David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 11: King of the Stones

Chapter 11: King of the Stones

  • Why would Glew want Taran and his companions to tremble before him? Is that a good reason?

Glew seems to want Taran and his companions to tremble before him simply because he is much bigger than they are.

This is not a good reason. Size can have advantages, but here Glew seems to be simply a bully.

Heroes don’t act the way that Glew acts. Taran and his companions have done and will do heroic acts, but they don’t expect preferential treatment because of what they have done. They simply see that someone needs help, and then they help that person, often at the risk of their own lives.

Many heroes are humble. For example:

In October 2005, a Buicksmashed against a pillar of a highway overpass on Interstate 95 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, and caught fire.Shawn Reese stopped his truck, ran to the car, saw a head and an arm dangling outside a window, and pulled the man out. One of the man’s legs was on fire and had to be put out with a fire extinguisher, but the man survived. Mr. Reese is a hero, but he denies that he is a hero. Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant Tim Frith said, “If he [the victim] had remained in that car, he certainly would have burned up. There’s no doubt about that. He [Mr. Reese] simply did save the guy’s life. However, Mr. Reese said, “I ain’t no hero. This guy just needed help. It’s just something you do.” He then got back in his truck and headed to a construction site in Boynton Beach, Florida.[1]

Here is a humble child hero:

On 21 August 2002, seven-year-old Jordan Wyman of Lacey, Washington, rescued an infant floating toward the deep end of a community swimming pool in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Jordan, who was there with his grandparents, said, “The water was going up over his eyes, so I went over, picked him up, and took him to his daddy.” Like many heroes, Jordon is modest about his heroism. When the infant’s father asked Jordan for his name, his grandparents said that Jordan told him that he was just a Cub Scout from Washington state. His grandparents also said that Jordan did not want his mother to learn what he had done. According to his grandparents, Jordan said, “My mom will call the news [and] make a big deal of it, and I will have to be on TV.”[2]

We should note that Taran and the others in his group are known as the companions, although I myself think that the phrase “band of heroes” is a fit description — and yes, Prince Rhun will become a hero.

  • Write a description of Glew. Should people tremble before him?

We read:

Gurgi flung himself to the ground, covered his head with his hands, and whimpered piteously. The creature threw a long, spindly leg over the ledge and began slowly drawing himself upright. He was more than thrice as tall as Taran, and his flabby arms dangled below a pair of knobby, moss-covered knees. With a lopsided gait he shambled toward the companions. (112)

Glew is big, and being confronted with something big can be frightening. However, Glew does not seem strong and he may not be healthy.

Glew is rather pitiful.

  • Is Glew frightening, or pitiful, or both?

Glew seems to be both.

Glew is frightening because of his size. Being confronted with a giant can be scary.

However, Glew is pitiful. He has failed at most things that he has tried to accomplish. We will see that he is not a good person.

Glew does not value things in the right way. He wants to be feared, and he wants to be honored, but he has accomplished very little. To be honored, one should do something that makes one worthy of being honored. Glew wants to be honored simply because he is big.

  • What does Glew value most?

Glew values being big and being famous.

Glew spent a lot of effort in becoming big. He worked hard at making an effective spell. Now, of course, he sees a disadvantage in becoming big. Because he is so big, he cannot find a way out of the cave. If he were his normal, small size, he could easily get out of the cave.

Glew also values fame. He is happy to learn that Taran and the companions have heard of him.

We read:

“If that’s the Glew we know,” said the bard, “he’s changed remarkably.”

The giant’s pale eyes widened. What would have been a smile on a face of ordinary size became a grin that stretched longer than Taran’s arm. Glew blinked and stooped closer.

“You’ve heard of me then?” he asked eagerly. (113)

Later, we find out that Glew wants to be called a King. Glew wants an important position and title. But what is he King of? The title of Chapter 11 tells us: He is “The King of Stones.”

  • What do Taran and his companions value?

Taran and his companions value love and friendship very much. They are on a quest to rescue Eilonwy. They want to make sure that she is safe.

They value other things as well.

Fflewddur Fflam values his harp and music.

Gurgi values food (and is very capable of heroism in the service of his friends).

Prince Rhun values becoming a good King.

