David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 5: The Oath

Chapter 5: The Oath

  • How does Taran react when he sees that both Eilonwy and Magg are not present?

Taran is majorly worried, and he suspects that Magg has kidnapped Eilonwy, so he tells King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleria what he suspects.

  • How does King Rhuddlum react to what Taran says?

King Rhuddlum does the right thing. He knows that Taran has made a serious charge against Magg, and so he asks Taran why he is making that charge. Gathering testimony and evidence is the right thing to do.

Taran tells King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleriawhat he knows. Often, telling an adult with authority is exactly the right thing to do. Taran is concerned about Eilonwy’s safety, and so he tells King Rhuddlum and Queen Teleriawhat he knows in hopes of keeping Eilonwy safe.

We read:

For a moment, Taran stood perplexed and torn. Gwydion had bound him to secrecy. But now that Magg had struck, must the secret still be kept? Taking his decision, he let the words tumble from his lips, hurriedly and often confusedly telling all that had happened since the companions had reached Dinas Rhydnant. (55)

  • How does Queen Teleria react to what Taran says?

Queen Teleria is perplexed by Taran’s story.

We read:

Queen Teleria shook her head. “This shoemaker disguised as Prince Gwydion — or was it the other way around — and ships and torch signals to enchantresses make the wildest tale I’ve heard, young man.” (56)

King Rhuddlum continues to do the right thing. He wants to talk to the shoemaker (Gwydion in disguise) to confirm Taran’s story. He also wants to talk to Magg, who should be in the Great Hall, but is not.

  • What information does Fflewddur Fflam give Taran?

Fflewddur Fflam tells Taran, after Taran tells him that Eilonwy and Magg cannot be found,

“Magg! That villainous spider!” the bard exclaimed as soon as Taran told him what had happened. “Great Belin, she’s ridden off with him! I saw them galloping through the gate. I called to her, but she didn’t hear me. She seemed cheerful enough. I’d no idea anything was amiss. But they’re gone, long gone by now!” (57)

  • What does KingRhuddlum decide to do?

Taran’s story has now been confirmed. King Rhuddlum decides to send people after Eilonwy to rescue her. Again, King Rhuddlum is doing the right thing. He is a good King.

  • Who is the war leader of Mona? Why was that person chosen to be war leader?

The war leader of Mona is Magg. King Rhuddlum says,

“My war leader, sorry to say, is none other than Magg himself,” the King answered. “As we’ve never had a war on Mona, we never needed a war leader, and it seemed quite in order to give Magg the honorary title. I shall form up the searching party myself. As for you — yes — by all means help with any tasks that need doing.” (57-58)

Magg was given the title of War Leader as an honorary title. Merit did not play a role, other than Magg has previously been competent as Chief Steward. No one knew that Magg was disloyal to the King and Queen and Mona.

Mona has been fortunate in not having wars. In the real world, certainly, one ought to be prepared for war, just in case.

  • Two parties will go in search of Eilonwy. Who are the leaders of these parties, and why were they chosen?

King Rhuddlum will be the head of one party, and Prince Rhun will be the head of the other party — the one with Taran in it.

The King, of course, has shown himself to be competent in gathering evidence to find out whether Taran was telling the truth. In addition, Mona has been at peace for a long time, which is more evidence of the King’s competence, so the King will most likely be competent as the leader of one of the parties.

Prince Rhun has been chosen to be the leader of the party simply because of his birth. He has authority as the son of the King. This authority comes as a result of his birth, not of his competence — if, in fact, he is competent. We remember that Prince Rhun was supposedly in charge of the ship that brought Eilonwy, Taran, and Gurgi to the Isle of Mona, but we remember that the sailors simply ignored his specific orders about such things as lashing the sails and steadying the helm (17) but followed his general orders to bring the ship and passengers safely home.

In a meritocracy, jobs go to the people who merit (deserve) them. They are competent people who can get the job done.

However, it does take experience to become competent. Prince Rhun is gaining experience by being the leader of one of the parties seeking to rescue Eilonwy.

  • What does King Rhuddlum know about his son: Prince Rhun?

