David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE CASTLE OF LLYR: A Discussion Guide — Chapter 19: The Flood

Chapter 19: The Flood

  • What treacherous act does Magg perform? What happens to Gwydion’s boat? Where is Magg?

Magg opens the gates to the sea, flooding Caer Colur.

Gwydion’s boat is pounded into pieces by the flooding water, and Magg is on Achren’s vessel.

This means that the companions (and Achren) have no boat to sail on. It seems that they will have to swim for the mainland — or drown.

We read:

Beyond the walls, at the crest of a driving wave, rode Achren’s vessel, mast askew and sails flapping. The surviving warriors clung to the sides of the tossing craft and fought to climb aboard. At the bow stood Magg, his face contorted with hate, shaking his fist at the crumbling fortress. The wreckage of Gwydion’s boat spun in the flood, and Taran knew all means of escape were shattered with it. (191)

  • How does Magg react to the thwarting of his ambition?

Magg wanted to be the ruler of the Isle of Mona, but he discovered that Achren has no intention of keeping her promises to him. Magg reacts to his disappointment by trying to get revenge. If Magg had his way, Achren would drown, as would Taran, Eilonwy, Gwydion, Prince Rhun, Gurgi, and FflewddurFflam. These would be murders, and murder is evil.

  • Prince Gwydion tries to rescue Achren. How does she react?

Achren’s power — and her hope for great power — has been broken. She flees. Gwydion is aware that Caer Colur is crumbling and that falling stones can kill.

We read:

The outer walls crumbled under the first impact of the sea. Blocks of stone shuddered and split away. The towers of Caer Colur swayed, and the ground reeled under Taran’s feet.

Gwydion’s voice rang above the tumult. “Save yourselves! Caer Colur is destroyed! Jump clear of the walls or they will crush you!” (191)

Gwydion tries to get Achren away from the walls, but Achren fights him.

We read:

Taran saw that the Prince of Don had clambered to the highest rocks of the embankment to which Achren had fled. There, Gwydion strove to lead her from the collapsing stones, but she struck at him and clawed his face. Her shrieks and curses pierced the rumble of onrushing waves. Gwydion faltered and fell as the embankment gave way. (191)

  • How successful is Taran’s attempt to rescue Eilonwy?

Taran does his best to rescue Eilonwy, who has crumpled and fallen. He picks her up and carries her out of Caer Colur. With no boat available, he is forced to try to swim to the mainland. Because he is using one arm to hold onto Eilonwy, he has only one arm to use to swim with.

We read:

He spun to the trough of the waves while the sea pounded strength and breath from him. Still, he was able to hope, for it seemed the white-crested breakers were bearing him and his frail burden closer to shore. Dizzied and half-blinded by the green-black waves, Taran caught a confused glimpse of beach and shallow surf. He struck out weakly with his free arm. But in this last effort his failing body betrayed him and he tumbled into darkness. (192)

Taran is very brave here, but not all rescue attempts are successful. Sometimes, the would-be rescuer is also killed along with the person he or she is trying to save.

Here it seems as if both Taran and Eilonwy will drown.

This is a story of a failed rescue attempt: In July 2011, in the Nodaway Rivernear Clarinda, Iowa, Tamra Haley, a teenage lifeguard, nearly lost her own life as she attempted to save the life of 11-year-old Deontae Haynes, who was visiting from Chicago. She had a grip on him, but the river current pulled him out of her grip. Although she is a trained lifeguard and a strong swimmer, the river current forced her underwater. She said, “I remember twiddling the top of [the] water with [my] fingers before I slipped into unconsciousness.” When she regained consciousness, she was lying on shore, and her brother-in-law was giving her CPR. He saved her life with his knowledge of CPR. Deontae Haynes drowned. Ms. Haynes said, “If he slipped away as easily as I did, there was no pain for him.” She recommended that everyone learn CPR and water safety: “Everyone should learn. It could save your life. It saved mine.”[1]

  • Why do Taran and the companions change their opinion about Llyan? Was the previous opinion the companions had held about her incorrect?

