David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE BLACK CAULDRON: A Discussion Guide — Chapters 3-4

Chapter 3: Adaon

  • Which simile does Eilonwy use at the beginning of Chapter 3? Why does she use it?

Eilonwy tells Taran, “I’m not speaking to you! […] The way you acted. That’s like asking someone to a feast, then making them wash the dishes” (29).

Eilonwy often uses language vividly. Of course, she is especially known for her similes: comparing one thing to another using the words “like” or “as.” In this simile, she expresses disappointment. She was experiencing something good, but it turned into something bad.

The “something,” of course, is Taran asking her to gird his sword on him. At first, Eilonwy experienced pleasure in being asked that, but then she experienced disappointment because Taran says that he asked her to do that because she is the only girl at Caer Dallben.

What are the names of the horses, and to whom do the horses belong?

Taran rides Melynlas.

Ellidyr rides Islimach.

Adaon rides Lluagor.

  • Write a short character analysis of Adaon based on what you learn in Chapter 3.

Adaon has an iron clasp, aka brooch, that he wears around his neck.

Adaon has dreams.

Adaon enjoys nature:

Adaon rode easily and skillfully; head high, an open smile on his face, he seemed to be drinking in the sights and sounds of the morning. (31)

Adaon is a good leader. One of the things that he does is to tell stories. This is a way of making the journey easier. His followers are entertained by his stories and so do not think about any rigors of their journey.

Because Adaon has experienced much, he has many stories to tell:

He had sailed far beyond the Isle of Mona, even to the northern sea; he had worked at the potter’s wheel, cast nets with the fisherfolk, woven cloth at the looms of the cottagers; and, like Taran, labored over the glowing forge. Of forest lore he had studied deeply, and Taran listened in wonder as Adaon told the ways and natures of woodland creatures, of bold badgers and cautious dormice, and geese winging under the moon. (31)

Adaon and Arianllyn, who is in the northern domains, are engaged to be married.

Adaon has wisdom.

  • What are the characteristics of Adaon’s dreams?

Adaon’s dreams are a source of knowledge. We will learn that his dreams come true.


Adaon dreams that Ellidyr has “a black beast on his shoulders” (30). The black beast is his bad pride — a pride that can make him do or attempt to do evil deeds.


Adaon dreams that Taran feels grief (30).

  • Describe the relationship of Taran and Ellidyr in Chapter 3.

The relationship of Taran and Ellidyr is not good; clearly, the two boys dislike each other. Such rivalry is not good. People who will fight the enemy are supposed to get along together.

The rivalry leads to something bad happening. Neither wants to bring up the rear. The two jostle to go first in a narrow trail above a deep gorge. Taran’s horse, Melynlas, “slips from the trail to the steep slope” (35). Taran slips from the saddle.

However, Ellidyr does something good here. First, he grabs Taran’s hands and lifts him back to the narrow trail. Then he is able to use his strength — he is indeed strong — to raise Melynlas back to the narrow trail.

Taran admits, “I have never seen such a feat of strength” (35).

Taran takes the blame for the incident, although both Ellidyr and himself should share the blame.

Ellidyr disrespects Adaon by calling him a dreamer. Taran does not disrespect Adaon.

  • What is foreshadowing?

The 6th edition of A Handbook to Literature by C. Hugh Holman and William Harmon defines “foreshadowing” in this way: “The presentation of material in a work in such a way that later events are prepared for” (201).

Here are a couple of other definitions:

Foreshadowing is the use of hints or clues to suggest what will happen later in literature.

Source: http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/lit_terms/foreshadowing.html

Definition: A literary device used to hint at events that will follow later in the story, sometimes generating feelings of anxiety or suspense. Anton Chekhov once said that “if there is a gun hanging on the wall in the first act, it must fire in the last.” That remark captures the essence of foreshadowing.

Source: http://contemporarylit.about.com/library/bldef-foreshadowing

  • What modifications to Prince Gwydion’s plan does Morgant suggest? How does Gwydion reply?

Morgant wants the Black Cauldron to be taken north to his own realm (37). Gwydion wishes to take it to Caer Dallben.

Also, Morgant offers to have some of his own warriors “guard our retreat” (37). He would also allow Taran, Adaon, and Ellidyr to fight with him and his warriors when they attack Dark Gate.

Much later, we discover that Morgant wishes to use the Black Cauldron for his own purposes. Morgant’s wanting the Black Cauldron to be taken north to his own realm is an example of foreshadowing.

Prince Gwydion sticks to his original plan.

  • What are the Huntsmen of Annuvin?

Prince Gwydion has Doli turn himself invisible and scout the territory ahead.

Doli brings word that the huntsmen of Annuvin are abroad.

The Huntsmen of Annuvin are ruthless warriors who fight for Arawn:

“They are ruthless as the Cauldron-Born, their strength even greater. They go afoot, yet they are swift, with much endurance. Fatigue, hunger, and thirst mean little to them.” — Prince Gwydion (38-39)

“They are mortal,” Gwydion answered, “though I scorn to call them men. They are the basest of warriors who have betrayed their comrades; murderers who have killed for the joy of it.” (39)

The Huntsmen of Annuvin can be killed, but when one of them dies, the other Huntsmen grow stronger. (39) Prince Gwydion says, “Even as their number dwindles, their strength increases.” (39)

  • What praise does Morgant give to Taran?

