme implies, Rowan throws Jonn's compass at the Dragon's exposed neck, causing it to let go of Jonn. As they run away, he also throws the rolled map at it. The Dragon roars fire, melting the ice beneath their feet. An underground channel is revealed through which the melted ice runs down, sweeping Rowan and Jonn along. It is the source of the stream, no longer trapped with the Dragon’s fire to melt it.

Back in Rin, Marlie and Allun have joined Val and Ellis in their house after returning from the Mountain. After hearing that Jonn and Rowan are up there alone, Val and Ellis consider the quest lost, but Marlie and Allun refuse to think so. The four adults go to the dried bukshah pool where Jiller and Annad tend to the bukshah, and that is when the roaring from the Mountain starts.

Star suddenly moves away from the bukshah pool, and upstream along the dried stream bed, to where a torrent of water gushes, and along with it Rowan and Jonn. Rowan has a happy reunion with Star, and his mother, whose love for him he finally understands. The entire village arrives after hearing the Dragon’s roar. The injured Jonn tells the villagers of Rowan’s courage on the Mountain, stating that Rin owes him a great debt. The villagers start cheering for Rowan who laughs with happiness.

Characters[]

Chapter Names[]

  1. The Meeting
  2. Sheba
  3. The Heroes
  4. Seeing is Believing
  5. The Mountain
  6. The Forest
  7. Dreams
  8. Flesh and Blood
  9. Moving On
  10. Endless Night
  11. The Snare
  12. Bravest Heart
  13. The Answer

Trivia[]

  • On page 105, at the beginning of chapter 11 "The Snare", Jonn's name is written as John. This is an error.
  • Rowan of Rin takes place six months before Rowan and the Travellers which puts Rowan of Rin in fall or early winter. Seeing as there are plenty of references to the forthcoming winter, this makes sense.[1]

References[]

  1. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named RT
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