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Encyclopedia > The Hero and the Crown

The Hero and the Crown, ISBN 0-44132-809-1, is a fantasy novel written by Robin McKinley and published by The Berkley Publishing Group in 1984. It is the winner of the 1985 Newbery Medal award. The book is the prequel to The Blue Sword, written in 1982, and is 227 pages in length. Robin McKinley (born November 16, 1952 as Jennifer Carolyn Robin McKinley) is a fantasy author especially known for her Newbery Medal-winning novel The Hero and the Crown. ... The John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children of the American Library Association (ALA) to the author of the most outstanding American book for children. ... The Blue Sword is a fantasy novel written by Robin MCkinley and published by the Berkley Publishing Group in 1982. ...


Plot Overview

Part One

Aerin is the only child of Arlbeth, king of Damar, and his second wife, a foreigner from the North. Aerin inherits her mother's pale skin and red hair, setting her apart from all other dark haired and skinned Damarians and causing her to be feared and ostracized by them. It is rumored that Aerin's mother was a witchwoman and it was an enchantment that made Arlbeth marry her so that she may bear an heir to rule Damar. However, when she saw that it was a girl that she had borne rather than a boy she died of despair. While Arlbeth and Tor, the next in line to the throne, loved and supported Aerin, some of the royal family, including Perlith and Galanna, despised her. They would go as far as suggesting that her mother was unfaithful, that she is not truly Arlbeth's daughter, and therefore not of royal blood, an idea supported by the fact that Aerin failed to develop the Gift, an ability to use magic, that all of royal blood inherit to a degree. During one of her regular taunts of Aerin, Galanna convinces her to eat the leaves of the surka plant, known to aid the magic of those of the royal blood but poisonous to all those not of royal blood. While the surka plant does not kill Aerin, it makes her extremely ill affecting her physical health for many years.


It is during this time, when still barely able to walk, that Aerin stumbles upon a book which the history of Damar and the dragons of old that use to terrorize it, of which only much smaller relatives still exist. Finding privacy in the pen of her father's former but now injured war horse, Talat, Aerin reads through the book while forging a friendship with the prideful but loyal and intelligent horse. At the back of the book she finds a recipe for kenet, a fire ointment meant to protect the wearer from the flames of a dragon. While her first attempts at the ointment fail, Aerin begins to split her time between learning to ride Talat and experimenting with the fire ointment. After three years of experimenting, Aerin stumbles on the correct combination of ingredients, successfully making kenet. Desperate to find a useful role within Damar, Aerin goes off to slay a dragon terrorizing a village with the help of her kenet and Talat. Aerin's success helps her gain popularity among the people and helps earn her a more legitimate role among the royal family.


While Aerin continues her role as dragon killer, trouble comes from the north spreading madness to one of the lords there, Nyrlol, who is threatening civil war.


Part Two

Arlbeth fears that the hero's crown, a crown of power used to belong to the royal family but is now lost, has finally fallen into the hands of the Northerners. Arlbeth is forced to ride north with many of his court to deal with Nyrlol, who he believes is a symptom of the growing power of the North, but denies Aerin her request to join him in the journey. However, just as Arlbeth prepares to ride north, a messenger arrives bearing news that the last of great dragons, Maur, has reappeared and terrorizing Damar. Arlbeth has no choice but to leave Maur until he deals with Nyrlol but Aerin, having been left behind, decides to go fight Maur on her own.


Aerin just barely manages to defeat Maur, claiming a red stone by his body as her trophy, but the kenet proves ineffective against his dragon fire. Aerin left badly burned and with a broken ankle, manages to drag herself onto Talat who carries her home. She is intercepted by Arlbeth and his company as they return and carried back to the castle. After many weeks of healing her physical health improves but she realizes she is still ill. Maur's skull is brought to the castle as a trophy but it's presence seems to taunt Aerin, talking to her and making her failing mental health even worse. In her failing health, Aerin dreams of a blonde man by a lake who bekons her to come to him so that he may help her. Aerin rides off on Talat to find this man.


As if guided by an external force, both Aerin and Talat seem to know exactly where to find the man by the lake. He reveals himself as Luthe and heals Aerin by placing her in the Lake of Dreams, which causes her to become not-quite-mortal. Luthe teaches her some magic and Aerin learns that it is kelar in the royal blood that gives them their magical abilities. The kelar comes from an ancestor in the north and is what gave them the power to become rulers of Damar. Luthe then reveals what he knows of her past. Aerin's mother and uncle, Agsded, were students of a master mage named Goriolo, along with Luthe in north, all of whom also shared a strong source of kelar in their blood. Agsded was Goriolo's best student but used his ability for evil. A prophecy foretold that one of Agsded's own blood would defeat him, forcing Aerin's mother to flee to south. Finding the person with the strongest kelar in his blood, Arlbeth, she tried to bear a son from him, believing that only a relative of the same gender as Agsded could defeat him. When Aerin is fully recovered, Luthe gives her The Blue Sword, whose name is Gonturan, for protection and sends her north. The Blue Sword is a fantasy novel written by Robin MCkinley and published by the Berkley Publishing Group in 1982. ...


As she travels north, Aerin is joined by armies of foltsza, large mountain cats, and yerigs, large wild dogs. They eventually reach Agsded's fortress. While Talat, the foltsza and the yerigs help break an opening into the fortress, Aerin creates a wreath out of surka leaves and places the red rock, that she had taken from Maur's body, in it. Aerin climbs the long staircases to the top of the fortress where she faces Agsded, who is wearing the hero's crown. Gonturan protects her from Agsded's red sword, but Agsded proves also to be less than mortal as she tries to strike him and realizes his skin is as hard as rock. Just as she is about to fail, she throws her wreath of surka with the red stone at him. It causes Agsded to burn, defeating him. With his death, Agsded's fortress crumbles. Aerin is met by Luthe who reveals to her that much time has passed in her battle with Agsded, something that she could only survive since she is no longer mortal. Luthe "drags" her back to the present, where the a yerig brings her the hero's crown.


Luthe escorts Aerin back as far as his lake on her way back home, becoming romantically involved in the process. Aerin leaves him but promises to return one day. Aerin continues back, returning to find the kingdom losing to the Northerners. Using Gonturan and her army of foltsza and yerigs, she helps defeat the Northerner but at the cost of many people, including Arlbeth. Aerin returns the hero's crown to Damar and finally rids the kingdom of Maur's skull, which had been polluting the thoughts of the people, helping in their defeat. Aerin marries Tor and they help rebuild the kingdom, while Aerin is finally accepted and respected by the people of Damar.


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