Cart and Cwidder
is a fantasy
Fantasy is a genre of fiction that commonly uses magic and other supernatural phenomena as a primary element of plot, theme, or setting. Many works within the genre take place in imaginary worlds where magic is common...
novel for young adults by the British author Diana Wynne Jones
Diana Wynne Jones was a British writer, principally of fantasy novels for children and adults, as well as a small amount of non-fiction...
. It is the first book published in the Dalemark Quartet
The Dalemark Quartet is a series of four fantasy books by Diana Wynne Jones set in a rustic parallel universe with pre-industrial or even medieval civilization...
, although chronologically it is the third in the series, coming in time hundreds of years after The Spellcoats
The Spellcoats is the third published novel in Diana Wynne Jones's series Dalemark Quartet, but chronologically the first. The story takes place several thousand years before Cart and Cwidder and Drowned Ammet. The time period is referred to as "prehistoric Dalemark" because by the time of the...
and a year or so after Drowned Ammet
Drowned Ammet is a fantasy novel for young adults by British author Diana Wynne Jones. It is the second book in the series Dalemark Quartet.- Plot :...
Osfameron Tanamoril (Moril) Clennenson is a travelling musician, who travels with his father, Clennen, his mother, Lenina, and his elder siblings, Dagner and Brid, through Dalemark, a country torn by civil war
A civil war is a war between organized groups within the same nation state or republic, or, less commonly, between two countries created from a formerly-united nation state....
between the South and the North. They travel around, playing music, taking passengers and messages, and spreading news throughout the country.
When Clennen (the father and main performer) is murdered by the Earl
An earl is a member of the nobility. The title is Anglo-Saxon, akin to the Scandinavian form jarl, and meant "chieftain", particularly a chieftain set to rule a territory in a king's stead. In Scandinavia, it became obsolete in the Middle Ages and was replaced with duke...
of South Dales, who suspects him of being a spy for the North, Lenina (who is high-born and gave up the chance of being a Lady when she married Clennen) takes her three children and their passenger Kialan, the fugitive son of a Northern earl, back to her home town of Markind in South Dalemark. Within the same day as her husband's death, Lenina is married to her former fiancé the Lord
Lord is a title with various meanings. It can denote a prince or a feudal superior . The title today is mostly used in connection with the peerage of the United Kingdom or its predecessor countries, although some users of the title do not themselves hold peerages, and use it 'by courtesy'...
of Markind, guided by the belief that this is the only way to counter the bad luck caused by Clennen's murder.
Dagner, Brid, and Moril encounter their father's murderer among the wedding guests in Markind and together with Kialan they flee the town and try to reach the North, while continuing to perform for a living. However, without Clennen and Lenina, they find this difficult to do. The oldest son, Dagner, tries to continue their father's work as a Northern spy, but is arrested for treason against the Earl of South Dales. Brid, Moril, and Kialan are forced to flee, believing that Dagner will be hanged.
Before he died, Clennen left his youngest son Moril (full name Osfameron Tanamoril, Clennen liked long names.) a magical cwidder (a common musical instrument in Dalemark similar to a lute
Lute can refer generally to any plucked string instrument with a neck and a deep round back, or more specifically to an instrument from the family of European lutes....
with some properties of an acoustic guitar
An acoustic guitar is a guitar that uses only an acoustic sound board. The air in this cavity resonates with the vibrational modes of the string and at low frequencies, which depend on the size of the box, the chamber acts like a Helmholtz resonator, increasing or decreasing the volume of the sound...
). It is rumored to have been owned by Moril's ancestor and namesake Osfameron, who was both a minstrel and a famous magician, featuring in many of the legends of Dalemark. Throughout their travels from the South to the North, Moril discovers that he has the power to use the magic of his newly inherited instrument.
As they travel, they become embroiled in the civil war. As the Southerners are about to attack the North, Moril uses his magical cwidder to make the mountains 'walk' and close Flennpass, the only mountain pass between the North and the South, just as his ancestor, the famed Osfameron, did in so many of the songs Moril's father had sung nearly every day. The walking mountains crush the attacking Southern army, killing the evil Earl of South Dales, Clennen's murderer, and saving the North. However, after the battle, Moril is wracked with guilt, as he caused the deaths of hundreds of men, and mainly because he was angry that his beloved horse, Olob, had been shot.
In the end, when all safely reach Hannart, the earldom of Kialan's father, they are joined by Dagner who has been released from jail after the death of the Earl of South Dales and traveled to North Dalemark with another traveling Singer, Hestefan. Moril decides that he should travel with Hestefan and learn how to be a proper Singer. Hestefan accepts, and they leave to continue travelling through Dalemark.
- Moril (full name Osfameron Tanamoril) – the youngest son of Clennen and Lenina, who inherited his father's magic cwidder and learned to use its powers with dramatic results.
- Clennen Mendakersson – one of the most famous Singers in Dalemark and a composer of many songs with which he traveled through both North and South. In secret, he is the Porter, the notorious Northern spy wanted by the South Earls, using his status as a Singer to allow him to travel freely around the country.
- Kialan (Collen or Halain in Southern pronunciation) – the 14-year old son of the Earl of Hannart of North Dale, shipwrecked on the coast of Holand in the South and now trying to escape a certain death by hanging in the hands of the Southern earls. He joins Clennen's band as a fugitive traveling to the North.
- Dagner (full name Dastgandlen Handagner) – the eldest son of Clennen and Lenina, a promising composer. After Clennen's murder, he tries to pass sensitive information to Southern freedom-fighters, but is arrested and threatened with execution. He is released when Tholian, the Earl of South Dales, is killed with all his male relatives by the "walking mountains" in Fennpass and, as Tholian's second cousin, becomes nominally the heir to the earldom of South Dales.
- Brid (full name Cennoreth Manaliabrid) – the daughter of Clennen and Lenina, a singer and panhorn player performing with her parents and two brothers from a garishly painted pink cart, traveling from the South to the North.
- Lenina Thornsdaughter – niece of Earl Tholian of South Dales, wife of Clennen the Singer, and mother of Dagner, Brid, and Moril. Brought up as an aristocrat in the Southern earldom of Neathdale, she became bethrothed to Ganner Sargesson, but at their betrothal feast, she met Clennen, fell in love with him, ran away with him, and eventually married him.
- Tholian – the evil Earl of South Dales who murders Clennen and amasses an army to attack the North. Killed by the "walking mountains" that block Flennpass in response to the magic music from Moril's cwidder.
- Ganner Sagersson – the Lord of Markind (a vassal of the Earl of South Dales), a former fiancé of Lenina who lost her to Clennen's magic in a singing performance and finally marries her after Clennen's death.
- Olob (full name Barangarolob) – the faithful horse that pulled Clennen the Singer's cart in all the travels. Olob had a special sense that made him whinny and misbehave when enemies were near. Olob was killed by a stray Southern bullet in the attack on Fennpass, and this event energized Moril into magic-making on his cwidder.
Explanation of the novel's title
The novel's title refers to the cart
in which Singers travel around South and North Dalemark and the cwidder
, a lute-like string instrument played by Singers as an accompaniment to their songs and stories.