David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 13: The Ladder

Chapter 13: The Ladder

  • How does Taran find out where the bats have gone?

Taran is able to use the light from Eilonwy’s bauble to find out where the bats have gone. He finds an opening in the wall that the bats have gone through.

We read:

Again and again he swept the golden light around the cave. A fair, shadowy line seemed traced amid the stones high above him. He stepped back and studied it carefully. The shadow deepened, and Taran realized it marked a narrow ledge, a flaw in the rock. “There it is!” he called, holding the bauble as steadily as his trembling hands allowed. “There — you can barely make it out, the wall curves and hides it. But see where the rock seems to dip and break…”

“Amazing!” cried Rhun. “Astonishing! It’s a passage, rightly enough. The bats have gone through it. Do you think we can?” (135)

  • The title of Chapter 13 is “The Ladder.” How do Taran and his companions build a ladder?

The ladder they make is a human ladder. (Perhaps I should write “sentient-being ladder” since it is not clear that Gurgi is a human. They build the ladder by using themselves. At the bottom is Fflewddur Fflam. Next is Gurgi. Then comes Taran. On top is Prince Rhun.

  • How many people can escape from the tomb by using the ladder?

Just one. The person at the top can reach the opening and climb out, but the ladder is so short that no one else can reach the opening.

However, Taran thinks at first that perhaps the person (Prince Rhun) who gets out through the opening can use vines to use as ropes to get the others out. However, Glew arrives too soon for that to happen.

We read:

Taran nodded. “It may be that he can drop a vine down to the others,” he said. “In that way…” (136)

  • What instructions does Taran give Prince Rhun?

It is still important that Eilonwy be rescued. Taran wants Prince Rhun to go to Caer Colur and rescue Eilonwy.

We read:

Taran turned quickly to the Prince of Mona. “I know their hearts and I speak for my companions. Our choice is taken. It is too late to hope to save us. Try to make your way to Caer Colur. Should Kaw find you, he will guide you there.” (137)

  • What does Prince Rhun take with him when he leaves? To whose marriage does Taran refer?

Prince Rhun takes Eilonwy’s bauble so that he can give it back to her.

Taran refers to the wedding of Prince Rhun and Eilonwy. Taran believes that he is not of high birth and so will not marry Eilonwy. Also, he believes that he very well could die in the cavern.

We read:

“Prince Rhun,” Taran said firmly. “Did you not put yourself under my orders?” The stone had begun to grate in the passageway and Taran could hear Glew’s frantic snuffling. “This, too, you must take,” he said, pressing the bauble into Rhun’s reluctant hand. “It is rightfully Eilonwy’s and it is you who shall give it back to her.” He turned his eyes away. “May it shine brightly on your wedding day.” (137)

  • How do Taran and his companions react when Glew comes to see whom he can kill to make his potion?

Taran and the other companions fight Glew when Glew moves the boulder blocking the exit of the rocky tomb. Although Glew is big physically, they know that he is small in the non-physical areas where he should be big. They think that he may be a coward. Of course, Taran and the other companions want to stay alive.

“We must stand against him now!” Taran cried. “We shall see whether he’s as great a coward as he is a liar. Hurry! Give him no chance to shut us in again!” (139)

  • Throughout the Prydain Chronicles, Taran and his band of heroes are frequently willing to give their lives, as is Prince Gwydion. However, they are reluctant to give up their lives to Glew and so they fight him. What is the difference in the times they are willing to give their lives and this time when they are not?

Prince Gwydion values his life highly, as do Taran and the other companions, and as we ought to. We should not easily give up our lives.

They are sometimes willing to give up their lives. Prince Gwydion fights for his country in battle. Of course, anyone who fights in battle can die. Prince Gwydion is willing to give up his life in battle if it will help the citizens of his country to stay free. However, Prince Gwydion prefers to stay alive so that he can keep on fighting.

Taran and the other companions are willing to give up their lives for each other. They are willing to do this out of friendship and love. Of course, they know that the best thing is to stay alive so that they can be with their friends and loved ones.

