David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 14: The Empty Book

Chapter 14: The Empty Book

  • Why is it brave for Prince Rhun to return to Taran and the others?

Prince Rhun is risking his life because Glew is much bigger than he is, and Glew wants to kill one of the companions.

  • Why did Prince Rhun return?

Basically, Prince Rhun found that he could not leave the others behind in mortal danger, so he returned to try to save them if he could.

We read:

“Hullo, hullo!” called Rhun, hastening to the companions. “I’ve never been so surprised in my life. I didn’t mean to disobey orders, but after I’d crawled out the passage, I — I just couldn’t leave you there to be cooked up; I simply couldn’t do it. I kept thinking to myself that none of you would have gone running off…” He hesitated and looked anxiously at Taran. “You aren’t angry are you?” (142)

  • Is Prince Rhun braver and more caring than Taran?

This is hard to believe, but we can make a case that Prince Rhun may be braver and more caring than Taran. We remember that Taran left Fflewddur Fflam alone in the hut with Llyan in Chapter 8. Taran did not go back for him. Fortunately, Fflewddur Fflam was able to escape.

However, we know that Taran is a brave and a caring person. We know that Taran cares for Fflewddur Fflam.

Perhaps the lesson here is that we must act on the best knowledge available to us. Sometimes, a brave person will rescue someone in a dangerous situation. Sometimes, the situation may be too dangerous and the brave person will decide not to attempt a rescue.

No two situations are exactly the same. When Taran left Fflewddur Fflam behind in the hut with Llyan, Taran was most anxious to rescue Eilonwy. He knew that Fflewddur Fflam was in no immediate danger. In addition, Fflewddur Fflam is an adult and has been able to take care of himself in the past.

  • How was Prince Rhun able to conquer Glew?

The bauble blazes brightly for Prince Rhun, and Glew’s eyes cannot stand the light. He yells, apparently in pain, and his yells cause some of the stone icicles to fall. One hits him on the head and knocks him out.

More importantly, Prince Rhun is able to conquer Glew because he wants to help the companions. He is looking out more for others than himself.

  • What merciful thing does Taran do when Fflewddur Fflam suggests that it may be a good idea to kill Glew while he is unconscious?

Taran decides not to kill Glew. In fact, he still wants to help Glew, and he will still ask Dallben to help Glew.

If Glew were still trying to kill one of the companions, Taran would not hesitate to kill Glew if he were able. Life is important, and self-defense is important. One can kill in self-defense, but one should do so only when necessary. When possible, it is better to flee than to kill in self-defense.

One exception to this rule is soldiers in battle. They should retreat when ordered to retreat, but they should not desert.

Note something thatFflewddur Fflam says about Glew:

“He’d been here so long he couldn’t stand the brightness, the repulsive little grub. There, I’m calling him little again,” he added. “But l still say for a giant he’s remarkably small-natured.” (153)

  • How are Taran and his companions able to get out of the cavern?

When Glew screamed and stone icicles fell, a passageway opened up. Taran and the companions exit through it.

  • What surprising discovery do Taran and his companions make about the book with blank pages that they found in Glew’s hut? What item was essential in making this discovery?

The discovery is that the book’s pages are not blank. Instead, writing is on every page. However, the writing appears only when Eilonwy’s bauble casts its light on the book’s pages.

  • What advice does Fflewddur Fflam give concerning the book?

Enchantments can be good in Prydain, but they can be bad. The enchantment of Eilonwy’s bauble is certainly good, but bad enchantments exist. Fflewddur Fflam may be remembering that the wizard who gave the book to Glew before Glew got big in size wanted to get rid of it. Perhaps that is a sign that the enchantments of the book are bad.

We read:

The bard’s face had paled. “What it means, in my opinion,” said Fflewddur, “is that we should get rid of the book instantly. Drop it in the river. I regret to say I can’t read it. I could never manage to learn all these secret scripts and ancient letters. But I recognize enchantment when I see it.” He shuddered and turned away. “I’d rather not even look at it, if you don’t mind. Not that it frightens me. Yes, it makes me feel acutely uneasy; and you know my views on meddling.” (148)

  • What decision does Taran make about the book?

Taran decides to keep the book. He simply has a feeling that he should. A better reason could be that the book belongs to the House of Llyr, and therefore it belongs to Eilonwy because she is the last surviving Princess of the House of Llyr.

