David Bruce: Lloyd’s Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide —Chapter 17: The Spells of Caer Colur

Chapter 17: The Spells of Caer Colur

  • Describe Achren. How has she changed since the last time that Taran saw her?

One change is a lack of jewelry, indicating perhaps a change in fortune. Achren is not as wealthy as once she was. However, Achren does still have the beauty that she had earlier, although now her face is very pale.

We read:

Her hair, unbound, fell in glittering silver tresses to her shoulders; the beauty of her features had not changed, though her face was deathly pale. At Spiral Castle, long ago, she had been decked in jewels; now, neither rings nor bracelets adorned her slender hands and white arms. But her eyes, hard as jewels themselves, drew Taran’s gaze and held it. (174)

  • Why can’t Gwydion, Taran, and the companions attack Achren?

Achren has beauty. She also has intelligence, although she uses it for evil purposes. She says about Eilonwy, “The girl’s life is bound to mine. Would you take my life? Then she must share my death” (174).

In other words, if Achren dies, then Eilonwy also dies. We can guess that Achren has cast a spell that will cause Eilonwy’s death when Achren dies.

Gwydion and Taran had approached Achren with their swords drawn, but they cannot use their swords to kill Achren without also killing Eilonwy.

  • Achren had wanted Prince Gwydion to be her consort, but he declined her offer. What is a consort?

A consort is the spouse of a ruler. Achren wanted to be Queen and have Gwydion as her husband. Although Gwydion would be her husband, Achren would have the ruling power. Gwydion would obey her commands.

  • When prompted by Achren, what does Eilonwy say she wants?

Eilonwy says that she wants what is hers. By that, she means that she wants the power of a Princess of Llyr. Because the women of the House of Llyr are great enchantresses, that is great power indeed.

We read:

“I am a Princess of Llyr,” Eilonwy said coldly. “I want what is mine. Who are these who would take it from me? I see the one who frightened me in my chamber. A keeper of pigs, so he claimed. The rest I do not know.” (176)

  • What magical power does Eilonwy possess?

Eilonwy possesses the power to hurt sentient beings. (Sentient beings are conscious beings that have the ability to feel pain.) She uses that power to hurt Gurgi at the bidding of Achren.

We read:

Gurgi raised his head, puzzled and fearful, while Achren whispered words in a strange language to Eilonwy. The girl’s fingers moved slightly. Gurgi’s eyes widened in surprise and disbelief. For an instant he stood unmoving and open-mouthed, staring at the Princess. Her hand, pointing straight at the baffled Gurgi, suddenly tensed. With a sharp cry of pain, Gurgi stiffened and clutched his head. (178)

Gurgi was mentally hurt earlier when Eilonwy did not know who he was and did not recognize that he is her friend. Now Eilonwy physically hurts him. In addition to this physical pain is the mental pain of knowing that it is Eilonwy who is hurting him.

  • Why does Fflewddur Fflam release Magg?

Fflewddur Fflam releases Magg in order to spare Gurgi further pain.

We read:

Fflewddur leaped to his feet. “No more!” he shouted. “Harm Gurgi no longer! You shall have Magg. Take him!” (178-179)

  • Why does Fflewddur Fflam keep referring to Magg as a spider?

A spider may be something that Magg resembles on occasion. Back in Chapter 4, we read Magg clambered down a rocky path like a spider:

Spider-like, the Chief Steward was rapidly picking his way down a path. (46)

In Chapter 5, Taran tells Fflewddur Fflam what he saw Magg doing the previous night. We do not have dialogue for what Taran told Fflewddur Fflam, but the words Taran used may have conveyed an impression of Magg as a spider because that is how Fflewddur Fflam immediately began to refer to Magg:

“Magg! That villainous spider!” the bard exclaimed as soon as Taran told him what had happened. (56-57)

Of course, spiders can be squashed, and that may be why Fflewddur Fflam often comically threatens to squash Magg.

By the way, authors and illustrators of children’s books often receive funny letters from children. For example, Gail Gibbons, author/illustrator of such nonfiction books as Check It Out!: The Book About Libraries, once received a letter that read, “Dear Gail, I love your books. Right now I am — oh, there’s a spider crawling across the page! SQUASH.” Right in the middle of the letter was a dead squashed spider. Ms. Gibbons laughed, and she kept the letter — and the dead spider.[1]

  • Why does Gurgi forgive Eilonwy?

Gurgi does not believe that Eilonwy acted of her own free will. We have seen abundant evidence that Eilonwy is under a spell cast by Achren. It is Achren who is responsible for what Eilonwy did to Gurgi. Eilonwy is not responsible for what she did.

