David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 7: The Lair of Llyan

Chapter 7: The Lair of Llyan

  • How do Taran and his companions react to the huge shape that is attacking them?

The huge shape turns out to be Llyan, the mountain cat to whom Glew fed his potions.

Taran is very brave and draws his sword, but Llyan knocks it from his hand.

At the moment, all is confusion and everyone is terrified.

We read:

The great beast screamed with fury as the companions scattered in terror to all parts of the hut.

Amid the confusion of tumbling stools and benches, and as the dry leaves rose in a whirlwind, Taran saw that Fflewddur had jumped to a tabletop and, in so doing, had plunged into the spiderweb which now covered him from head to foot. Prince Rhun, having tried vainly to climb up the chimney, crouched in the ashes of the hearth. Gurgi had made himself as small as he could and had pressed into a corner, where he squealed and yelled, “Help, oh, help! Save Gurgi’s poor tender head from pawings and clawings!” (78)

  • Describe Llyan.

Llyan’s main characteristic is her enormous size.

Another defining characteristic appears to be her ferocity. Certainly, Llyan appears to be dangerous.

A characteristic of cats, including mountain cats, is that they eat meat, and Taran and his companions are very afraid that Llyan could possibly be planning to eat them.

Llyan is also very good at fighting. Fflewddur Fflam draws his sword, but Llyan easily knocks the sword away and knocks Fflewddur Fflam over.

We read:

A long, wavering growl rose from the creature’s throat and she hesitated a moment as if undecided where to attack. Taran, sitting up on the ground, saw for the first time what the ferocious animal looked like.

Though Glew had written of Llyan’s growth, Taran had never imagined a mountain cat so big. The animal stood as tall as a horse but leaner and longer; her tail alone, thicker than Taran’s arm, seemed to take up much of the room in the hut. Heavily and sleekly furred, the cat’s body was golden-tawny, flecked with black and orange. Her belly was white with black splotches. Curling tufts sprouted from the tips of her ears, and shaggy handfuls of fur curved at her powerful jaws. Her long whiskers twitched; her baleful yellow eyes darted from one companion to another. Judging from the white points of her teeth, glittering as her lips drew back in a snarl, Taran was certain Llyan could gulp down anything that suited her fancy. (79)

  • How dangerous is Llyan? Is she as dangerous as Taran and his companions thought when they first saw her?

Taran reasons very well. He believes that Llyan is curious rather than dangerous. If Llyan truly were dangerous, Taran and his companions would be dead right now.

Taran also reasons that Llyan is not hungry. Llyan and other mountain cats hunt at night, so Llyan has been out hunting and so most likely has eaten her fill.

We read:

“She’s more curious than angry,” Taran whispered. “Otherwise, she would have clawed us to pieces by now. Don’t move. She may go away.”

“Glad to hear you say that,” replied Fflewddur in a choked voice. “I’ll remember it while I’m being gobbled up. It will be a consolation to me.”

“I don’t think she’s hungry,” said Taran. “If she’s been out hunting during the night, she must have eaten her fill.” (80)

However, at first appearance Llyan truly did appear to be dangerous, and if she grows hungry, she could very well become dangerous.Fflewddur Fflam says, “She’ll keep us here until her appetite comes back. I’m sure this is the first time she’s been lucky enough to have four dinners ready and waiting in her lair” (80).

  • Why can’t Taran and his companions escape? Why can’t Taran and his companions make a run for it and hope that one of them escapes?

Taran and his companions attempt to escape, but Llyan is very watchful and stops all attempts at escape.

Taran thinks about having everyone try to escape at the same time, but Fflewddur Fflam realizes thatthis idea will not work.

We read:

“But we must escape,” Taran urged. “What if we all rushed upon her once? One of us at least might get past.”

Fflewddur shook his head. “After she’d settled with the rest of us,” he answered, “she’d have no trouble catching up with that lone survivor. Let me think, let me think.” (82-83)

  • What calms Llyan?

Fflewddur Fflam’s music — he begins to play his harp because playing it calms him — has a calming effect on Llyan.