King Rhuddlum knows that his son has a lot to learn, and he hopes that his son will learn what he needs to know so that he can be a good King.

Right now, Prince Rhun has some good qualities, but he does not have all of the qualities that he needs to be a good King. King Rhuddlum is very much aware of this.

After Taran criticizes Prince Rhun and asks that another person lead the party, we read:

“Once again you speak the truth,” King Rhuddlum answered. “It is not you who suffers for it, but I.” He put a hand on Taran’s shoulder. “Think you I do not know my own son? You are right in your judgment. But, I know, too, that Rhun must grow to be both a man and a king. You carry the burden of an oath to Dallben. I pray you take the burden of another one. […].” (59)

  • What are some of the problems of a hereditary kingdom?

A good father can have a bad son. A man may be a good King, but it is possible for his son to be a bad King.

Sometimes, a King will die when his son is very young and not ready to be King. In that case, an adult male relative will become regent and act in the place of the young son.

Another problem is that sometimes people will fight over who will succeed to the kingship. For example, what happens when a King does not have any sons, or perhaps no children at all?

Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Too much power is the hands of the wrong person can be dangerous.

  • What are some of the advantages of a hereditary kingdom?

When people know that someone has the power of a King, they tend to obey that person. A good King can make a good decision quickly and have his good decision carried out quickly.

  • What are some of the problems of a democracy?

In a political system in which power is shared among many, such as a representative democracy, it can be very hard to get enough votes to pass a law — even a good law.

Changes in political leaders can make it difficult to chart a steady course. A new political leader can undo much of the work of the old political leader.

When two political parties exist, the political party that is not in power may scheme to make the economy worse so that the opposing political party is voted out of office.

Because of term limits, a representative democracy such as the United States may lose a good leader after the maximum number of terms has been served.

  • What are some of the advantages of a democracy?

The people with power can change quickly. No one need suffer under a bad King for many years until the King dies.

The succession of leaders such as presidents or prime ministers happens peacefully. People vote to change leaders rather than fight wars to change leaders.

  • What oath did Taran previously swear to Dallben?

Taran promised to protect Eilonwy.

Taran wants a good, competent person to lead the party because it will increase the chances of getting Eilonwy back safely.

  • Who is really in charge of the party that includes Prince Rhun and Taran?

The Master of the Horse will be the real leader of the party.

We read:

“Word of your deeds has reached Mona,” King Rhuddlum went on, “And I have seen for myself that you are a brave lad, and honorable. I confide this knowledge to you: my Master of Horse is a skillful tracker; he rides with your party and in truth shall direct the search. Prince Rhun commands in name only, for the warriors expect leadership from the Royal House. […].”(59)

  • What oath does Taran swear to King Rhuddlum? Is this a good oath to swear?

Taran gives his oath to look after Prince Rhun: to protect him and to try to keep him from making a big fool of himself.

King Rhuddlum says this:

“[…] I would entrust my son to you, and beg you to let no harm befall him. Nor,” added the King, smiling sadly, “to let him make too great a fool of himself. Much he has to learn, and much, perhaps, he may learn from you. […].” (59)

We read:

At last Taran met the King’s eyes. “I will swear this oath,” he said slowly. “Your son will come to no harm if it lies in my power to keep him from it.” Taran put a hand to his sword. “I pledge my life to do so.” (60-61)

King Rhuddlum is a good person. He is very much concerned about his son and the kind of ruler he will be; however, he is also very much concerned about Eilonwy’s safety. We read:

“Go with my thanks, Taran of Caer Dallben,” King Rhuddlum said. “And help us bring the Princess Eilonwy safely home.” (61)

  • To whom does King Rhuddlum want Prince Rhun to get married when they are of age? Does she know of this? Does Prince Rhun?

King Rhuddlum wants Prince Rhun to marry Eilonwy.

However, Eilonwy knows nothing of this. Neither does Prince Rhun.

We read:

“Not yet. Nor does my son,” said King Rhuddlum. “Eilonwy must have time to grow used to Mona and our ways here. But I am sure it will be happily arranged. After all, she is a Princess and Rhun is of royal blood.” Taran bowed his head. The grief in his heart kept him from speaking. (60)

  • What reasons could Taran have not to swear the oath?