We read:

Gurgi crept forward a little way. His weeping eyes turned to Eilonwy. “Wise Princess,” he murmured, “it is no wish of hers to fill poor tender head with harmful hurtings. Gurgi knows this. He forgives her.” (179)

  • Is Eilonwy responsible for the evil deed she does to Gurgi? Would Glew be responsible for the evil deed he wished to do when Taran and the companions were in the cavern? Is Magg responsible for the evil deed of kidnapping Eilonwy?

In determining responsibility, we consider freedom. Normally, we believe that we are free to do good or to do evil. If we freely choose to do good and we do good, then we are responsible for the good we have done. And if we freely choose to do evil and we do evil, then we are responsible for the evil we have done.

Glew and Magg are free to decide whether to do good or to do evil. Therefore, they are responsible for what they do.

Eilonwy, however, is enchanted by Achren. Because she is under the spell of Achren, Eilonwy cannot choose what to do — or at least it takes a great effort of the will for Eilonwy to disobey the wishes of Achren. Gurgi knows that Achren is controlling Eilonwy, and so Eilonwy is not responsible for her actions.

Because Achren is controlling Eilonwy’s actions, Achren is responsible for Eilonwy’s actions, whether they be good or evil. Of course, when Eilonwy causes Gurgi pain, the action is evil.

  • Why has Magg been serving Achren?

Achren has promised Magg great power, and therefore Magg is serving her. Achren has promised Magg that he will be Lord of Dinas Rhydnant, the stronghold of the Isle of Mona. We learn this when Fflewddur Fflam releases Magg:

“You shall pay dearly for this, harper,” Magg spat. “I rejoice that I did not have you thrashed and driven away when first I laid eyes on you; for now it allows me to hang you in your own harp strings, from the highest tower of Rhuddlum’s castle. And so shall I do, once I am Lord of Dinas Rhydnant.” (179-180)

  • Does Taran believe that Magg will ever becomeLord of Dinas Rhydnant?

No, for the very good reason that Taran believes that Achren will not keep her promises:

“Lord of Dinas Rhydnant!” Fflewddur exclaimed. “A steward’s chain is too much honor for you.”

“Tremble, harper!” sneered Magg. “Dinas Rhydnant is mine. It has been promised me. And all the realm. King Magg! Magg the Magnificent!”

“King Magg the Maggot!” the bard flung back at him. “Does Achren promise you a kingdom? A scullery would be more than you deserve!”

“Achren’s promises are false,” cried Taran. “Learn this to your grief, Magg!” (180)

Like Glew, Magg wants to be a King. Like Glew, Magg is not worthy to be a King.

  • What does Achren plan to do?

Achren plans to become a very powerful ruler. She wishes to rule Prydain while Magg rules the Isle of Mona — or so Magg believes. She also wishes to conquer Arawn of Annuin and make him beg her for mercy.

  • Would Achren make a good Queen?

No. Gwydion refers to the kind of Queen she was when she previously ruled Prydain — she was not a good Queen:

“The lore tells of your ancient rule,” Gwydion said sharply, “and how you sought to keep hearts and minds in thrall to you. You tormented those who would not worship you; and for those who bowed to you, life was little better than a slow death. I know, too, of the blood sacrifices you demanded and your joy at the cries of your victims. No, Achren, it shall not come again. Think you this girl shall lead you to it?” (181)

  • What major mistake does Prince Rhun make when he speaks to Achren at the end of Chapter 17? Why is this a major mistake?

Achren wishes to use Eilonwy to achieve her evil plans. As a Princess of Llyr, Eilonwy can become a powerful enchantress. However, she needs the book of spells of the House of Llyr and she needs the Golden Pelydryn. She believes that they are lost, but Prince Rhun makes a major mistake and lets her know that they have been found.

In Chapter 11, Prince Rhun showed a propensity for blurting out something that he should not have blurted. He blurted out Llyan’s name in front of Glew (113). Taran, who is more cautious, did not want to mention Llyan until he knew more about Glew. Prince Rhun’s blurting in Chapter 11 foreshadows his blurting here in Chapter 17.

At the end of Chapter 17, we read:

“She will obey me,” Achren replied, “as surely as if I held her beating heart in my hand.”

Gwydion’s eyes flashed. “Your words are vain, Achren. They cannot deceive me. Do you seek to rule through the Princess Eilonwy? The enchantments she commands still sleep. You have not the means to waken them.”

Achren’s face turned livid and she drew back as though she had been struck. “You speak beyond your knowledge.”’

“Oh, no, he doesn’t!” burst out Rhun, who had been listening in amazement. The Prince of Mona triumphantly faced Achren. “The book! The golden light! We’ve got them and we shall never give them up!” (181) 

[1]Source: Deborah Kovacs and James Preller, Meet the Authors and Illustrators: Volume Two, p. 27.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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