David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE BOOK OF THREE: A Discussion Guide — Chapters 16-18

Chapter 16: Doli

What do we learn about King Eiddileg in Chapter 16?

King Eiddileg can be devious, although he is basically harmless. He did not tell Taran and his band about Hen Wen.

We discover that the Fair Folk can be dangerous to their enemies. Henchmen of the Horned King were after Hen Wen, and the Fair Folk took care of them.

Eiddileg is concerned about honor and honesty. Taran does not think it honorable and honest of Eiddileg not to mention Hen Wen, and Eiddileg turns Hen Wen over to Taran and his band.

Eiddileg is a dwarfish figure, and when Eiddileg agrees to help Taran and his band, Eilonwy bends over and kisses the top of his head. This greatly pleases Eiddileg.

What do we learn about Doli in Chapter 16?

Doli is grumpy. This is one of his major characteristics. However, he will become a friend to Taran and the members of Taran’s band.

Doli wants to be able to turn himself invisible, but he cannot. Doing so makes his face turn red, then blue. (And when he finally learns how to turn himself invisible — later — he hears an unpleasant buzzing in his ears.)

Doli is an excellent guide. Eiddileg volunteers him to be a guide for Taran and his band. This does not make Doli happy. He is always — he feels — being singled out for unpleasant tasks such as cutting (carving gems) or decorating blades or footing arrows (182).

By the way, a footed arrow is made of two different kinds of wood that have been fastened together.

Doli’s name comes from Latin. “Dolor” in English means grief or pain.

Is Doli a good addition to Taran’s band?

At least in part, yes. He is a good guide.

Doli does bring out the best in Taran and Taran’s band. They do their best to make him feel not bad about not being able to turn himself invisible. Taran says that if he could carve gems and do the other things that Doli can do, he would not feel bad about not being able to turn himself invisible.

Fflewddur Fflam lies and says that he can’t see Doli. (We do have some foreshadowing here — Fflewddur Fflam says that Doli seemed blurred around the edges. This sets the stage for later, when Doli really can turn himself invisible.)

Eilonwy also tries to comfort Doli, using one of her charming similes. She says “It’s silly […] to worry because you can’t do something you simply can’t do. That’s worse than trying to make yourself taller by standing on your head” (183).

Identify some of Eilonwy’s comparisons.

When Doli tries but fails to make himself invisible, Eilonwy says, “I wish you’d stop that. It makes me feel as if I’d drunk too much water, just watching you” (181).

Later, Eilonwy tries to comfort Doli, using one of her famous similes. She says “It’s silly […] to worry because you can’t do something you simply can’t do. That’s worse than trying to make yourself taller by standing on your head” (183).

What do we learn about Gurgi in Chapter 16?

We learn that Gurgi is fitting in well with the companions in Taran’s band.

He has learned from Taran how to build a fire, so he is making himself useful.

In addition, he divides the food into equal portions, without saving an extra portion for himself to eat later. This surprises all the companions.

What is your opinion of the end of Chapter 16? Is the reader likely to keep on reading?

Again, we have an interesting ending. The band hears a noise, which turns out to be coming from a gwythaint.

Discuss the relationship of Taran and Eilonwy in Chapter 16.

The focus of Chapter 16 is on the Fair Folk; however, Eilonwy and Taran both show a concern with honesty and honor, fairness and justice. When King Eiddileg threatens to keep Hen Wen, Eilonwy objects, “You gave me your word. The Fair Folk don’t go back on their word” (176).

And when King Eiddileg says, “There was no mention of a pig, no mention at all” (176), Taran agrees, but then he says, “But there is a question of honesty and honor” (176).

All ends well, of course. King Eiddileg and the Fair Folk are good, and Hen Wen joins Taran and Taran’s band. And Eilonwy rewards King Eiddileg with a kiss on the top of his head.

Discuss the theme of education in Chapter 16. How does Taran’s education progress (if it does)?

Mainly, Taran learns about the King Eiddileg and Fair Folk. They are competent, and they are concerned with fairness.

Taran also learns more about Gurgi, who is behaving very well and sharing food fairly.

Chapter 17: The Fledgling

What do we learn about the fledgling in Chapter 17? (What is a fledgling, anyway?)

The fledgling is a young gwythaint. It is hurt. It is in a thornbush and has been hurt by the thorns, but in addition an eagle has probably challenged it, as several of the gwythaint’s feathers are torn out and it has blood on its back.

The fledgling learns to trust Taran and Eilonwy, but not Fflewddur Fflam. Taran and Eilonwy spoke out in support of helping the gwythaint, but Fflewddur Flam did not. The fledgling lets Taran and Eilonwy feed it.

Taran takes care of the fledgling. It grows better, and eventually it bursts out of its cage and takes to flight.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language(Fourth Edition, 2000) defines “fledgling” in this way: “A young bird that has recently acquired its flight feathers.”

Why does Taran decide to help the fledgling?

Basically, the fledgling needs help and so Taran decides to help it.

In addition, Medwyn has told him to have kindness for all creatures.

In addition, Taran has learned the history of the gwythaints from Medwyn. The gwythaints used to be as free as any creatures but they were tortured into submission by Arawn. In addition, they are trained when young to be loyal to Arawn.

What are the attitudes of the other members of Taran’s band toward the fledgling?

The fledgling learns to trust Taran and Eilonwy, but not Fflewddur Fflam. Taran and Eilonwy spoke out in support of helping the gwythaint, but Fflewddur Flam did not. The fledgling lets Taran and Eilonwy feed it.

