David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 9: The Luck of Rhun

Chapter 9: The Luck of Rhun

  • What do you notice about Kaw’s speech at the end of Chapter 8 and the beginning of Chapter 9?

Kaw repeats words, always saying them twice:

“Eilonwy!” Kaw croaked. “Eilonwy!” (91)

and

“Alaw!” croaked Kaw. “Alaw!”

“The river!” Taran exclaimed. “How far is it?”

“Close! Close!” replied Kaw. (92)

  • What other characters in The Castle of Llyrspeak distinctively?

Fflewddur Fflam frequently exclaims, “Great Belin!” Belin is the Celtic god of the sun.

Eilonwy, of course, is noted for her unusual similes: “You look as jumpy as a frog with fleas!” (52)

Gurgi is noted for his alliteration (words that begin with the same sounds) and his rhymes:

Gurgi nodded. “Yes, yes,” he whispered. “Loyal Gurgi will stand with watchful waitings. He will guard dreamful drowsings of noble Princess.” (44)

 “Yes, yes!” Gurgi cried. “Do not leave off hummings and strummings!” (84)

Gurgi also says “Yes, yes” 11 times in The Castle of Llyr; Taran says it once.

Fflewddur Fflam deliberately speaks like Gurgi here:

“Good news!” he cried. “Gurgi and I have done some seekings and peekings of our own. We’re not as badly lost as you might think. […]” (69)

  • What decisions does Taran make? Why does he make them?

Previously, Taran decided that he and the companions should return to Dinas Rhydnant. However, Kaw has brought new information that makes Taran decide to do something different. He decides to do these things:

1) Search for Eilonwy.

2) Not send Kaw to the Master of the Horse.

Eilonwy is close, and Taran and his companions would waste time by going to Dinas Rhydnant. Taran believes that they must act quickly — too quickly to take time to send Kaw to the Master of the Horse so that some mounted warriors will join them. Taran uses Kaw to guide them to the Alaw River.

  • Magg is intelligent. How did he escape his pursuers?

Magg has not been travelling the entire time. As Taran figures out, Magg took Eilonwy to some hills and hid there and allowed the searching parties to go past them.

We read:

“With all of Rhuddlum’s warriors combing Mona,” Fflewddur cried angrily, as they began the descent toward the river, “how has that spider managed to escape us for so long?”

“Magg has been more cunning than we thought,” Taran said bitterly. “I’m sure he took Eilonwy into the Hills of Parys. But he must have hidden away, without moving until he knew the search had swept beyond him.” (93)

  • Magg is intelligent, but he is a bad person. Why would it be better for a bad person to be unintelligent?

Bad, unintelligent people can be thwarted more easily than bad, intelligent people.

We want heroes such as Taran to be intelligent.

We very much prefer that a criminal be unintelligent and that a police officer be intelligent. That way, the police officer can catch the criminal.

Philosopher Immanuel Kant was well aware that intelligence is not good when it is joined with the will to do evil. However, intelligence is very good when it is joined with the will to do good.

  • What important object does Prince Rhun find?

Prince Rhun finds Eilonwy’s bauble: the golden sphere that she uses to cast light.

This object will be important in the novel.

Prince Rhun’s finding the bauble is important evidence that Eilonwy was here.

  • Taran is intelligent. By examining tracks, he is able to tell what happened to Magg and Eilonwy. (Fflewddur Fflam helps.) What did happen?

Eilonwy struggled and lost her bauble, and then Magg let the horses run free because he and Eilonwy got on board a boat.

We read:

“He’s [Prince Rhun has] led us to fresh tracks,” said Fflewddur, studying the grass. “Something fairly large and flat has been dragged along here.” He scratched his chin thoughtfully. “I wonder — a boat? Could it be? Did that sneering spider have one ready and waiting? I shouldn’t be surprised if he had planned it all before Eilonwy reached Mona.”

Taran strode down the bank. “I see footprints,” he called. “The ground is badly torn. Eilonwy must have struggled with him — yes, right there. And there she would have dropped the bauble.” In dismay he looked at the wide, rapid-flowing Alaw. “You have read the signs well, Fflewddur,” he said. “Magg had a boat here. He set loose the horses and let them run as they pleased.” (95)

Taran and the companions no longer need horses. Magg and Eilonwy have a boat, and now Taran and the companions need a way to float on the river.

Taran and the companions will build a raft. A raft can float only one way on a river. Taran and the companions have decided that Magg has gone downstream on the boat. Magg would have a difficult time rowing upstream, especially with a girl like Eilonwy fighting him.

  • Can girls fight well?

Note that Eilonwy struggled. She fights back rather than acting like a helpless little girl.

