David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 18: The Golden Pelydryn

Chapter 18: The Golden Pelydryn

  • Prince Rhun realizes that he has made a mistake. How does he react? How does Gwydion react?

Prince Rhun’s actions show that he immediately feels regret for his blunder. Gwydion is not angry with Prince Rhun, but he feels sorrow that Prince Rhun made such a huge mistake.

We read:

Rhun himself realized his blunder and clapped a hand to his mouth; his round face filled with dismay and he glanced about him in confusion. Gwydion stood silently, his weathered features tight and pale; yet the glance he cast on the unhappy Prince of Mona was not of reproach but of sorrow. (182)

One thing that Prince Rhun does is to vow not to talk under torture. He knows that the book of spells of the House of Llyr and the Golden Pelydryn are too powerful to be allowed to fall into Achren’s hands.

We read:

Rhun blinked and swallowed hard, but he faced Achren stoutly. “If you’re thinking about torturing me,” he said, “you’re welcome to try it. It would be interesting to see how much you could find out, since I myself haven’t the first idea where the Pelydryn is.” He took a deep breath and shut his eyes tightly. “So there you are. Go ahead.” (183)

  • How does Eilonwy hurt Taran with her words?

Eilonwy first hurts Taran by saying this:

“If they have taken my bauble,” said Eilonwy, drawing closer to Achren, “they must return it. It is not fitting for it to remain in the hands of strangers.” (184)

Taran is hurt because Eilonwy has referred to him as a stranger. Achren is intelligent and seizes on this.

We read:

“This does not please you, Assistant Pig-Keeper,” she murmured. “It pains you to be called stranger by her. It cuts more cruelly than a knife, does it not? Sharper even than the torments of the wretched creature [Gurgi] at your feet. […]” (184)

  • How does Achren try to bribe Taran?

Achren offers to allow Eilonwy to regain her memory of Taran (184). In addition, she hints that Taran could become King to Eilonwy’s Queen.

We read:

“And more, much more,” Achren whispered. “With me, the Princess Eilonwy shall be a queen. But who shall be her king? Would you have me set her free to wed a witless Prince? Yes, Magg has told me she is to be given to the son of Rhuddlum.

“What then shall be the lot of an Assistant Pig-Keeper? To win a Princess only to lose her to another? Are these not your thoughts, Taran of Caer Dallben? Think of this, too, that Achren gives favor for favor.” (185)

One thing that Taran has told Magg is this:

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

Here Achren is making promises to Taran. Taran may very well be tempted to believe those promises.

  • Why do you think Prince Gwydion hands over the book of spells and the GoldenPelydrynto Achren?

Taran is afraid that he has spoken when he hears a voice that tells Achren that she shall have the book of spells of the House of Llyr and the Golden Pelydryn. However, the voice belongs to Gwydion.

We can guess that Gwydion probably believes that eventually Achren will find out where the book of spells of the House of Llyr and the Golden Pelydryn are hidden. We can guess that he probably believes that it is better to give them to Achren now before she physically tortures anyone and before she mentally tortures Taran more.

However, in Chapter 19 (195) Gywdion gives his explanation for why he did what he did.

  • When Achren holds Eilonwy’s bauble, it does not glow. Why not?

Eilonwy’s bauble glows when the person holding it is not thinking of him- or herself, but of others. Achren’s concern is for herself only, and the bauble will not glow for her.

We read:

Achren snatched the objects from him. The golden sphere was dull as lead, its beauty gone. She held it avidly; her eyes glittered; and her smile showed the white tips of her sharp teeth. For a moment she stood as though reluctant to part with the treasures she had sought, then pressed them into Eilonwy’s hands. (186-187)

  • In Chapter 17, Taran told Magg, “Achren’s promises are false” (180). Did Taran speak truly?

Taran did speak truly in a passage that we now realize is foreshadowing. Achren has been using Magg, and now that she has the book of spells of the House of Llyr and the Golden Pelydryn, she has no intention of keeping her promises to him.

