Chapter 16: A Meeting of Strangers
- Why is the title “A Meeting of Strangers” ironic? Who are the “strangers”?
To Eilonwy, Taran is a stranger, as are the other companions, including Gwydion.
Of course, we know that they are not strangers at all. Eilonwy knows all of the companions.
By the way, here is a definition of “irony” from Merriam-Webster:
the use of words to express something other than and especially the opposite of the literal meaning
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- Describe Eilonwy as she appears at the beginning of Chapter 16.
Eilonwy is confused about what is dream and what is real. She remembers a little about Caer Dallben, but she thinks that she dreamed about Caer Dallben. She is vague and confused.
- What does Taran guess is wrong with Eilonwy?
Taran is aware that two things may have happened to Eilonwy: 1) She may be drugged, or 2) She may be bewitched.
Taran had forced the girl to sit upright once more. Now he stared at her with dread. Despite her travel-stained garments and disheveled hair, she appeared unharmed. But her eyes were strangely depthless. It was not sleep that filled her, and his hands trembled as he realized Eilonwy had been drugged or — his heart chilled at the thought of it — bewitched. (167)
Of course, Achren is an enchantress, so we can guess that Eilonwy is under her spell.
- Has Eilonwy’s speech changed in any way? What is unusual about the way that she identifies herself to Taran?
Eilonwy identifies herself to Taran in a very formal way by referring to her ancestry.
I am Eilonwy Daughter of Angharad Daughter of Regat,” continued Eilonwy, putting her hand to the silver crescent at her throat. (166)
In The Book of Three, Eilonwy met Taran for the very first time. She was not formal when she told him her name:
“Please,” said a girl’s voice, light and musical, “my name is Eilonwy and if you don’t mind, would you throw my bauble to me? I don’t want you to think I’m a baby, playing with a silly bauble, because I’m not; but sometimes there’s absolutely nothing else to do around here and it slipped out of my hands when I was tossing it…” (The Book of Three65)
The formality we see here is probably the work of Achren, who is likely teaching Eilonwy to be proud of her birth and perhaps to think of herself as being better than low-born people such as Taran.
- Has Eilonwy’s speech stayed the same in any way? Does she still express original thoughts? Does she still use original similes?
Eilonwy’s speech is still Eilonwy’s in some ways.
Here are two examples of Eilonwy’s original thoughts and similes (a simile is a comparison of one thing to another using a word such as “like” or “as”):
“Difficult — difficult,” she murmured. “Like trying to turn yourself inside out. Or would it be outside in?” (166)
“I don’t believe people should be allowed to come stamping into other people’s dreams without asking first,” Eilonwy said, with some vexation. “There’s something impolite about it. Like walking into a spider web when the spider’s still using it.” (167)
- Does Eilonwy have any memories of Caer Dallben?
Yes, but they are like a dream, and they quickly disappear.
“Eilonwy, look at me!” Taran tried to raise her, but Eilonwy, with a little cry of annoyance, drew away. “You must listen,” Taran insisted.
“That’s what I’ve been doing,” she replied. “So far you’ve made no sense whatever. I was much more comfortable asleep. I’d rather dream than be shouted at. But what was I dreaming? A pleasant dream — with a pig in it — and someone who — no, it’s gone now, faster than a butterfly. You’ve spoiled it.” (166-167)
Eilonwy also remembers — vaguely, like a dream — climbing to the top of a tree and falling and being caught by someone who may have been an Assistant Pig-Keeper (169).
Unsurprisingly, Taran also remembers that, but as reality, not as a dream.
- Does Eilonwy believe that Caer Dallben exists?
Eilonwy comes close to remembering Caer Dallben as reality, but then she believes that it is a dream.
“How should anyone know someone else’s dream?” said Eilonwy, as though speaking to herself. “Yes, it broke and I was falling. There was someone below who caught me. Could it have been an Assistant Pig-Keeper? I wonder what became of him?”
“He is here now,” Taran said quietly. “He has long sought you and in ways even he himself did not know. Now that he has found you, can you not find your path back to him?”
Eilonwy rose to her feet. Her eyes flickered and for the first time a light shone in them. Taran held out his hands to her. She hesitated, then took a step forward.
