David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 10: The Cavern

Chapter 10: The Cavern

  • Taran shows lots of courage in trying to rescue Prince Rhun from the pit in which he has fallen. How does the rescue attempt work out?

After Prince Rhun disappears into the hole, Taran leaps into the hole and slides down into it. Taran shows much bravery here because he does not know what he is sliding into. He could very well be sliding into a place of danger.

In the novel and two movies of True Grit, the young girl Maddie, who is the protagonist, slips and falls into a large hole in the ground. She is unable to get out of the hole by herself, and a rattlesnake that is in the hole bites her.

  • Where do Taran and his companions find themselves? How dark is it?

The companions also end up in the hole. Prince Rhun tries to climb out of the hole, and the wall collapses, bringing Fflewddur Fflam andGurgi into the hole.

Once Taran and the companions have light to see, they will see that they are in a beautiful cavern. The hole is very dark. When the wall collapsed, it shut out the light from the sky.

We read:

“Terrible, oh terrible!” moaned Gurgi. “Rumblings and crumblings fling poor Gurgi into fearsome blackness. He cannot see!”

“Great Belin,” came Fflewddur’s voice out of the dark, “I’m delighted to hear that. For a moment I thought I’d been struck blind. I swear I can see more with my eyes shut!” (103)

  • Why can’t Gurgi make a fire so that he and the other companions are able to see?

Gurgi had fire stones, but he lost them when he fell into the hole.

The fire stones must be flint. Native Americans used flint to start fires. In Licking County, Ohio, Native Americans went to Flint Ridge to get flint:

“This ‘Flint Ridge’ must have been as valuable to the Indians … as the coal and iron mines of Ohio and Pennsylvania are to the white men of the present day.”

— Henry Howe, 1888

Flint Ridge contains quarry pits where all of the ancient people of Ohio came to get flint for both tools and weapons. The flint was also a trade item for many of these people. The flint was especially prized by the Hopewell Culture for its quality and beauty. A walk through the site brings home how hard people labored to remove this material from the earth.

Source: http://ohsweb.ohiohistory.org/places/c01/index.shtml

Date Accessed: 16 September 2011

By the way, flint is Ohio’s official gemstone.


  • Taran tries but fails tomake Eilonwy’s bauble cast light.Why does Taran think that he could not make Eilonwy’s bauble cast light? Is that a good thing to say?

We read:

“I cannot do it,” Taran murmured. “I fear it is not given to an Assistant Pig-Keeper to command such a thing of beauty and enchantment.” (105)

Taran is not valuing himself as highly as he should. He feels bad because he is an Assistant Pig-Keeper instead of a Prince. However, the reader knows that he is a true hero and a leader.

  • Why doesn’t Prince Rhun try to make Eilonwy’s bauble cast light? Does he have a good reason?

We read:

“No sense in my trying,” said Prince Rhun. “I know I can’t make it work. The very first time I held it, the thing blinked out the moment it was in my hands. Surprising! The Princess Eilonwy could light it so easily.”

Taran groped toward Fflewddur and put the sphere into his hand. “You know the lore of the bards and the ways of enchantments,” he urged. “Perhaps it will obey you. Try, Fflewddur. Our lives depend on it.” (105)

Prince Rhun should be willing to try to make the bauble cast light. Just because you fail at something once does not mean that you will fail at it a second time. Proverbs often contain wisdom, and one proverb says this: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

We change over time. We grow, and we become stronger. Also, we become smarter. (Our taste changes over time, too. Maybe you did not like to eat a certain food last year, but you like eating that food this year.)

  • Fflewddur Fflam, and Gurgi all try to make Eilonwy’s bauble cast light, but they fail. How does Fflewddur Fflam contradict himself?

We read:

“A Fflam never despairs!” cried Fflewddur. “But,” he added dolefully, “I’m coming rapidly to believe this pit will be our grave, without even a decent mound to mark the spot. A Fflam is cheerful — but this is a disheartening situation, no matter how you look at it.” (106)

Fflewddur Fflam has the right idea: Say something to put heart into Taran and the companions. Unfortunately, the execution is lacking: He says something uplifting, but then he follows it with something discouraging. For example, he says, “A Fflam never despairs!” (106). But then he follows it with something that shows that he is despairing:

“But,” he added dolefully, “I’m coming rapidly to believe this pit will be our grave, without even a decent mound to mark the spot.” (106)

  • What is Taran thinking of when Eilonwy’s bauble, which he is holding, casts light?