We read:

Magg was beside himself with impatience and eagerness. He gripped his silver chain with clawed fingers, while his cheeks trembled and greed lit his beady eyes. “My kingdom!” he cried, in a tight, high-pitched voice. “Mine! It shall soon be mine!”

Achren spun and faced him scornfully. “Silence! A kingdom, groveling fool? Be grateful if you are allowed to keep your life.” (187)

  • When Eilonwy gets the Golden Pelydryn, at first a tiny light glows, and then the Golden Pelydryn casts a brilliant light. What is happening inside Eilonwy that causes the Golden Pelydryn to act this way?

Eilonwy begins to regain her memory — something that may be caused by handling an object that reminds her of the reality of her life before Achren enchanted her. As Eilonwy remembers more of her past, the Golden Pelydryn glows more brightly. We know that the Golden Pelydryn glows brightly when the person handling is thinking more about helping others than about helping him- or herself. Eilonwy is thinking of others, not of herself.

Achren may think of herself as being the center of the universe (as do the sinners in Dante’s Inferno), but Eilonwy does not.

We read:

Eilonwy, Taran realized in a surge of hope, was struggling against all that held her. The anguished girl was beyond all threats of Achren, beyond all help from the companions. (188)

Taran and Gwydion and the other companions have been fighting with swords, but Eilonwy has to fight another kind of battle. She has to make a major effort of the will to overcome Achren’s enchantment and to remember her past life with Taran and the other companions.

Such an effort of the will can be difficult. Think how many people are unable to break their addiction to tobacco. Think how many people are unable to lose enough weight and to exercise enough to be healthy. Overcoming bad habits can be very difficult, although many people succeed in establishing new, good habits.

  • When does the Golden Pelydryn glow brightest?

The Golden Pelydryn glows as brightly as Taran has ever seen it glow when Eilonwy deliberately drops the book of spells and it catches on fire. Eilonwy is deliberately rejecting the bidding of Achren for her to do evil, and she is thinking of the companions, and so the Golden Pelydryn glows brightly.

We read:

The Golden Pelydryn flared brighter than he had ever seen it and Taran flung up his hand to shield his eyes. Light flooded the Hall. Gurgi threw himself to the ground and covered his head with his shaggy arms. The companions drew back fearfully.

Suddenly Eilonwy cast the book to the flagstones. From the pages burst a crimson cloud that spread into a sheet of fire, leaping upward to the vaulted ceiling of the Great Hall. Even as the book of spells consumed itself in its own flames, the blaze did not dwindle but instead rose ever higher, roaring and crackling, no longer crimson but blindingly white. The shriveled pages swirled in a fiery whirlwind to dance within the shimmering heart of the flame, and as they did, the whispering voices of Caer Colur groaned in defeat. The scarlet curtains of the alcove blew outward, seized in the writhing column of fire. Now the book had vanished utterly, but still the flames mounted unappeased. (188-189)

  • What heroic action does Eilonwy perform? By performing that heroic act, what is she giving up?

We will learn more about this later, but Eilonwy is destroying the book of spells. By doing so, she keeps Achren from acquiring great power and ruling Prydain. However, Eilonwy is also giving up great power for herself. The spells in the book are powerful, but when the book is destroyed, knowledge of the spells is lost. Eilonwy will never be able to work the spells that her female ancestors worked.

Eilonwy is a hero.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at putting a cliffhanger at the end of a chapter. How does Chapter 18 end?

Chapter 18 ends in this way:

Achren was shrieking, shrieking in rage and frenzy, her face distorted with hopeless fury. Still clutching the Golden Pelydryn, Eilonwy crumpled and fell. (189)

The reader will keep on reading to find out what happened to Eilonwy.

The reader will also keep on reading to find out more about the struggle that Eilonwy was making when she threw the book to the flagstones.


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