David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 6: The Potions of Glew

Chapter 6: The Potions of Glew

  • How does Gurgi act at the beginning of Chapter 6? How does Taran act? What is the way that a leader ought to act?

Gurgi begins to wail. Taran does his best to comfort Gurgi, although Taran feels despair.

Taran is acting the way that a leader ought to act. He is acting bravely in not giving in to despair. Taran is much more mature than Gurgi. Taran is the leader here.

Being brave does not mean not feeling fear. Being brave means facing and controlling your fear in a dangerous situation:

  • “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear. Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say it is brave.” — Mark Twain
  • “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” — Ambrose Redmoon

We read:

At these words Gurgi set up a wail and rocked back and forth, clutching his head. Taran swallowed his own despair as best he could and tried to reassure the frightened creature. (68)

In Virgil’s Aeneid, the epic hero Aeneas sometimes puts on a public face of hope and confidence while privately he feels despair and hopelessness.

  • What advice does Fflewddur Fflam give Taran at the beginning of Chapter 6? Is it good advice?

Taran is not totally able to control his feelings. He is still worried about Eilonwy.Fflewddur Fflam notices and gives him good advice:

“Do not wear out your heart with grief,” the bard said quietly. (68)

One reason that this is good advice is thatFflewddur Fflam is able to give reasons why Taran ought not to wear out his heart with grief:

“Magg can’t escape us for long. I don’t believe he means to harm Eilonwy but only bring her to Achren. And we shall catch him long before he can do that. Rest now. Gurgi and I will share the watch.” (68)

Taran is mainly worried that Eilonwy will get hurt. Fflewddur Fflam believes that Magg will not hurt Eilonwy because his orders are most likely to bring Eilonwy to Achren.

Fflewddur Fflam also advises Taran to sleep while he and Gurgi take the watch. This is good advice because we often feel much better after sleeping, or after a good meal.

  • Describe the strange hut that Taran and his companions find.

Taran and his companions wake up in the morning and discover that in the darkness they were going around in circles. One problem that they were worried about is no longer a problem: they are not lost because now they know where they are.

Of course, they still need to find first Prince Rhun and then Eilonwy. As they search for Prince Rhun, they find a strange hut.

We read:

The conical thatched roof, he [Taran] now saw, had fallen away in many places. Rough stones, piled one on top of the other, formed a low side wall, a corner of which had collapsed into a heap of rubble. There were no windows, and the single, heavy door hung askew from sagging leather hinges. He stepped closer. The holes in the thatch stared at him like empty eyes. (70)

  • Where did Prince Rhun stay the night?

Prince Rhun stayed the night in the strange hut. Taran is angered because Taran was worried about Prince Rhun, but Prince Rhun does not seem concerned that Taran and the companions were worried about him.

Prince Rhun did show some initiative in staying in the strange hut. He says, “That’s only common sense, wouldn’t you say? I mean, why sleep outdoors when you can put a roof over your head? […]” (71-72).

We also find out why Prince Rhun got separated from Taran and the other companions. He fell off his horse and had to go looking for her. This is another example of Prince Rhun’s clumsiness.

  • According to Prince Rhun, what does fresh air do (71)?

We read:

“Hullo, hullo!” Prince Rhun, beaming, stood in the doorway. Aside from looking a little sleepy, he appeared quite himself and altogether unharmed. “I hope you’ve got some breakfast with you,” he added, rubbing his hands eagerly.

“I’m nearly starved to death. Have you ever noticed how the fresh air sharpens one’s appetite? Most surprising! […].” (71)

In Chapter 14 of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Tom learned that his food tasted much better on Jackson’s Island when he and two friends (Huck Finn and Joe Harper) ran away from home to be pirates:

While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck asked him to hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook in the river-bank and threw in their lines; almost immediately they had reward. Joe had not had time to get impatient before they were back again with some handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish — provisions enough for quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon, and were astonished; for no fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did not know that the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire after he is caught the better he is; and they reflected little upon what a sauce open-air sleeping, open-air exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient of hunger make, too. (86-87)

  • What book does Prince Rhun find and keep?

Poking around inside the hut, Gurgi finds a bundle of pages. Mice have been chewing on many pages, but at the bottom of the bundle is a book bound in leather whose pages the mice have not been chewing on. The book has blank pages, although we will learn something about that book later in this novel:

Only at the bottom of the pile did Taran find pages in good repair. These had been carefully bound in leather to make a small tome, and their surface was clear and unmarked.

