David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 15: The Island

Chapter 15: The Island

  • Who is with Prince Gwydion? What information did he give to Gwydion?

Prince Gwydion is not alone. Kaw is with him. Kaw has given Prince Gwydion some information. Kaw has let him know that Taran and the companions were seeking to follow the river.

By the way, normally, we should use “who” and “whom” to refer to people; however, sometimes people regard certain animals as having achieved personhood. This is true of many people who own pets. Since Kaw is capable of human speech and of understanding human speech, I think we should regard Kaw as a “who.”

  • Prince Gwydion gives credit where is due. What does he tell Prince Rhun about the fisherfolk and island people of Mona?

One thing that all of us should do is to give credit where credit is due. We do that in academic writing in order to avoid plagiarism, but we can also do that later when we have jobs. If Maria in Accounting has a good idea for solving a problem, and we write a memo about solving the problem that mentions Maria’s good idea, we need to give Maria credit for her idea by writing that this particular idea came from Maria in Accounting.

We read:

“Achren, too, sought Caer Colur,” Gwydion went on quickly. “When I learned this, I strove to follow her ship. One of the fisherfolk sailed with me to the northern coast. Your island people are bold,” he added, glancing at Rhun. “Remember them with honor when you shall be King of Mona. The fisher-man would have brought me to Caer Colur itself. This favor I could not accept, for I dared not reveal my mission to him. Yet before he returned to Mona Haven, he willingly gave me the small boat he carried aboard, and would take no reward for his risk or his generosity.” (154)

  • When Prince Gwydion tells Prince Rhun about the help that a fisherman of Mona had given him, how is he educating Prince Rhun?

Note that Prince Gwydion is helping to educate Prince Rhun. Prince Rhun should give credit is due, and when Prince Rhun becomes King Rhun, he should give credit where is due.

Prince Gwydion is also pointing out that common people are capable of being honorable. This is a lesson that Taran, who sometimes feels inferior because of a lack of high birth, should learn.

Prince Gwydion is a good example for Prince Rhun to follow.

  • Where is Eilonwy?

Prince Gwydion confirms that Eilonwy is atCaer Colurand the prisoner of Achren, just as Taran and the companions suspected.

Prince Gwydion has actually been on the island, looking for Eilonwy. Prince Gwydion is a man of action and daring.

  • Who now works for Achren?

Magg, of course, works for Achren. Magg is a person of ability, but he is flawed because of vanity and excessive ambition. Achren has Magg and other lackeys working for her.

We read:

“Last night I rowed to the island,” Gwydion said. “In the little time I remained there, I could not discover where the Princess is held. Though I saw that Achren has but a paltry company of warriors — hirelings and outlaws who have cast their lot with her. None of Arawn’s deathless Cauldron-Born is among them.” He smiled bitterly. “Without the protection of the Lord of Annuvin, haughty Achren commands only lackeys.” (155)

The word “lackey” is a word meaning “servant,” but it is a word that has negative connotations. Being called a lackey is not a compliment.

  • Why does Prince Gwydion allow Taran and the companions to go with him to the island?

Certainly Taran and the companions can be of use. For example, with more people working to find Eilonwy she will most likely be found quicker than if one person searches for her. We remember that Prince Gwydion has already been on the island, but he was unable to find and rescue Eilonwy. Also, Taran and the companions are armed. They can act as guards, and they can fight, if necessary.

More importantly, Prince Gwydion is influenced by something that Taran says:

“Eilonwy is dear to me, to all of us,” Taran said. (156)

  • Why was Kaw unable to find Taran and the companions after Kaw drew Llyan away from them?

Of course, Taran and the companions were deep underground with Glew. Kaw was outside the cavern and could not see them.

  • What item would Prince Gwydion like to have safeguarded better?

Taran tells Gwydion all that had happened to him and the companions, including finding Eilonwy’s bauble and the book of spells and meeting and escaping from Glew.