But even as she moved to him, her glance turned shallow and the light died. “It is a dream, no more than that,” she whispered, and turned away. (169)
- What does Eilonwy say when Taran tries to rescue her?
Taran can be demanding — a little too demanding when it comes to Eilonwy. Here he grabs her arm and tries to make her leave with him. Even if Eilonwy were in her right mind, she would probably object to being ordered around.
Eilonwy is not in her right mind, and she still objects to this, but in a way that we do not expect.
“Achren has done this to you!” Taran cried. “She will harm you no longer.” He seized the girl’s arm and drew her toward the casement.
At the sound of Achren’s name, Eilonwy stiffened and tore herself from him. She spun to face him. “You dare touch a Princess of the House of Llyr?” (169-170)
Eilonwy used not to be proud in a bad way. But at the beginning of the chapter, she introduced herself formally, mentioning the names of her ancestors. Now, she is upset that someone such as Taran would touch her.
- What does Eilonwy do when Taran tries to rescue her?
Eilonwy runs away — straight to Achren.
Eilonwy struck him full in the face with such force that he staggered back. Yet it was not the blow that pained him but her scornful glance. On her lips now was a smile of mockery and malice. He was a stranger to her and he feared his heart would break.
Once more he tried to seize her. Eilonwy, with a cry of rage, twisted away and broke free.
“Achren!” she called. “Achren! Help me!” (170)
Here, of course, we see more evidence of Eilonwy’s new pride.
- How do Gwydion, Taran, and his companions fight in the battle?
They fight well, with some comedy.
Fflewddur Fflam wishes to fight Magg, and he does so. Fflewddur Fflam does not wish to kill Magg, as he uses the flat of his sword, rather than the cutting edge:
“The spider is mine!” cried Fflewddur, his blade whistling about his head. Magg, at the sight of the frenzied bard, yelled in terror and tried to flee. The bard was upon him in a moment, striking right and left with the flat of his sword in such a wild onslaught that most of his blows missed their mark. Magg, with the strength of desperation, sprang at the bard’s throat and grappled with him. (171-172)
Some comedy ensues while Gurgi and Fflewddur Fflam fight Magg:
In a flash the bard was upon the prostrate Magg. Heedless of the buffeting from Magg’s flailing legs, Gurgi laid hold of him by the heels and hung on with all his strength, while Fflewddur, sitting on Magg’s head, seemed indeed to be carrying out his threat of squashing the treacherous Chief Steward. (172-173)
Magg is proud, and the vision of Fflewddur Fflam sitting on his head is both funny to us and humiliating to Magg.
Taran is forced back by a warrior, but Prince Rhun comes to the rescue, albeit with the swordhe broke by trying to force its point under the boulder blocking the exit when he and the companions were trapped in the tomb in Glew’s cavern (130):
Before Taran could come to Fflewddur’s aid, a warrior with an axe beset him and, despite his stout defense, Taran found himself driven back toward a corner of the Hall. Amid the confusion of the fray, he saw Gwydion and Rhun struggling against other warriors. The Prince of Mona laid about him furiously with his broken sword, and it was to one of Rhun’s sharp blows that Taran’s assailant fell. (172)
Gwydion, of course, is a most excellent warrior, and with his sword Dyrnwyn he cuts down two warriors, causing the others to be frightened and flee:
Gwydion, with Dyrnwyn unsheathed and blazing, had cut down two warriors who now sprawled motionless on the flagstones. Terrified at the sight of the flaming weapon, the remaining guards fled. (173)
- Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 16 end?
Chapter 16 ends in this way:
“Eilonwy is bewitched!” Taran cried. “I have lost her.”
Gwydion’s eyes went to the end of the hall where scarlet draperies had been flung back from an alcove. Eilonwy stood there and beside her, Achren. (173)
The reader will keep on reading to see what happens next.
- Gwydion’s sword Dyrnwyn is described as “blazing.” Is this of any significance?
In the Homeric epics, Iliadand Odyssey, weapons (and a warrior’s armor) are said to glitter or blaze before or while a warrior fights magnificently in battle. Gwydion is a magnificent warrior.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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