Taran values heroism such as the kind that Prince Gwydion exemplifies.

  • Prince Rhun blurts out Llyan’s name (113). This is foreshadowing. What is foreshadowing?

As mentioned previously, the 6th edition 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 Prince Rhun blurts out something that Taran thinks he should not have blurted out. Taran is cautious. He wants to find out more than Glew before he begins to reveal information to him.

We read:

But until he had learned more of this strange creature, Taran had deemed it wiser to say nothing of their search. (113)

Later in the novel, Prince Rhun will blurt out something that he should not have.

  • What can’t Glewfind a way out of the cavern?

Glew is quite simply too big to get out of the cavern.

  • How did Glewbecome trapped in the cavern?

Glew became trapped in the cavern after Llyan broke out of her cage and started chasing him. He was carrying the potion that he had used to make Llyan bigger and as he ducked into the cavern he drank it. He became bigger and bigger and went further and further underground searching for big enough chambers to be able to contain his size.

We read:

“Glew,” Taran interrupted, “we pity your plight, but I beg you, show us a way out of the cavern.” Glew rocked his huge, scraggly head from side to side. “Way out? I’ve never stopped looking for one. There isn’t any. Not for me, at least.”

“There must be,” insisted Taran. “How did you find your way into the cave in the first place? Please, show us.”

“Find my way?” replied Glew. “I should hardly call it a question of finding. It was Llyan’s fault. If only she hadn’t broken from her cage the one time my potion was working so well. She chased me out of my hut. Ungrateful of her, but I forgive her. I still had the flask in my hand. Oh, how I wish I’d thrown the wretched potion away! I ran as fast as I could, with Llyan after me.” Glew patted his forehead with a trembling hand and blinked sorrowfully. “I’ve never run so fast and so far in my life,” he said. “I still dream of it, when I’m not dreaming of worse. Finally, I found a cave and into it I went.

“I hadn’t a moment to spare,” continued Glew, sighing heavily. “I swallowed the potion. Now that I’ve had time to think it over, I realize I shouldn’t have. But it had made Llyan so much bigger, I thought it would do the same for me, so I might have a chance against her. And so it did,” he added. “In fact, it worked so quickly I nearly broke my crown on the ceiling of the cave. And I kept on growing. I had to squeeze along as fast as I could, going farther and farther downward always looking for bigger chambers, until I ended here. By then, alas, no passage was wide enough to let me out. […]” (115-116)

  • What is Fflewddur Fflam’s opinion of Glew? Is his opinion accurate?

Fflewddur Fflam has a low opinion of Glew. When Glew was small in size, he was small in other ways. Now that Glew is big in size, he is still small in other ways. Glew is small because he puts himself before all other people. Glew considers himself the center of the universe.

It is better to be small in size but big in other ways. A child will grow to be big in size. It helps if the child who grows into an adult as Taran and Eilonwy are doing is big in other ways.

A true hero sometimes puts other people before him- or herself. A true hero will risk his or her own life to save the life of another person.

We read:

“Fflewddur,” Taran whispered in the bard’s ear, “is there no way we can make him stop talking and show us one of the passages? Or should we try to slip by him and find it ourselves?”

“I don’t know,” answered Fflewddur. “From all the giants I’ve seen — yes, well, the truth of it is I’ve never seen any myself, though I’ve heard enough of them. Glew seems rather, how shall I say it, small! I don’t know if I’m making myself clear, but he was a feeble little fellow to begin with and now he’s a feeble little giant! And very likely a coward. I’m sure we could fight him, if we could reach him. Our biggest risk would be getting stepped on and squashed.” (116)

  • Why was Glew a failure as a warrior?

Glew wanted to be like Prince Gwydion (although he does not mention Prince Gwydion’s name), who is a good role model, but Glew disliked the sight of blood, meaning that he cannot be a warrior (or doctor, dentist, or nurse). He also does not like the noise of the battlefield. We can also guess that Glew would be too weak to be a warrior.

We read:

“I didn’t want to be a giant,” protested Glew, “not at first anyway. I thought, once, I should be a famous warrior. I joined the host of Lord Goryon when he marched against Lord Gast. But I couldn’t stand the sight of blood. It turned me green, green as grass. And those battles! Enough to make your head swim! All that clashing and smiting! The din alone is more than flesh can bear! No, no, it was absolutely out of the question.” (117)

Not everyone can be a warrior. There need be no shame in that, but one should find something that one is good at.