Here are some stories of girls fighting very well:

1) In October 2003 in Baytown, Texas, a 10-year-old girl fought off an abductor as she rode her bicycle to elementary school. The girl, who did not want to be identified, said, “As I was riding my bike to school, some man was turning in and he came around and he tried to get me. And when he got me, he got out of his car and [held] my tire of my bike. And then, after he [held] my tire, he pushed me off my bike. I tried to get up, and he grabbed my ankle. And after he grabbed my ankle, I kicked him and it hurt him, so he got inside his car and left. I was yelling and I was kicking and I was screaming.” She rode her bike to James Bowie Elementary Schooland told an adult what had happened. The girl’s mother said, “I thank God that my child is still alive, because these things, that’s all people are doing now — taking children.” Lieutenant David Alford of the Baytown Police Department said about the girl, “She had some type of plan of action. She did very well. She was very brave, and she was very purposeful in her actions.”[1]

2) In August 2003 in Chelmsley Wood, England, a man tried to abduct a 10-year-old girl outside a Texaco garage as she was pushing her nine-month-old brother in his pram (baby buggy). The man grabbed the girl’s wrist and the pram, but she kicked him and he ran away. She told an adult at the garage what had happened, and the adult called police.[2]

3) When two men in a black van tried to kidnap a 14-year-girl near Tucker Middle School in Tucker, Georgia, in 2007, she fought back and got away from the men: She stabbed one of the men with a pencil and probably saved her life. The girl’s mother, Allicia Brown, said, “Thank God, I thank my Father that’s she’s home, because she could not be here right now. I could be looking for my baby, so I just thank God that she’s home and she’s safe and that’s all that matters to me. I’m glad that she just didn’t become a victim and let them take her. She is a very strong, strong baby.”[3]

  • Based on the description in the following paragraph, is Llyan dangerous to Fflewddur Fflam? This is the paragraph:

“The raft!” Taran shouted. “Into the river with it!” He seized one end of the clumsy craft and struggled to haul it to the water. Still yelling, Gurgi ran to aid him. Prince Rhun toiled as best he could to help. The bard had already splashed into the stream, where he stood hip-deep in the current and heaved at the branches. Llyan’s tufted ears cupped forward and her whiskers twitched as her glance fell on the bard. From her throat arose not a savage roar but a bell-like, questioning cry. Eyes shining with a strange glow, she loped forward on huge padded paws. Purring loudly, the mountain cat made straight for the frantic bard. (97)

While Taran and the companions are building a raft to float them downstream, Llyan finds them. Certainly, Taran and his companions think that Llyan is dangerous; however, she seems not to be dangerous:

1) Llyan does not roar, but instead makes “a bell-like, questioning cry” (97).

2) Llyan purrs loudly.

This information comes from Wikipedia:

Nobody knows for certain why cats purr, but the following reasons are speculated:

Cats often purr when being petted, becoming relaxed, or when eating. […] One theory is that it is not a sign of showing relaxation or content, but an attempt at “friendship” or a signal of “specific intent”. For example, when a cat is nervous and cannot escape the situation (at a veterinarian perhaps), its purr may serve as an attempt to avoid being hurt. German ethologist and cat behaviorist Paul Leyhausen interprets it as a signal that the animal is not posing a threat.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Purr

Date Accessed: 15 August 2011

Note: Wikipedia is a questionable source. It can be edited by anyone, and so any idiot can edit it. However, it can be an interesting place to start doing research.

Note: The American style of punctuation is to put commas and periods inside quotation marks. The British style of punctuation is to put commas and periods outside quotation marks.

Here is an example of the American style:

Groucho Marx once asked Melinda, his little daughter, what she did at nursery school. She replied, “Oh, Daddy, all we do is paint and go to the toilet.”Groucho called this “the most accurate description of a nursery school that’s ever been uttered.”

WebMD may be a better source than Wikipedia. It contains this interesting information:

Purring isn’t the sole domain of domestic cats. Some wild cats and their near relatives — civets, genets, mongooses — also purr. Even hyenas, guinea pigs, and raccoons can purr. 

Cats that purr, such as mountain lions and bobcats, can’t roar, however. And cats that roar, such as lions and tigers, can’t purr. The structures surrounding their voice box (larynx) aren’t stiff enough to produce a purr. 

But it appears these cats evolved the roar for good reason — mainly to protect their prides, says Benjamin L. Hart, DVM, PhD, distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine.

“If you’re a big cat and you have to move around a lot to get prey, loud roaring plays a huge part in maintaining your territory,” Hart says.

But small cats are loners and don’t compete with each other for meals, Hart says. Their communication doesn’t need to be far-reaching. For them, scent marking does the territorial trick (as some unfortunate cat owners quickly learn).

Source: <http://pets.webmd.com/cats/features/why-cats-purr>.