Then we read:

“Alas that you did not speak of this sooner. I would have found better means of safeguarding it,” he said, as Taran handed him the golden sphere which began to glow brightly. Gwydion spread his cloak and shielded the light. Quickly he took the book from Taran’s hands, opened it, and brought the bauble closer to the empty pages. The ancient writing sprang into sight. Gwydion’s face was tense and pale. (157-158)

The item is the golden sphere — Eilonwy’s bauble. We will soon find out the reason why Gwydion wants to hide it. Also, Gwydion will soon have a good reason for hiding the book with “blank” pages.

  • Eilonwy’s bauble shines brightly in Gwydion’s hands. What does that tell us about Gwydion?

Eilonwy’s bauble shines brightly when the person holding it thinks about helping other people rather than him- or herself.

Gwydion is someone who thinks about helping other people. Right now, he is thinking about rescuing Eilonwy. In addition, he would like to stop Achren. If Achren were to gain power over the people of Prydain, it would go badly for them.

  • What is the book with “blank” pages that Prince Rhun found? To whom does it belong?

Taran tells Prince Gwydion about the adventures of himself and the companions. Prince Gwydion is intelligent. He uses Eilonwy’s bauble to look at the “blank” pages of the book. He is unable to read the writing, but he recognizes the book for what it is.

We read:

“To read this is beyond my power,” Gwydion said, “but I recognize it for what it is: the greatest treasure of the House of Llyr.” (158)

  • What are two very valuable items that belong to the House of Llyr?

The book with “blank” pages is one treasure: It contains powerful spells. The other is the Golden Pelydryn, which has been believed lost.

We read:

“A treasure of Llyr?” Taran whispered. “What is its nature? Does it belong to Eilonwy?”

Gwydion nodded. “She is the last Princess of Llyr, and it is hers by blood-right. But there is more you must understand. For generations the daughters of the House of Llyr were among the most skillful enchantresses in Prydain, using their powers with wisdom and kindliness. In their fastness at Caer Colur were stored all their treasures, magical devices and charmed implements whose nature even I do not know.

“The chronicles of the House of Llyr give only veiled hints as to how these mysteries were guarded. The lore tells of an enchantment known only as the Golden Pelydryn, handed down from mother to daughter, and of a book holding all the secrets of those magical devices and many potent spells. (158)

The spells in the book can apparently be used for good, as the enchantresses of the House of Llyr used them. We can guess, however, that someone such as Achren would use the spells for evil.

One thing to note here is that the women of the House of Llyr were powerful. In some societies, only the men have power.

  • Define “pelydryn.”

Here is a definition from an online dictionary:

Pelydryn = n. a ray, a beam



Accessed: 19 August 2011

  • What is the Golden Pelydryn? How has it been hidden?

The Golden Pelydryn is Eilonwy’s bauble. Prince Gwydion recognizes it immediately. Perhaps this is the first time he recognizes it; seeing the book of spells may have helped him recognize Eilonwy’s bauble as the Golden Pelydryn.

We read:

“But Caer Colur was abandoned and fell into ruins after Angharad Daughter of Regat fled the castle to marry against her mother’s wishes. The book of spells, which she carried away with her, was believed lost. Of the Golden Pelydryn, nothing was known.” Gwydion looked down at the bauble. “The Golden Pelydryn was not lost. What better way to hide it than to put it as a shining toy in the hands of a child? […]” (158-159)

  • Was this a good hiding place for the Golden Pelydryn?

Apparently so. Most people would not think that a child’s toy is especially valuable. Many people have seen Eilonwy’s bauble, but few people would have recognized it as the Golden Pelydryn.

Sometimes the best place to hide something is in plain sight. Edgar Allan Poe recognized this in “The Purloined Letter.” A very valuable letter that people were looking for was out in plain sight with some other letters. No one thought that the letter would be left in such an obvious place, so no one — except Poe’s detective, C. Auguste Dupin — thought to look there.

  • Why was Eilonwy staying with Achren when Taran first met her in The Book of Three?

Gwydion knows much, and he tells much:

“Eilonwy believed she had been sent to live with Achren and study to be an enchantress,” Gwydion went on. “It is not true. Achren stole Eilonwy and brought her as a child to Spiral Castle.” (159)

  • Achren recognized the Golden Pelydryn long ago. Why didn’t she take it from Eilonwy?