The very first time that Morgant speaks to Taran, he praises him: “It would have done me honor to count you among my men [….] Gwydion has told me a little of you, and I have seen you myself. I am a warrior and recognize good mettle” (40).

  • How does Prince Gwydion react when Taran wishes to go with him?

Taran is happy to be praised by Morgant, but he reacts by wanting to go to into battle. He asks Prince Gwydion to allow him to go with his band, but Prince Gwydion declines to allow him to do that:

“Do you love danger so much?” asked Gwydion. “Before you are a man,” he added gently, “you will learn to hate it. Yes, and fear it, too, even as I do.” He reached down [Gwydion is on horseback] and clasped Taran’s hand. “Keep a bold heart. Your courage will be tested enough.” (41)

Prince Gwydion is aware of Taran’s youth. It is much better for Taran not to fight in battle. Prince Gwydion is aware that he and his band will have to fight in order to get the Black Cauldron.

  • How old is Taran?

During the course of the Prydain Chronicles, Taran grows up. At the time of The High King, he is a young man of an age to be married.

At the time of The Black Cauldron, he is still a boy. However, in stories such as this, a young boy is able to do many of the things that a man does.

Boys (and girls) in Grades 5-8 will read this book. Chances are, they will regard Taran as being their own age, which would be approximately between 10 and 13. Of course, The Black Cauldron is a fantasy novel. In real life, we hope that boys will be not fighting with swords.

  • What did Adaon dream of Morgant?

Adaon dreams an uneasy dream about Morgant:

“He is a brave and powerful man,” Adaon agreed, “but I am uneasy for him. In my dream, the night before we left, warriors rode a slow circle around him and Morgant’s sword was broken and weeping blood.” (42)

Note that Adaon’s dream is foreshadowing. Adaon’s dreams foretell the future. See Chapter 20.

  • What could a child learn from reading Chapter 3?

Adaon is a wise man. One of the things that he has learned is this: “[…] there is greater honor in a field well-plowed than in a field steeped with blood” (31).

Peace is better than war. Growing food is better than killing other people. However, occasionally people must fight in a just war.

Adaon also knows love. He says, “Indeed, the more we find to love, the more we add to the measure of our hearts” (32).

Prince Gwydion is also a wise man. He also knows that peace is preferable to war, but that occasionally one must fight in order to protect the freedom of one’s country and one’s people and oneself.

Chapter 4: In the Shadow of Dark Gate

  • Why do Eilonwy and Gurgi appear in this chapter?

Taran (and Adaon) hear a noise, which turns out to have been made by Eilonwy and Gurgi.

Eilonwy and Gurgi both felt bad at having been left behind by Taran and the others. Eilonwy feels strongly about being able to do what Taran does. If Taran goes on an adventure, Eilonwy wants to go, too.

Eilonwy and Gurgi rode on horseback, but their horses ran away from them and headed back to Caer Dallben. Horses can sense danger, and these horses sensed danger and fled from it.

This means that Eilonwy and Gurgi do not have transportation back to Caer Dallben and so they must stay with Taran, Adaon, and Ellidyr. Eilonwy and Gurgi share the band’s horses. Eilonwy rides behind Taran on his horse (Melynlas), and Gurgi rides behind Adaon on his horse (Lluagor).

  • What is Ellidyr’s opinion of Eilonwy and Gurgi?

Ellidyr does not want either Eilonwy or Gurgi around.

Ellidyr regards Eilonwy as a scullery-maid, similar to his regarding Taran as a pig-boy. In his pride, Ellidyr considers himself to be better than Eilonwy or Taran — or Gurgi.

Ellidyr says about Eilonwy, “Send the little fool back to her pots” (45). When Ellidyr refers to Eilonwy as a “scullery maid” (46), Eilonwy is insulted.

Ellidyr says this about Gurgi:

“And this!” Ellidyr laughed bitterly, gesturing at Gurgi. “This — thing!” Is this the black beast that so alarmed you, dreamer?” (46)

  • Describe the relationship of Taran and Eilonwy in Chapter 4.

Taran lacks tact in his dealings with Eilonwy. He is upset that she and Gurgi followed him. About Eilonwy, he says, “She must return immediately. She’s a foolish scatterbrained …” (45).

Of course, he does have reason to be upset. Taran and his band are on a dangerous mission. Eilonwy should be in a place of safety — such as Caer Dallben.

However, Taran does defend Eilonwy when Ellidyr criticizes her. When Ellidyr says about Eilonwy, “Send the little fool back to her pots” (45), Taran tells him, “Hold your tongue! I have swallowed your insults to me for the sake of our quest, but you will not speak ill of another” (45).