Some real-life heroes such as police officers and firefighters are willing to give up their lives as they try to save people from criminals and from fires. Of course, they wish to stay alive so that they can make more rescues. In addition, they receive lots of training in saving lives. They do their best to save the life of someone else without losing their own life.

Saving lives is important. Firefighters save lives, and they save property, but saving lives takes precedence over saving property.

No one has a good reason to give up his or her life for Glew. After all, Dallben is such a good enchanter that he almost certainly can get Glew out of the cave. If you can save or help someone without dying, that is much better than dying to save or help someone.

  • Why does Taran tell his companions, “Run! Let Glew follow me!” (140).

Taran has fallen into a pool of water and the glittering water makes it easy for Glew to see him — Taran is not glowing so brightly that Glew’s eyes are hurt.

Taran thinks that he will not be able to escape because Glew can easily see him. However, Taran does not want everyone to die. Having one person die is better than having all the companions die.

By letting Glew follow him, Taran is giving his companions a chance to run and to save themselves. Taran is being heroic here.

We read:

Next thing he knew, he fell with a splash into one of the pools dotting the cavern. He thrashed wildly and flung out his arms, seeking a handhold on the rocky edge. The water glittered with a cold, pale light. As Taran scrambled out, bright, luminous droplets clung to his drenched garments, his face, hands, and hair. Escape for him was hopeless now; the glow would betray him wherever he sought refuge.

“Run!” Taran shouted to the companions. “Let Glew follow me!” (140)

When Taran falls into the water, the water drops reflect the dim light in the cavern, making him very visible. (And possibly the water is luminescent.) 

  • Glew complains, “Have you no consideration? No thought for anyone else?” (141). Who is actually the person who has no consideration for anyone else and who has no thought for anyone else?

Of course, Glew has no consideration for anyone else. He does not think about other people. Glew considers only himself and thinks only about himself. Glew wants someone to die so he can make a potion to get out of the cave.

  • Why can Glew see better in the darkness than Taran and the companions?

Glew has been in the darkness for a long time, so his eyes have grown accustomed to the dark. Taran and the other companions have not been in the darkness for very long, so their eyes have not become used to the darkness the way that Glew’s eyes have.

  • What hurts Glew?

Glew’s eyes are accustomed to the darkness, but they are not accustomed to bright light. He has not seen the sun for a long time. When Prince Rhun returns with Eilonwy’s bauble, which is “brilliant as noonday” (141), Glew is blinded and his eyes hurt him. He screams, and his screams make the stone icicles in the cavern fall. One hits him in the head and he falls.

We read:

The giant reached to seize him. Taran raised his sword high above his head in a last futile gesture of defense. Golden rays burst around him, brilliant as noonday.

With a scream of pain, Glew clapped his hands to his eyes. “The light!” he shrieked. “Stop the light!” (121)

We had foreshadowing of this near the beginning of Chapter 11 when Gurgi had to shade his eyes from the light of Eilonwy’s bauble, which Taran had made shine “faintly but steadily” (107).

We read:

The giant bent, shaded his white eyes against the light of the bauble, and peered at the companions. (112)

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at making the end of a chapter interesting. How does Chapter 13 end?

Chapter 13 ends in this way:

Screaming and roaring, the giant covered his head with his arms. His earsplitting bellows rang through the cave. The stone icicles trembled and crashed to earth; the crystals split and showered Taran with fragments. Suddenly Glew was no longer standing, but stretched full length, half covered by the shards, lying motionless where a falling crystal had glanced off his head. Taran, still dazzled, leaped to his feet.

At the entrance to the chamber stood Prince Rhun, the bauble blazing in his hand. (141)

The reader will have a number of questions:

1) Why did Prince Rhun return?

2) Why is Eilonwy’s bauble now shining brightly for Prince Rhun when before it did not shine for him?

3) Taran and the companions have not yet made their escape. Will they be able to?

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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