Achren did recognize the Golden Pelydryn, but she did not take from Eilonwy for two reasons:

1) If she had taken it forcibly, it would have lost its power. We can guess why. A thief is thinking of him- or herself not of other people. The Golden Pelydryn does not work when the person holding it is thinking only of him- or herself.

2) The book of spells was still lost. Achren wanted the Golden Pelydryn in order to read the spells. Without the book of spells, the Golden Pelydryn was useless to her. Of course, now the band of companions has the book of spells — and the Golden Pelydryn.

We read:

“Did Achren fail to recognize the Golden Pelydryn?” Taran asked. “If she knew its nature, why did she leave it in Eilonwy’s possession?”

“Achren dared not do otherwise,” answered Gwydion. “Yes, she knew Eilonwy’s heritage. She recognized the Pelydryn, but also knew it would lose its power if taken forcibly from its rightful owner. Then, too, the book of spells had vanished. Achren could attempt nothing until it was found again.” (159)

  • Glew thought that the book with “blank” pages was worthless. What does that tell us about Glew?

The book of spells is valuable. The daughters of the House of Llyr used it to bring good into the world. Prince Gwydion says,

“For generations the daughters of the House of Llyr were among the most skillful enchantresses in Prydain, using their powers with wisdom and kindliness.” (158)

Glew is blind in more ways than one. His eyes cannot stand the light of the Golden Pelydryn. He could not see that the book with “blank” pages is valuable. Glew is unable to tell what is valuable and what is not valuable. He wishes to called a King, even though he is merely the King of Stones.

  • What does Gwydion do when he and the others land on the island where Eilonwy is being held captive?

Gwydion is an intelligent warrior. He spies on the guards to find out what they are doing. Only two people are on guard, and one is drowsing and so is maintaining a very poor watch.

We read:

“Achren pays for a poor vigil,” Gwydion said with a hard smile. “One sentinel watches landward, another leans drowsing on his sword. The others sleep.”

Achren’s followers are of poor quality. Taran and the companions are ready and able to search for Eilonwy.

  • Who finds Eilonwy?

Kaw, who has the gift of flight, finds Eilonwy in a tower.

We read:

Fflewddur was about to move toward the outlying buildings when Taran nearly cried aloud. Kaw fluttered from one of the towers and swooped down to perch on Taran’s upraised arm. The crow beat his wings, flew aloft once more, and circled the pinnacle.

“He’s found her!” Taran whispered. “Our search is over!” (162-163)

  • What good deed does Prince Rhun do after Eilonwy is located? Why?

Taran is ready to allow Prince Rhun to go to the tower and rescue Eilonwy, but Prince Rhun does the good deed of allowing Taran to do that.

Prince Rhun is aware that Taran has feelings for Eilonwy; in fact, Prince Rhun may be more aware of Taran’s feelings than Taran is.

  • Taran says that Eilonwy is Prince Rhun’s “betrothed” (163). Is that true?

No, Eilonwy is not Prince Rhun’s betrothed. For one thing, no one has asked Eilonwy whom she wishes to marry. For another thing, Eilonwy is still too young to be married. Prince Rhun’s parents would like for Prince Rhun and Eilonwy to marry, but that does not mean it will happen.

Here again we see that Taran feels inferior because he is not of high birth. He seems to think that Eilonwy will prefer Prince Rhun to himself because Prince Rhun is a Prince.

All of us, of course, hope that Eilonwy and Taran will eventually marry.

  • What does Gwydion do with the book of spells and Eilonwy’s bauble?

Gwydion hides the book of spells and Eilonwy’s bauble. They are valuable to Achren, and Gwydion wishes to make sure that she does not get possession of them.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 15 end?

Chapter 15 ends in this way:

“Quickly!” Taran whispered. “Gwydion waits for us.”

Eilonwy roused, passed a hand over her forehead, and opened her eyes. At the sight of Taran she gave a cry of surprise.

“Gurgi is here, too,” Taran said. “Fflewddur, Prince Rhun — all of us. You are safe. Hurry!”

“That’s very interesting,” said Eilonwy sleepily. “But who are they? And for the matter of that,” she added, “who are you?” (165)

The reader will continue reading to find out whether Eilonwy will recognize Taran.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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