1) Prince Rhuncould very well end up marrying Eilonwy. This is something that his parents are in favor of.

2) Taran probably would prefer to be free to focus all his attention rescuing Eilonwy first. By swearing the oath, he has to direct some of his attention to keeping Prince Rhun safe.

  • What orders does Taran give to Kaw? Are these good orders?

Taran sends Kaw out on his own to search for Eilonwy. These are good orders. As a bird, Kaw can fly and cover a large distance while looking for Eilonwy. If Kaw finds Eilonwy, Kaw has enough intelligence and enough ability to speak to communicate important information to Taran.

We read:

As the searching parties galloped out the gates, Taran lifted Kaw from his shoulder. “Can you find her? Seek her carefully, my friend,” he murmured, while the crow cocked his head and looked at Taran with shrewd eyes. Taran flung his arm upward. Kaw launched himself into the air and sped aloft. Wings beating, the crow circled overhead, drove higher against the sky, then disappeared from sight. (61)

  • To whom did — does — Fflewddur Fflam think Eilonwy would — should — be betrothed?

Of course, he thought — thinks — that Taran and Eilonwy would eventually be wed.

Taran is still concerned about not knowing who his father is. He thinks that he is lower-born than Eilonwy, who of course is a princess.

We read:

“Oho,” said Fflewddur, when Taran had finished, “so that’s the way the wind blows! Strange,” he added, with a quick glance at Taran, “I had always hoped that if Eilonwy were betrothed to anyone it would be — yes, well, what I mean to say is that despite all the squabbling and bickering between the two of you, I had rather expected …”

“Do not mock me,” Taran burst out, reddening. “Eilonwy is a Princess of the House of Llyr. You know my station as well as I. Such a hope has never been in my mind. It is only fitting for Eilonwy to be betrothed to one of her own rank.” Angrily he drew away from the bard and galloped ahead. (61-62)

  • If Taran should look into his own heart, what does Fflewddur Fflam think he will find there?

We know the answer, although Fflewddur Fflam does not explicitly say it: Taran will find in his heart that he loves Eilonwy.

  • When night comes, what does Fflewddur Fflam say about Eilonwy? How does the expression on his face modify what he says about Eilonwy?

Fflewddur Fflam says the right things: He expresses an opinion that Eilonwy is OK although they have not found her yet. He expresses his opinion that Eilonwy can fight well — an opinion that we will find out to be true.

However, his face shows that he is very worried about Eilonwy.

We read:

“That sickening spider has escaped us today,” Fflewddur cried angrily, while his nag labored to the crest. “But we shall fetch him out tomorrow and Eilonwy will be safe and sound. If I know the Princess, Magg has already begun to regret stealing her away. She’s worth a dozen warriors even if she’s tied hand and foot.” Despite the bard’s brave words, his face looked deeply worried. “Come,” said Fflewddur, “the Master of Horse is calling in the warriors. We’re to make camp with them for the night.” (64-65)

  • What happens to Prince Rhun? How do Taran and his companions react?

Prince Rhun disappears — he simply gallops away when Taran dismounts to study the ground for signs of a trail (64).

Taran and the companions are unable to find him because darkness is arriving. In addition, things are moving around in the dark — things that cannot be fully glimpsed because of the darkness.

Eventually, Taran decides that they have to stop searching for Prince Rhun because of the darkness.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 5 end?

Chapter 5 ends in this way:

“Our search is blind and useless,” he [Taran] said. “You were right,” he went on, turning to Fflewddur. “We should have gone back. The time I had hoped to save is wasted twice over, and Eilonwy’s danger is greater with every moment we delay. Now Prince Rhun is lost — and so is Kaw, for all we know.”

“I’m afraid you’re right,” sighed Fflewddur. “And unless you or Gurgi knows where we are, I rather suspect we’re lost, too.” (67)

Obviously, things are going badly for our heroes. Eilonwy has been kidnapped. Prince Rhun has disappeared. The search for Prince Rhun may delay the search for Eilonwy. And it appears that Taran and his companions are lost.

The reader will keep on reading in order to find out what happens next.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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