Date Accessed: 13 September 2011

Llyan, a fictional character, both roars and purrs.

  • What does Kaw do when Kaw thinks that Llyan is threateningFflewddur Fflam?

Kaw attacks Llyan.

We read:

It was then that Kaw, perched on a low branch, beat his wings and launched himself against Llyan. Squawking and croaking at the top of his voice, the crow swooped down on the astonished beast. Llyan stopped in her tracks and roared angrily. Flying at full speed, Kaw passed within a hair’s breadth of Llyan’s mighty head, striking out with his wings and pecking at her with his sharp beak. (97)

Llyan takes off after Kaw, and Fflewddur Fflam and the others are safe.

Note: See Appendix on “Animal Heroes” for some true stories of animals protecting humans.

  • Does Taran believe that Kaw will stay safe?

Yes, he does.

We read:

Fflewddur, whose face had turned deathly pale, gave a sigh of relief. “I feared she had me for sure! Believe me, I couldn’t stand another bout of harping like the last one! I hope Kaw fares well,” he added anxiously.

“Kaw will find us again,” Taran assured him. “He’s clever enough to stay out of Llyan’s reach until he knows we’re safe. If she keeps chasing him, I’m certain she’ll have the worst of the battle.”

Fflewddur nodded, then turned and glanced back over his shoulder. “In a way,” he said, with a note of regret in his voice, “it’s the first time my music has really been — ah — in a manner of speaking, sought after. In this case, if it weren’t so dangerous, I should call it downright complimentary!” (98-99)

  • When the raft breaks up, what act of heroism does Taran perform?

Taran makes sure that Prince Rhun reaches the shore safely, thus keeping his oath to make sure that the Prince is safe.

We read:

Taran, busy steering, glanced down in alarm. The hurriedly knotted vines had begun to give way. The raft shuddered in the swift current. With the pole, Taran thrust deeply for the river bottom, seeking to bring the raft to a halt. The current bore it onward and the branches bent and twisted as the water poured through the gaps. One of the vines parted, a branch ripped free, then another. Throwing aside the useless pole, Taran shouted for the companions to jump clear. Seizing Prince Rhun by the jacket, he sprang into the river.

As the water closed over his head, Prince Rhun kicked and struggled wildly. Taran tightened his grasp on the floundering Prince and fought his way to the surface. With a free hand he clung to a boulder and gained a foothold among the shifting stones. Heaving with all his strength, he dragged Rhun ashore and flung him to the bank. Gurgi and Fflewddur had managed to catch hold of what remained of the raft and were hauling it into the shallows. Prince Rhun sat up and looked around. (99)

Even though Taran has performed an act of heroism, he doesn’t talk about it. Instead, he seems to regard it as something that had to be done, and so he did it. Taran takes it as a matter of fact that when someone needs to be saved, you try to save them.

  • What can a child do to be prepared in an emergency in which drowning is a possibility?

1) Know to call 911 for help. (In Britain, the emergency number is 999.)

2) Learn to swim.

3) Take an age-appropriate Red Cross water-rescue course.

4) Take an age-appropriate Red Cross first-aid course.

  • What course of action does Taran want to take after the raft breaks out?

Taran wants to rebuild the raft and float downstream after Eilonwy and Magg. Most of the old raft can be used to build the new raft, and they can cut more vines.

Taran and the companions are very good at doing what needs to be done. They need to build a new raft, and so they begin to build a new raft, although Taran (and probably the others) are weary (100).

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 9 end?

Chapter 9 ends in this way:

The Prince of Mona had made his way to a clump of osiers, and Taran glimpsed him tugging away, trying to uproot them. The next instant, Rhun was no longer in sight.

With a shout of alarm, Taran dropped his armload of vines and ran toward the spot, calling Rhun’s name. The bard looked up. “Not again!” he cried. “If there were a field with one stone he’d trip over it! A Fflam is patient, but there are limits!” Nevertheless, he hurried to join Taran, who was already kneeling among the osiers. At the spot where Rhun had been standing was a gaping hole. The Prince of Mona had vanished. (100)

The reader will keep reading to find out what has happened to Prince Rhun.

[1]Source: “Girl, 10, Fights Off Abductor Near School.” Click2houston.com. 30 October 2003 <http://www.click2houston.com/news/2597815/detail.html>.

[2]Source: “Young girl fends off attacker.” BBC News. 27 August 2003 <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/west_midlands/3184507.stm>.

[3]Source: “Girl Stabs Would-Be Kidnapper With Pencil.” Fox News. <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,312287,00.html>. Posted on Warrior Talk. 20 November 2007 <http://www.warriortalk.com/showthread.php?30894-Girl-Stabs-Would-Be-Kidnapper-With-Pencil&gt;.

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