Llyan ends up rescuing everyone. Previously, the companions had thought that she was a killer. However, she simply liked Fflewddur Fflam’s music and wanted him to keep on playing. After he disappeared from her hut, she searched for him, finally finding him at a most opportune time.

We read:

“Steady, now,” said Fflewddur. “Llyan means you no harm. She only wants to be friendly, though sometimes she has odd ways of showing it.” He patted the cat’s great head and scratched under her mighty jaws. “Come, Llyan,” he coaxed, “there’s a good girl. Don’t stand on my friend [Taran]; he’s not up to it yet. Behave yourself and I’ll play you a tune as soon as my harp strings dry.”

Fflewddur turned once more to Taran. “We have to thank Llyan for a great deal. Everything, in fact. She fished us all out of the surf after the sea had washed us up. If she hadn’t, I’m afraid we should still be there.” (193)

Eilonwy, along with the others, has been rescued.

Kaw has not been seen since the flood (194), but as a bird, he can fly over the flood, so more than likely he is OK.

Llyan’s great size is an advantage here. Because she is so big, she can rescue human beings from the sea. It’s too bad that Glew does not use his great size to help other people.

  • Why is Llyan especially fond of Fflewddur Fflam?

Of course, Llyan is a big fan of Fflewddur Fflam’s music.

We read:

“I did have a start when I came to my senses with Llyan sitting beside me,” said Fflewddur. “She had my harp between her paws, as though she couldn’t wait for me to wake up and begin again. The creature is mad about my music! That’s why she tracked us all the way here. And, Great Belin, I’m glad she did! But I think she’s finally understood there’s a time and place for everything. She’s really been quite gentle,” he added, as Llyan began to rub her head against him with such vigor the bard could hardly keep his balance. (193-194)

By the way, cats have scent glands at various places on their body. By rubbing her head against Fflewddur Fflam, Llyan is putting her scent on him. It’s a way of letting other cats know, This human is part of Llyan’s family.

  • Will Llyan be the pet of Fflewddur Fflam?

Maybe. But Fflewddur Fflam wonders if perhaps he will be Llyan’s pet:

“Gurgi’s gone looking for driftwood to build a fire,” replied the bard. “Poor creature, he’s still terrified of Llyan. But he’ll get used to her. I’ve grown quite fond of her myself. It’s not often one finds such a good listener, and I think I shall keep her. Or,” he added, while Llyan nuzzled her whiskers on his neck and gripped the bard with her powerful paws, “perhaps I should put it the other way around.” (194)

  • What has happened to Eilonwy?

Llyan rescued Eilonwy, but she is still unconscious. Gwydion tells Taran that Eilonwy is no longer under Achren’s power:

“Eilonwy lives,” he said, answering the question in Taran’s eyes. “More than that I cannot say. This much I know: Achren no longer holds her.” (194)

  • What has happened to Achren?

Achren is still alive; however, her power has been broken. For a long time, it has been declining — ever since Arawn, who is the Lord of Annuvin, and she parted.

We read:

“Achren, too, lives,” answered Gwydion, “though long she hung between life and death. But her power is broken now. This is the answer to the riddle, yet I did not know it until I stood before her in the Great Hall. At first, I was not certain. When l understood that she would truly let herself go down to death before giving up Eilonwy, I knew she had lost command of all but the least of her own enchantments. I read it in her eyes and in her voice. Her day had begun to wane from the moment she had broken with the Lord of Annuvin.

“The spells of Caer Colur were her last hope. Now they are gone and Caer Colur lies at the bottom of the sea,” Gwydion added. “We need fear Achren no longer.” (194-195)

  • Why did Prince Gwydion hand over the book of spells and the Golden Pelydryn to Achren?

Gwydion guessed that the Golden Pelydryn would have the power to destroy the book of spells because the book of spells could be read only with the Golden Pelydryn. He also guessed that Eilonwy would be freed from the spell of Achren only if the book of spells was destroyed. Therefore, he decided to give the book of spells and the Golden Pelydryn to Achren in hopes that she would give them to Eilonwy, who would destroy the book of spells and free herself from Achren’s control.