Gurgi and Melyngar are afraid of the fledgling.

Hen Wen is unafraid of the fledgling.

Doli wants to kill the fledgling.

Fflewddur Flam supports killing the fledgling.

Is Taran a good leader in Chapter 17? Which mistakes (or seeming mistakes) does he make?

Taran makes (perhaps) a couple of mistakes in this section of the novel. The Horned King catches up to Taran and his band of companions because Taran took time to help the fledging. If he had not helped the gwythaint, he and his band of companions would have been well ahead of the Horned King, according to Doli.

Also, Taran does not keep a watch on Hen Wen. Because Hen Wen is afraid of the Horned King, she runs away, and at the end of the chapter, she is hiding. Taran does not know where she is hiding.

What is your opinion of the end of Chapter 17? Is the reader likely to keep on reading?

Once again, we have an ending that will make the reader keep on reading. The band of companions hears a hunting horn, and Fflewddur Fflam says, “When Gwen the Hunter rides […] death rides close behind” (197).

What kind of relationship do Taran and Eilonwy have in Chapter 17?

As always, the relationship is a little testy. Doli mentions fools and Assistant Pig-Keepers in the same sentence and Taran says, “Doli is right. There’s no difference between a fool and an Assistant Pig-Keeper” (193). Eilonwy replies, “That’s probably true” (193). This answer, of course, does not cheer up Taran.

However, Eilonwy adds, “But […] I can’t stand people who say ‘I told you so.’ That’s worse than somebody coming up and eating your dinner before you have a chance to sit down” (193).

Discuss the theme of education in Chapter 17. How does Taran’s education progress (if it does)?

Medwyn has told Taran to have kindness for all creatures. Taran shows that he has learned this lesson by caring for the fledging young gwythaint.

Chapter 18: The Flame of Dyrnwyn

Is Fflewddur Fflam a good war leader?

Absolutely. We should notice that no harp strings break in this chapter.

Taran draws his sword at the beginning of the chapter when the scouts of the Horned King find them. Fflewddur Fflam points out that now is the time for arrows — which can kill at a distance. The time for swords is later, when the scouts have drawn closer. This makes sense. Why not kill one or a few of the enemy before they reach you? This will put the odds more in your favor.

In addition, when one of the scouts rides behind them, Fflewddur Fflam has the companions fight back to back. Again, this is good strategy.

Fflewddur Fflam is able to guess what the enemy will do. After two of the four enemy warriors have been killed, the others ride off. Fflewddur Fflam is aware that they will return with reinforcements.

Fflewddur Fflam also does not want Taran to separate himself from the others to look for Hen Wen. At a time like this, you want all your warriors to be ready to fight.

Fflewddur Fflam also keeps his eyes on the prize. The most important thing at this point is to warn the Sons of Don before the Horned King attacks. Let Hen Wen look after herself; chances are, she will hide herself well and be safe.

Fflewddur Fflam also lets Taran, the leader, make the decisions, although Fflewddur Fflam does give advice. Should the band risk being discovered if there is a chance that they can warn the Sons of Don before the surprise attack? Taran decides to journey in the valley, putting the band in the vanguard of the Horned King’s army. (The vanguard is the front part of the Horned King’s army.)

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language(Fourth Edition, 2000) defines “vanguard” in this way: “1. The foremost position in an army or fleet advancing into battle. 2a. The foremost or leading position in a trend or movement. b. Those occupying a foremost position.”

Is Taran a good leader in Chapter 18?

Taran draws his sword too quickly at the beginning of Chapter 18. This may be inspiring, but Fflewddur Fflam has the correct idea: fight with bows and arrows first, then fight with swords.

Should the band risk being discovered if there is a chance that they can warn the Sons of Don before the surprise attack? Taran decides to journey in the valley, putting the band in the vanguard of the Horned King. Still, he thinks he has failed the next morning when the valley is filled with the Horned King’s warriors.

Nevertheless, Taran decides to go to Caer Dathyl and make a last stand there. He does, however, want Doli to take Eilonwy and Gurgi to safety. Doli refuses to do so, preferring to fight with Taran. Immediately, enemy warriors discover the band.

Taran shows a lot of bravery in Chapter 18. He stands up against the Horned King, attempting to draw the sword carried by Eilonwy to do so. He also pushes Eilonwy to better safety in the trees (204).

What do we learn about the Horned King in Chapter 18?

Certainly, the Horned King is dangerous. He attacks Taran.

The Horned King appears to be afraid of Dyrnwyn when he sees its scabbard.

The Horned King can be defeated, apparently. The horns turn into crimson streaks; the mask melts at the end of Chapter 18.

What is your opinion of the end of Chapter 18? Is the reader likely to keep on reading?

Again, we have an exciting conclusion. Taran falls unconscious just as the Horned King seems defeated. (The Horned King can be defeated, apparently. The horns turn into crimson streaks; the mask melts at the end of Chapter 18.)

What kind of relationship do Taran and Eilonwy have in Chapter 18?

Taran pushes Eilonwy to better safety in the trees (204).

Discuss the theme of education in Chapter 18. How does Taran’s education progress (if it does)?

Taran continues to be a leader and a hero. He shows a lot of bravery in Chapter 18. He stands up against the Horned King, attempting to draw the sword carried by Eilonwy to do so. He also pushes Eilonwy to better safety in the trees (204).

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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