Prince Rhun, who still had not got around to buckling on his sword, came to peer over Taran’s shoulder. “I say!” he cried. “What have you there? I can’t guess what it is, but it looks interesting. And isn’t that a handsome little book? I shouldn’t mind having it to put down things I’m supposed to remember to do.” (74)

  • What do we learn about Glew?

We learn that Glew is a small person because the boots that are in the hut are child-sized.

We learn that Glew invented potions in an attempt to make himself larger.

We learn that Glew used a mountain cat as a guinea pig for his experiments.

And we learn that the experiments worked.

  • Fflewddur Fflam says that he would “rather not think about” (75) the ingredients of Glew’s potions. What do you suppose he means?

We can guess that the ingredients of the potions are disgusting.

Certainly the ingredients that the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbethuse are disgusting. In Act 4, scene 1, of Macbeth, we learn that the witches are very evil. The ingredients that they add to the potion are disgusting.

The first witch says this (62):

Pour in sow’s blood, that hath eaten

Her nine farrow; grease that’s sweaten

From the murderer’s gibbet throw

Into the flame.

The Pathology Guy (Ed Friedlander) explains:

I’m an autopsy pathologist. I am very familiar with how human bodies decompose. To show Macbeth his future, the witches add to the brew “grease that’s sweaten / From the murderer’s gibbet.” Would you like to know what that means? The bodies of murderers were left hanging on the gallows (gibbet) until they were skeletonized, which takes weeks. At about ten days in suitable weather, there are enough weak points in the skin that the bodyfat, which has liquified, can start dripping through. There will be a puddle of oil underneath the body. This is for real.

Source: http://www.pathguy.com/macbeth.htm

Date Accessed: 2 October 2011

These are the ingredients of the Macbeth witches’ potion:

poisoned entrails


slice of a snake from a swamp

eye of newt

toe of frog

wool of bat

tongue of dog

forked tongue of an adder

sting of a legless lizard

leg of a lizard

wing of a young owl


  • What Fflewddur Fflam says about the ingredients of Glew’s potions is foreshadowing. What is foreshadowing?

The 6thedition of A Handbook to Literatureby C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon defines “foreshadowing” in this way: “The presentation of material in a work in such a way that later events are prepared for” (201).

Here are a couple of other definitions:

Foreshadowing is the use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature.

Source: http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/foreshadowing.html

Date Accessed: 2 October 2011

Definition: A literary device used to hint at events that will follow later in the story, sometimes generating feelings of anxiety or suspense. Anton Chekhov once said that “if there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.” That remark captures the essence of foreshadowing.

Source: http://contemporarylit.about.com/library/bldef-foreshadowing

Of course, plays also contain foreshadowing.

The ingredients of potions will play a role later in the novel. Readers are being prepared for that now.

  • In which ways did Glew show intelligence in his experiments?

1) Glew carefully wrote everything down.

2) Glew used a mountain cat rather than himself as a guinea pig.

These are things that modern scientists do. Animal experimentation may be controversial, but most people would agree that it is better to experiment on animals rather than human beings.

We should note that his potions did work: The mountain cat did get larger. Glew has to be very intelligent or very lucky for that to happen.

Here, of course, we are reminded that The Castle of Llyris a fantasy novel. In real life, if we want a cat to grow we would get a kitten and feed it. This works very well with small children, too.

  • What may have happened to Glew?

Glew may have been gobbled up by the mountain cat, which did indeed get larger as a result of Glew’s potions.

We read:

Taran was silent looking at the empty boots and overturned cookpots. “Glew certainly is gone,” he said thoughtfully, “but I have a feeling he didn’t go far.”

“How’s that?” asked the bard. “Oh, I take your meaning,” he said, shuddering. “Yes, it does look rather — shall I say, sudden? As I see Glew, he was a neat and orderly sort. He would hardly go off leaving his hut as it is now. Without his boots at that. Poor little fellow,” he sighed. “It only proves the dangers of meddling. For all his pains, Glew must have got himself gobbled up. And if you ask me, the wisest thing for us is to leave immediately!” (77)

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 6 end?

Chapter 6 ends in this way:

Taran nodded and rose to his feet. As he did, terrified whinnyings and the sound of galloping hooves filled the air.

“The horses!” he cried, racing to the door.

Before he could reach it, the door burst from its hinges. Taran clutched at his sword and stumbled back into the hut as a huge shape leaped at him. (77)

The reader will keep on reading in order to find out what the huge shape is.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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