We read:

“If Glew spoke the truth, it comes from a place of enchantments,” Taran said. “But what can it tell us? I shall not destroy it,” he added, returning the book to his jacket. “I can’t explain; I feel as though I’d touched a secret. It’s strange, like a moth that brushes your hand and flutters away again.” (148)

Possibly, Taran is thinking of Eilonwy. He uses a simile, and as we all know, Eilonwy uses similes.

  • Is Prince Rhun a true Prince? Does more than his birth make him a true Prince?

We read:

“You should be proud of yourself,” Taran said quietly. “Did you seek to prove yourself a true Prince? You have done so, Rhun Son of Rhuddlum.” (149)

Calling someone by their name and mentioning their father’s name is a sign of respect in this culture.

Prince Rhun is a true Prince not because he was born a Prince, but because he took action to help other people.

If Prince Rhun had not returned, Taran would probably be dead and Glew would be using Taran’s body to make a potion. We remember that when Taran fell into the water, the water drops reflected the dim light in the cavern, making him very visible. (And possibly the water was luminescent.) Glew was trying to catch Taran when Prince Rhun returned with Eilonwy’s bauble.

Note what Prince Rhun says in reply to Taran saying that he has proven himself to be a Prince:

“Why, perhaps that’s so,” replied Rhun, as though the idea had never occurred to him. “But it’s a curious thing. It doesn’t seem one bit as important as it did. Astonishing, but true!” (149)

What is important to Prince Rhun is helping Taran and the other companions, not proving that he (Prince Rhun) is a true Prince.

The word “Prince” has two meanings: 1) the son of a King, and 2) a person who would make a good King because of his abilities and his sense of ethics.

  • To where do Taran and his companions set sail?

Taran and the companions make a raft and set sail to Caer Colur, where they believe that Magg was taking Eilonwy.

  • Why did the bauble blaze so brightly for Prince Rhun?

Prince Rhun was thinking more about helping others than himself. He was thinking of helping the companions, and he was not thinking of himself. He was not thinking, I want to be a hero. He was not thinking, I want to prove that I am a true Prince. He was simply thinking of helping the companions.

We read:

“What I mean,” Fflewddur went on, “in the cavern, when I tried to make it light, I was saying to myself: If Ican do this, if Ican find the way for us…”

“Perhaps,” Taran said quietly, watching the moon-white riverbank slip past them, “perhaps you have the truth of it. At first I felt as you did. Then I remember thinking of Eilonwy, only of her; and the bauble showed its light. Prince Rhun was ready to lay down his life; his thoughts were for our safety, not at all for his own. And because he offered the greatest sacrifice, the bauble glowed brightest for him. Can that be its secret? To think more for others than ourselves?” (151)

  • What wise thing doesFflewddur Fflam say about the lesson of the bauble?

Taran says, “Can that be its secret? To think more for others than ourselves?” (151).

We read:

“That would seem to be one of its secrets, at least,” replied Fflewddur. “Once you’ve discovered that, you’ve discovered a great secret indeed — with or without the bauble.”

Lloyd Alexander believed that fantasy books can teach. Certainly, in The Castle of Llyr, readers learn much about heroism. One secret of heroism is to care about others more than we care about ourselves. Certainly, heroes who risk their lives to help others are thinking more about helping others than about themselves.

We certainly see that in the heroes of this novel as well as in real life. When Prince Rhun returns to the cavern, he risks his life. Glew is much bigger than he is, and Glew wants to kill one of the companions so that he can make his potion.

  • In your opinion, would the bauble ever blaze for Glew? Why or why not?

Glew is one person who does not think more for others than for himself. If he thinks he needs to kill one of the companions to make a potion to help himself, then he will kill one of the companions. None of the companions would kill one of the others to make a potion to help himself (or herself, in the case of Eilonwy).

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 14 end?

Taran and the companions have reached the sea. Taran decides that they will go no further until dawn.

Chapter 14 ends in this way:

The companions settled themselves amid a tall clump of reeds and Gurgi opened his wallet of food. Taran, still restless, walked to a hillock and peered toward the sea.

“Keep to the shadows,” said the voice of Gwydion. “Achren’s eyes are sharp.” (152)

The reader will keep on reading to find out information about Prince Gwydion. Why is he there? What does he plan to do?


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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