We read:

“A warrior’s life is one of hardship,” Taran said, “and it takes a stout heart to follow it. Surely there were other means to make a name for yourself.” (117)

  • Why was Glew a failure as a bard?

Glew thinks that he could handle the years of study it takes to be a bard, but he dislikes the travel that a wandering bard must do.

We read:

“I thought, then, I might become a bard,” Glew went on. “It turned out as badly. The knowledge you must gain, the lore to be learned ….”

“I’m with you there, old fellow,” murmured Fflewddur, with a sigh of regret. “I had rather the same experience.”

“It wasn’t the years of study,” explained Glew in a voice that would have been forlorn had it not been so loud. “I know I could have learned if I’d taken the time. No, it was my feet. I couldn’t bear all the tramping and wandering around from one end of Prydain to the other. And always sleeping in a different place. And the change of water. And the harp rubbing blisters on your shoulder ….”

Not everyone can be a bard. There need be no shame in that, but one should find something that one is good at.

  • Why was Glew a failure as a hero?

We read:

“It was then I decided to become a hero,” Glew eagerly went on, ignoring the impatience of the companions, “to go about slaying dragons and such. But you can’t imagine how difficult it is. Why, even finding a dragon is almost impossible! But I discovered one in Cantrev Mawr.

“It was a small dragon,” admitted Glew. “About the size of a weasel. The cottagers had it penned up in a rabbit hutch and the children used to go and look at it when they’d nothing else to do. But it was a dragon nevertheless. I would have slain it,” he added, with a huge, rattling sigh. “I tried. But the vicious thing bit me. I still carry the marks.” (119)

Not everyone can be a hero. For one thing, not everyone has the opportunity to be a hero. In fact, it’s best if you don’t have the opportunity to be a hero. For example, rescuing someone from a burning house is heroic, but all of us can agree that it is best if the house never catches on fire in the first place. There need be no shame in not being a hero, but one should find something that one is good at.

Note that the companions are impatient to leave — they want to rescue Eilonwy. We can guess, however, that Glew is talkative because for a long time he has had no one to talk to.

  • Why was Glew a failure when he tried to become a King?

One way to become a King if you are not born in a King’s family is to marry a Princess, but Glew could not find a Princess to marry.

We read:

“Then I thought I might become a king,” Glew said hurriedly, before Taran could finish. “I thought if I could wed a princess — but no, they turned me away at the castle gate.” (119)

  • Glew attempted to be a wizard. What story does he tell about a book of spells?

Glew tells a story about a wizard who had a book of spells that he wanted to get rid of. Glew was eager to get the book, but when he got the book he found out that the pages were blank.

We read:

“What else could I do?” moaned Glew, shaking his head miserably. “What was left for me but to try enchantments? At last I came upon a wizard who claimed to have a book of spells in his possession. He wouldn’t tell me how it had fallen into his hands, but he assured me the magic it held was most powerful. It had once belonged to the House of Llyr.” (119)

Because Eilonwy is a Princess of the House (Royal Family) of Llyr, the book by blood-right (158) belongs to her. We also read:

“… the wizard,” Glew continued, “was in such haste that I had no chance to see the book. Until it was too late. He had cheated me. It was a book — a book of nothing! Of empty pages!” (121)

Later, we will find out that the book is valuable; however, here we see that Glew does not recognize its worth, just as he does not recognize the worth of being a good and honest person and a good and honest friend.

  • What is Caer Colur?

The book of blank pages came from Caer Colur, which is the ancient seat of the House of Llyr. Glew knows a few other things about Caer Colur. It is now supposed to be in ruins. It is also supposed to be enchanted. In addition, the land it is on was flooded and now is no longer a part of the mainland, so that Castle Colur is on a small island at the mouth of the Alaw River (the river that Magg and Eilonwy are sailing down).

 “Colur” can be translated as “cosmetics.”[3]I suspect that it can also be translated as “color.”

“Caer” means “fortress.” Caer Colur is the Castle of Llyr.