This is important.

We read:

Gurgi silently gave the bauble back to Taran who, heavy hearted, cupped it in his hands again. With yearning now he held it, and his mind turned from his own plight to thoughts of Eilonwy. He saw her face and once more heard her gay laughter ring clearer than the notes of Fflewddur’s harp. He smiled to himself, even as he recalled her chattering and her sharp words.

He was about to return the bauble to his jacket, but stopped short and stared at his hand. A point of light had begun to flicker in the depths of the sphere. As he watched, not daring to breathe, it blossomed and shimmered.

Taran sprang to his feet with a cry not of triumph but of wonder. Golden beams shone around him faintly but steadily. Trembling, he raised the sphere high above his head. (106-107)

Taran thinks good thoughts about Eilonwy, and the bauble lights up.

If Eilonwy thinks such good thoughts about others to make the bauble cast light, she must be indeed special. She must love other people such as Taran.

Thinking good thoughts about other people can cast light in your life.

Taran does not cry out with triumph when the bauble lights up. If he had done that, the bauble would have become dark again.

  • Now that Taran and his companions have light, they can see the cavern they are in. Describe it.

The cavern, although dangerous, is beautiful:

“Amazing!” cried Prince Rhun. “Astonishing! Look at this cave! I never knew we had such a place on Mona!”

Again Taran cried out in wonder. Until now, he had believed they had fallen into something like a large burrow. The glow of Eilonwy’s bauble showed they had come, instead, to the edge of an enormous cavern. It stretched before them like a forest after an ice storm. Columns of stone rose like the trunks of trees and arched to the ceiling where stone icicles clung. Along the shadowy walls, huge outcroppings sprang like hawthorn blossoms and glittered in the bauble’s golden rays. Threads of scarlet and vivid green twisted through luminous shafts of rock. White tendrils of crystal curled along jagged walls gleaming with rivulets of water. Still other chambers lay beyond this one, and Taran caught sight of wide pools, flat and glistening as mirrors. Some gave a dull, greenish glow, others a pale blue. (107-108)

One thing that the cavern is not is part of the realm of the Fair Folk. This is a cavern made by nature, not by Fair Folk.

  • Why is it important that Taran and his companions escape from the cavern?

Two reasons in particular make it important for Taran and the companions to escape from the cave:

1) They know in which direction Magg and Eilonwy have gone (109). Taran and the companions have not forgotten that they must rescue Eilonwy.

2) They are likely to die in the cavern unless they can find a way out.

  • Describe the “tumble of rock” (110) that Prince Rhun sees?

We read:

“I say, there’s an odd thing,” called Rhun, pointing to a tumble of rock. It was, indeed, one of the strangest shapes Taran had seen in the cavern, for it looked like a hen’s egg sticking halfway out of a nest. The stone was white, smooth, and somewhat pointed at the top, crusted here and there with patches of lichen, and stood nearly as tall as Taran himself. What at first resembled a nest was a tangled, discolored fringe of coarse strands that seemed to balance on the edge of a sharp drop. (110-111)

Of course, we find out that it is not a rock at all, but the head of a giant named Glew.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 10 end?

Chapter 10 ends in this way:

“Amazing!” called Rhun, who had insisted on striding closer to peer at it. “This isn’t a rock at all!” He turned in surprise to the companions. “This is unbelievable, but it’s almost like …”

Taran seized the astonished Rhun and dragged him backward so abruptly the Prince nearly went head over heels. Gurgi yelped in terror. The shape had begun to move.

Two colorless eyes appeared, in a face pale as a dead fish; the eyebrows glittered with flecks of crystal; moss and mold edged the long, flapping ears and spread over the beard that sprouted below a lumpy nose.

Swords drawn, the companions huddled against the jagged wall. The huge head continued to rise and Taran saw it wobble on a skinny neck. A choking noise bubbled in the creature’s throat as it cried, “Puny things! Tremble before me! Tremble, I tell you! I am Glew! I am Glew!” (111)

The reader will keep on reading to learn about Glew. Is he dangerous?

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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