We read:

“Fflewddur!” Taran whispered. “Play on!”

“You can’t think she enjoys it,” replied the bard. “I should find that hard to believe. Why, even human beings have been known to say hard words about my music. You can’t expect a mountain cat to like it any better.” Nevertheless, he plucked the strings once more.

This time, there was no doubt in Taran’s mind that the harp fascinated Llyan. The great body of the cat slackened, her muscles seemed to uncoil, and Llyan blinked peacefully. To make certain, Taran asked Fflewddur to stop. As soon as the bard did so, Llyan turned restless. Her tail lashed and her whiskers trembled with what could only be vexation. As soon as the bard played again, Llyan put her head to one side, ears forward, and gazed fondly at him.(83-84)

Note that Llyan is now growing fond of Fflewddur Fflam. However, she grows restless when Fflewddur Fflamstops playing, so she may still be dangerous.

  • Where does the phrase “Music soothes the savage beast” come from?

In Act 1, scene 1 of William Congreve’s 1697 play The Mourning Brideappears these lines:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,

To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

We think of Llyan as a savage beast rather than a savage breast, but it is possible that a savage beast can have a savage breast.

This is an interesting short article:

Hard Rock Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Even sharks like to rock out from time to time. An Australian tour boat operator says great white sharks have a fondness for music as aggressive as they are. The animals like songs by Aussie hard rock band AC/DC, especially “If You Want Blood” (of course) and “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Interestingly, the music attracts the toothy predators and makes them less aggressive and more inquisitive. The tour boat operator suspects the creatures like the low frequencies and vibrations in AC/DC’s music.

So, will a waterproof mp3 player and a collection of AC/DC songs protect you from Jaws this summer? Probably not, but at least you can rock out, too.

Source: <http://blog.nwf.org/wildlifepromise/2011/06/hard-rock-music-soothes-the-savage-beast/>.

Date Accessed: 2 October 2011

  • Can you give any examples from literature or popular culture of music soothing a savage beast?

These examples come from a site dedicated to TV tropes:

  • In Greek Mythology, Orpheus was able to get past Cerberus [a three-headed dog that guards the Underworld] by playing music to soothe it.
  • The Monster in Young Frankensteincan be attracted to and lulled by music.
  • In Bringing Up Baby, the tame leopard Baby can be subdued by singing “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love, Baby.”
  • In Help!,Ringo is threatened by a tiger which can be tamed by singing the “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
  • Inverted in The Three Stooges short “Idle Roomers,” which features a Wolf Manwho is relatively tame until he hears music. The stooges, mistakenly believing in this trope, decide to play music when confronted by him, activating the Wolf Man’s Berserk Button.
  • The Island of Doctor Moreau(1996): Marlon Brando (as the title character) momentarily soothes the rebellious man-animal hybrids with his piano playing. But when Dr Moreau decides to follow this up by activating their pain implants, he discovers the hard way that they’ve already been removed.
  • Harry Potter: Fluffy the giant three-headed guard dog is lulled to sleep when music is played (a harp or a flute in this case), as a nod to Greek Mythology.



Date Accessed: 11 September 2011

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 7 end?

Chapter 7 ends in this way:

“Yes, yes!” Gurgi cried. “Do not leave off hummings and strummings!”

“Believe me,” the bard answered fervently, “I haven’t the slightest intention.” Llyan folded her paws under her deep, speckled chest and began making a sound like a swarm of droning bees. Her mouth curved in a smile and the tip of her tail moved gently to the music.

“That’s the answer!” cried Fflewddur, springing to his feet. “Fly, friends, while she’s quiet!” No sooner had he risen than Llyan, too, jumped up, furious, and the bard sank back, playing for dear life.

“Your music calms her,” Taran cried in alarm, “but she still won’t let us go.”

“Not exactly,” said the bard, passing his fingers rapidly across the strings. “I doubt if the rest of you will have any trouble. Alas,” he added ruefully, “I fear I’m the one she wants to keep!” (84)

The reader will keep on reading to find out happens. How will Fflewddur Fflam be able to get away from Llyan? Or will he?


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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