David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide —Chapter 4: Shadows

Chapter 4: Shadows

  • What is Eilonwy’s mood at the beginning of Chapter 4?

Eilonwy tells Taran that he need not look gloomy because she is the one who has to stay on the isle of Mona. However, she immediately begins talking to Prince Rhun after she finishes talking to Taran so she may not be completely gloomy. Of course, she is trying “to make the best of things” (42).

  • What funny thing does Eilonwy say to Taran at the beginning of Chapter 4?

She says something that she often says to him: She is not talking to him.

We read:

“You needn’t look so gloomy,” said Eilonwy. “After all, you aren’t the one who has to stay here. If I’m trying to make the best of things, I must say you’re not exactly helpful. I want to remind you I’m still not speaking to you after the way you behaved today.” (42)

This is very much part of the behavior of Eilonwy and something that we have read and have enjoyed reading in the previous books of the Prydain Chronicles.

  • Taran is unhappy and feels as if he is ineffectual at watching after Eilonwy. Which vivid simile describes how he feels?

We read:

Taran bit his lip. He felt as though he were shouting a voiceless warning, while Eilonwy, all unwitting, raced gaily toward the brink of a cliff. (42-43)

As a reminder, a simile makes a comparison of one thing to another and uses a word such as “like” or “as.” For example, “My love is like a red, red rose.” Eilonwy uses many similes in her speech:

“What!” cried Eilonwy. “I don’t care about being a princess! And since I’m already a young lady, how else could I behave? That’s like asking a fish to learn how to swim!” (10)

“Well,” said Eilonwy, “you can’t blame Rhun for being born. I mean, you could, but it wouldn’t help matters. It’s like kicking a rock with your bare foot.” (18)

“Taran of Caer Dallben,” Eilonwy declared, “I really believe you’re jealous. And sorry for yourself. And that’s as ridiculous as — as painting your nose green!” (19)

  • Why does Fflewddur Fflam prefer to sleep in the stables? Are his reasons good?

Fflewddur Fflam gives two good reasons for preferring the stables:

1) One reason that he goes wandering is “to get away from stuffy, dreary castles” (43).

2) The other reason is that by staying in the stables he avoids “trouble with Magg” (43).

The first reason is interesting and is a good reason.

The second reason is that he wants to avoid trouble and that is also a good reason.

  • ShouldFflewddur Fflam have to sleep in the stables?

This is an interesting question. The shoemaker is sleeping in the stables, and so servants sleep in the stables. We could say that Fflewddur Fflam should be able to sleep in the castle because he is both a bard and a King (although not at the same time), both of which have higher status than even a very competent shoemaker. Of course, Magg denies that Fflewddur Fflam is a fully fledged bard, and Magg and the King and Queen don’t know that Fflewddur Fflam is a King.

One thing to consider in answering this question is the importance of hospitality. In medieval Wales there are no hotels or motels, so one must rely on other people’s hospitality (and when one is adventuring, one must camp out a lot). Hospitality was important in the ancient and the medieval world.


Xeniawas important in the world of Homer’s Iliadand Odyssey. Xeniais usually translated as the guest-host relationship, and both the guest and the host must obey certain rules or protocol. For example, the host will provide food and drink, a place to sleep, and sometimes a bath. In return, the guest will not overstay his welcome and will not hurt his host. In addition, the guest tells the host news and stories.


Dante’s Inferno has nine circles, and the deeper down one goes, the worse are the sins punished in that circle. In the bottom circle are the traitors, including traitors against guests, traitors against family members, traitors against kings, and traitors against God.

  • How does Taran show himself to be a competent leader near the beginning of Chapter 4?

Taran is concerned about Eilonwy, and he wants to protect her and keep her safe by maintaining a watch over her.

We read:

“Something tells me we should keep an eye on the castle,” Taran said to Gurgi. He put a forefinger under Kaw’s feet and set the bird on Gurgi’s shoulder, where the crow immediately began running his beak through Gurgi’s matted hair. “Stay close to Eilonwy’s chamber,” he went on. “I’ll join you soon. Keep Kaw with you and send him to me if anything seems amiss.” (44)

Also, of course, Taran is concerned about Fflewddur Fflam’s sleeping quarters. A good leader looks after the people he works with.