  • Why does Taran ask so many questions about Caer Colur?

Taran is being very intelligent here. Perhaps Castle Colur is where Magg is taking Eilonwy. It is a small island at the mouth of the Alaw River (the river that Magg and Eilonwy are sailing down). It is said to be enchanted, and Achren is an enchantress.

We read:

Taran’s mind raced. Magg had taken Eilonwy to the Alaw. He had needed a boat. Was Eilonwy’s ancestral home his destination? His glance met Fflewddur’s, and the bard’s expression showed he had been following the same thought. (121)

  • What might Glew have been successful as?

Glew successfully brewed a potion that made Llyan and him large. He does experiments. He keeps careful notes. We also learn that he is very good at building equipment. We read about Glew:

He had, he explained, tried to brew new potions — this time to make himself smaller. In one of the chambers he had even set up a kind of workshop, where a bubbling pool of steaming hot water served to boil his concoctions. Glew’s cleverness in devising makeshift pestles and mortars, cookpots and basins from painstakingly hollowed-out stones surprised Taran and filled him with a pitying admiration for the desperate giant. (123)

Glew would make an excellent scientist, provided he learned some ethics. In the fantasy world of Prydain, Glew brewed a potion to make himself big. In our world of reality, Glew could do much good by developing scientific medicines to make people grow who would otherwise be very, very short.

  • How does Glew respond when Taran asks him for help?

He pretends that he will help them, and he asks to be called King Glew.

We read:

“Help us,” Taran pleaded. “Help us and we shall try to help you.”

Glew said nothing for a moment. His forehead wrinkled and his lips twitched nervously. “Very well, very well,” he sighed, climbing to his feet. “Follow me. Oh — there’s one thing you might do,” he added. “If it would be no bother to you, it’s such a little thing, if you really wouldn’t mind. So at least I might have the satisfaction, however brief. A tiny favor. Would you call me — King Glew?” (122)

  • Glew wants to be called “King.” What is Glew King of?

The title of Chapter 11 tells us the answer to this question: He is “King of the Stones.”

Here we see that Glew is overvaluing titles. He wants to be called “King,” but he is the King of only stones. Prince Rhun will one day be called “King,” but he will be King of Mona and he will have lots of people to look after.

  • What task is Glew working on to get himself out of the cavern?

He is working on potions to make himself smaller so that he can escape from the cavern.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 11 end?

Chapter 11 ends in this way:

Impatient to be gone, he ran forward as Glew halted at a chimney-like shaft of rock. Close to the ground the dark mouth of a tunnel opened.

“Farewell,” sniffed Glew, pointing sorrowfully at the tunnel. “Go straight on. You shall find your way.”

“You have my word,” Taran said, while Gurgi, Fflewddur, and Prince Rhun crawled into the opening. “If it is in Dallben’s power, he will help you.”

Clutching the bauble, Taran bent and thrust his way past the jagged arch. Bats rose in a shrieking cloud. He heard Gurgi cry out in fear and raced ahead. Next moment, he collided with a wall of stone and fell back on his heels while the bauble slipped from his grasp and dropped among the pebbles on the uneven ground. With a shout Taran spun to see a massive rock pushed into the opening, and flung himself toward it.

Glew had sealed the passage. (123-124)

The reader will keep on reading to see how Taran and his companions get out of the trap that Glew had set for them. They will also keep reading to see what Glew intends to do with them.

[1]Source: Andrew Marra, “LIFESAVER REFUSES TO CALL HIMSELF A HERO.” Palm Beach Post(Florida). 14 October 2005 <http://findarticles.com/p/news-articles/palm-beach-post/mi_8163/is_20051014/lifesaver-refuses-call-hero/ai_n51897913/>.

[2]Source: “7-year-old who saved baby will be honored.” The Olympian(Olympia, Washington). 7 September 2002 <http://www.theolympian.com/home/news/20020907/frontpage/45674.shtml>. Posted on Real Life Little Heroes. <http://www.chinastrategies.com/lithero.htm#7-year-old%20who%20saved%20baby%20will%20be%20honored>.

[3]This is according to <http://mymemory.translated.net/t/Welsh/English/colur>, which I accessed on 16 September 2011.


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