Eilonwy can be critical of Taran, but clearly she likes him. She makes a critical reference to Taran after Adaon offers refreshments to her:

“That’s very kind and thoughtful of you,” said Eilonwy with an admiring glance at Adaon. “Much more than you can expect from certain Assistant Pig-Keepers.” (48)

A little later, however, she compliments Taran on the way that he defended her against Ellidyr’s verbal attack:

“It was wonderful the way you were ready to smite him because of me. Not that you needed to. I could have taken good care of him myself. And I didn’t mean you weren’t kind and thoughtful. You really are. It just doesn’t always occur to you. For an Assistant Pig-Keeper you do amazingly well….” (49)

  • How does Adaon treat Eilonwy?

A wise man, Adaon treats Eilonwy well. He is concerned about her and says to her, “Princess, Princess, you should not have followed us” (45).

He is also a problem-solver. First, he makes sure that Eilonwy and Gurgi have something to eat, and then he makes plans for them to come with his band of heroes. The horses of Eilonwy and Gurgi have run off, and Adaon cannot spare anyone to take Eilonwy and Gurgi back to Caer Dallben.

  • What do we learn from Doli in Chapter 4?

Doli and Fflewddur Fflam are on horseback. (Actually, Doli rides a pony.)

Doli has done his part in the plan. He turned himself invisible and went to investigate how many guards were stationed around the Black Cauldron. However, he discovered that the Black Cauldron was not where it was supposed to be. (On pp. 19-20, we learned that Coll had seen the Black Cauldron previously. During the council of men, Coll gave information about the Black Cauldron’s location.)

At first Doli thought that Arawn had moved the Black Cauldron to a safer place. However, he overheard guards talking about the Black Cauldron, and he discovered that it had simply vanished, and neither Arawn nor any of his men knew where it had gone.

  • Which weapons does Princess Eilonwy have?

Fflewddur Fflam gives Princess Eilonwy a bow and a quiver of arrows.

  • Now that the Black Cauldron is gone, what must be done next?

At first, Eilonwy thinks that the disappearance of the Black Cauldron is good news. Arawn does not have it, and that is a good thing.

However, Adaon is aware that other evil people want the Black Cauldron. These evil people, like Arawn, will use the Black Cauldron for evil purposes. Therefore, the forces of good must find where the Black Cauldron is. It still must be destroyed so that it cannot be used.

Fflewddur Fflam, who arrived with Doli, says that the plan is to meet at Caer Cadarn unless Gwydion and his warriors catch up with them first. At Caer Cadarn everyone will discuss what to do.

The important thing is to destroy the Black Cauldron. It is not enough to simply get the Black Cauldron out of the hands of Arawn.

Therefore, the band of warriors — along with Eilonwy and Gurgi — set out for Caer Cadarn. Caer Cadarn is the stronghold of King Smoit, whose kingdom is Cantrev Cadiffor.

  • What is your opinion of the ending of Chapter 4? Is the reader likely to continue reading?

One of the major things that a writer wants is his or her readers to keep on reading. One way for a writer to do that is to be interesting. The author must write in such a way that the reader is so interested in what happens next that the reader turns the page and keeps on reading.

At the end of Chapter 4, Lloyd Alexander uses a cliffhanger to convince the reader to turn the page and keep on reading. Think of a hero hanging on the edge of a cliff. You want to know what will happen to the hero: Will the hero fall off the cliff, will the hero rescue him- or herself, or will the hero be rescued by another person or people?

In the early days of movies, some movies were serials instead of features. A feature is a long movie that is (usually) complete in itself. Serials, instead, were short episodes that were intended to be viewed, one at a time, week after week. One week’s episode would end in a cliffhanger to persuade people to buy a ticket to the movie next week so that they could see what would happen next. In the early days of movies, people would see more than just a feature film. They would often see a cartoon or a Three Stooges short comedy, a newsreel, a serial, and finally a feature film.

At the end of Chapter 4, we read:

Taran ran to Melynlas, leaped astride, and pulled Eilonwy up after him. Doli and the others hastened to mount. But as they did, savage cries burst from either side of them and there was a sudden hiss of arrows. (53)

Most readers will turn the page and keep on reading because they want to know the answers to these questions:

Who is attacking our heroes?

What will happen next?

Many fiction writers such as R.L. Stine, author of the Fear Street and Goosebumps series of books, use cliffhangers. He also used them in his humorous autobiography, which is titled It Came from Ohio! My Life as a Writer. One chapter ends this way:

I graduated from Ohio State University in June 1965.

Suddenly, I faced what they call The Real World.

What I wanted to do was to go to New York. That’s what I’d dreamed of doing. My bags were already packed. Bill [R.L. Stine’s brother] had seen to that. He couldn’t wait to get rid of me!

But it takes money. I had a little in the bank. I saved it during college from part of the Sundialprofits. But I just didn’t have enough.

Before I could make my New York dream come true, I needed some money. Some cash.

So I decided to rob a bank.

This is certainly a cliffhanger that will keep readers reading. By the way, R.L. Stine’s next chapter begins in this way:

Only kidding.

Forget about robbing banks. I found a much scarier job. I became a substitute teacher.

R.L. Stine is known for his scary books, but he started out as a humor writer. In fact, his nickname was Jovial Bob.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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