  • When Taran meets Prince Rhun, what excuse does Taran make about being out late at night? Is it a good excuse? What does Prince Rhun think of the excuse?

The excuse that Taran makes is that he is seeking the tailors because his jacket (a new one) does not fit him well. This is not a good excuse because, as Prince Rhun points out, it is late at night. If Taran really needed to see the tailors, he should wait until morning.

Still, Prince Rhun is very agreeable, and he accepts Taran’s excuse although it thinks it odd.

  • When Taran sees a figure, what does he do? Does he make the right decision?

Taran decides to follow the shadowy figure.

I think he makes the right decision because he learns some important information.

Prince Gwydion, however, is a little worried. Gwydion is already following the figure, and he is worried that Taran may be caught by the figure.

  • Who is the shadowy figure? What does the shadowy figure do?

The shadowy figure is Magg the Chief Steward, and the main thing he does is to signal a ship.

We read:

The Chief Steward had lit a torch and now raised it overhead, moving the flickering flame slowly back and forth. As Taran watched, fearful and puzzled, a tiny point of orange light glowed far seaward. This answering signal, Taran judged, could come only from a ship, though he could make out nothing of the vessel’s shape or distance. Magg waved the torch again, in a different pattern. The light from the ship repeated it, then winked out. Magg thrust his torch into the black water where it sputtered and died; he turned and strode quickly toward the tumble of rocks where Taran lay. (47)

  • What does Taran learn from Gwydion?

Gwydion covers Taran’s mouth to keep him from crying out and alerting Magg to his presence. When it is safe to do so, Gwydion talks to Taran, who learns that Gwydion has been keeping watch and that he also saw Magg signal the ship.

Gwydion, however, does not think it is a good time to seize Magg, although he realizes that Magg is a bad guy.

Another important thing that Taran learns from Gwydion is that Achren is on the ship that Magg signaled.

We read:

“The fisherfolk of Mona have already told a curious and harmless shoemaker part of what he must know,” Gwydion continued. “Enough to be certain of one thing: Achren is aboard that vessel.

“Yes,” Gwydion went on as Taran drew a sharp breath, “this much I suspected. Achren herself would not dare strike directly against Eilonwy. The castle is strong and well-guarded, only treachery could open its gates. Achren needed a hand to do her bidding. Now I know whose it is.” (49)

Gwydion also tells Taran what he should do.

We read:

“Would you serve me? Then return at once to the castle. Stay close by the Princess.” (49)

  • How does Taran show that he is a good leader in his interaction with Gurgi?

Taran is consistently a good leader. Here he shares the work with Gurgi. Gurgi has finished a shift of looking after Eilonwy, and now Taran takes a shift of looking after Eilonwy. Taran is sharing the workload. Taran also gives credit where credit is due.

Taran says to Gurgi:

“You have done well,” Taran said. “Sleep, my friend. Go and rest that poor tender head of yours and I shall stay here until daylight.” (51)

  • What does Eilonwy say when she finds Taran sleeping outside her chamber?

Eilonwy, of course, asks Taran what he is doing there. Taran’s reply is not very good: He says that he thinks that sleeping in the hallway is more comfortable than sleeping in his chamber.

Eilonwy does use language in an original way. She tells Taran, “You look as jumpy as a frog with fleas!” (52).

  • Why is Prince Rhun’s appearance at this particular time unfortunate? (You may have to read the beginning of the next chapter to answer this question.)

Prince Rhun begins talking to Taran at a time when he wishes to follow Eilonwy to ensure that she is safe.

Of course, at the end of this chapter we find out that Eilonwy and Magg are not in the Great Hall for breakfast, which is where they should be.

In the next chapter, we find out that Eilonwy and Magg have left the castle together.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 4 end?

Chapter 4 ends in this way:

Leaving the Prince of Mona still rummaging in the chamber, Taran sped anxiously to the Great Hall. King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleria were already at table, the Queen surrounded, as always, by her ladies. Taran looked quickly about him. Magg, usually in attendance, was not there.

Nor was there any sign of Eilonwy. (54)

Of course, the reader will keep reading in order to find the answer to these questions: Where is Eilonwy? Where is Magg?


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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