We read:

“It was a risk that had to be taken,” Gwydion replied. “I had suspected something of the nature of the bauble; as it alone could reveal the spells, so it alone could destroy them. Only then could Eilonwy be free. At what cost to herself, I could not be sure. Alas, she has suffered deeply and grievously, perhaps too much.” (195)

  • Taran feels bad about himself. Should he?

Truly, Taran feels bad about himself:

Taran bowed his head. “I would have given my life to keep her from harm, and I would give it now to spare her this.” He smiled bitterly. “Achren asked what shall be the lot of an Assistant Pig-Keeper? It is a question I have often asked myself. I see now the life of an Assistant Pig-Keeper is of little use or import. Even to offer it for someone else is of no avail.” (196)

Taran should not feel bad about himself. Prince Gwydion correctly points out that he has taken very good care of Prince Rhun. When Taran says that he took an oath to look after him, Gwydion says this:

“And had you not sworn an oath,” Gwydion asked, “would you not have done the same?” (196)

Taran’s reply is important:

Taran was silent for a while, then he nodded. “Yes, I believe I would. It was more than my oath that bound me. He needed my help, as I needed his.” (196)

  • Explain these words that Gwydion says, “The destinies of men are woven one with the other, and you can turn aside from them no more than you can turn aside from your own” (196).

This is another, poetic way of saying it: “No man is an island.” Gwydion and Taran have been talking about rendering aid to other people, and both of them believe that helping others (and being helped) is the right thing to do. Certainly, the companions help each other and are helped by each other.

  • How does Gwydion save Achren’s life?

Achren wishes to commit suicide. She has little magical power, but she has enough to turn a piece of driftwood into a dagger, and she attempts to stab herself. Gwydion stops her from killing herself:

With a shout of triumph Achren plunged it toward her own breast. Gwydion sprang to her and seized her wrists. Achren fought against him as he tore the blade from her grasp. Once more the dagger became driftwood, which Gwydion snapped in two and cast away. Achren fell sobbing to the sand. (197)

  • What advice does Gwydion give Achren?

Gwydion’s advice to Achren is to seek life:

“Your enchantments have ever been the enchantments of death,” said Gwydion. He knelt and gently placed a hand on her shoulder. “Seek life, Achren.” (197)

We have a number of decisions to make in our life. One of the most important is to decide whether to be a good person or a bad person. Another is whether to seek life or to seek death.

  • According to Gwydion, what would happen if Achren went to Caer Dallben?

Gwydion believes that Achren would be welcome at Caer Dallben. If so, Dallben (and Gwydion, and others) is remarkably forgiving. Achren has been a powerful and evil enchantress. When she previously ruled Prydain, she created much misery for the people who live there.

Apparently, Gwydion believes in the power of change. Achren has been evil, yet she can now choose to be good.

People can be corrupted by power. Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Achren has had absolute power in Prydain previously, and she has sought absolute power in Prydain again, but she has been thwarted. Now that Achren has little power, she is safe from its corrupting influence and perhaps she can decide to be good.

By the way, William Pitt the Elder said something similar to what Lord Acton said. In 1770, in a speech to the United Kingdom House of Lords, he said, “Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”

In the United States, we try to share governmental power. At the federal level, we have the President, the Senators and the Representatives, and the members of the Supreme Court all sharing power. That way, no one can be absolutely corrupted by absolute power.

  • Lloyd Alexander is a master at making the end of a chapter interesting. How does Chapter 19 end?

Chapter 19 ends in this way:

For all that morning, Taran had not left Eilonwy’s side. Fearful she might never wake and fearful, too, that she might waken as a stranger to him still, he did not rest from his weary vigil. Gwydion himself could not foretell how long-lasting was the harm that had been done her.

“Do not lose heart,” Gwydion said. “It is good that she sleeps and more healing to her spirit than any potion I could give her.”

Eilonwy stirred restlessly. Taran started up. Gwydion put a hand on his arm and gently drew him back. Eilonwy’s eyelids fluttered. Gwydion, his face grave, watched closely as her eyes opened. and she slowly raised her head. (198)

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

[1]Source: “Lifeguard Talks About Heroic Rescue Effort: Young Boy Drowns In River Near Clarinda.” KETV.com. 21 July 2011 <http://www.ketv.com/r/28626842/detail.html>.


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