David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE BLACK CAULDRON: A Discussion Guide ‚ Chapters 9-10

Chapter 9: The Brooch

  • Why did Adaon allow Taran to make an important decision in Chapter 7?

Adaon explains why he allowed Taran to make the important decision in Chapter 7 of whether to try to gain possession of the Black Cauldron or to see Prince Gwydion.

Adaon knew that he would die if the band of heroes tried to gain possession of the Black Cauldron. He wanted to make the right decision for the right reasons. He did not want to decide not to try to gain possession of the Black Cauldron simply because he valued his own life. Instead, he wanted to make the decision about what to do based on the needs of his society, not based on his own desires. Adaon is altruistic.

Adaon knew that Taran was more likely to make the correct decision based on the needs of their society. Taran did not know that Adaon would die if the band of heroes were to try to recover the Black Cauldron. Taran did not have the foreknowledge given to Adaon by the brooch he wears.

Adaon says,

“I have yearned to be again at the side of my beloved Arianllyn, and my thoughts are with her now. But had I chosen to return, I would ever wonder whether my choice was made through wisdom or following the wishes of my own heart. I see this is as it must be, and the destiny laid on me. I am content to die here.” (100)

Taran is likely to have made his decision to try to recover the Black Cauldron based on the needs of his society. Ellidyr, however, is willing to try to gain possession of the Black Cauldron by himself mainly because of his desire for glory.

  • What is the correct interpretation of Adaon’s earlier dream?

This is the dream that Adaon had earlier:

“I saw myself in a glade; and though winter lay all around, it was warm and sunlit. Birds called and flowers sprang up from bare stones.” (88)

Eilonwy said then that she could not guess its meaning, but now we know that Adaon had a dream of his own death.

  • What foreshadowing have we had of Adaon’s death?

The main foreshadowing that we have had is Adaon’s dream. However, in addition, Adaon made a kind of will — he told Taran to take for himself the items that Adaon regarded as valuable if anything were to happen to Adaon. In Chapter 8, Adaon said that he does not value having many possessions, and so he has few of them. However, he does value three possessions, which he offered to Taran in case “any ill befall me” (93).

These are the three possessions:

1) Lluagor, his horse.

2) His pack of healing herbs.

3) The iron clasp around his neck. He says that the clasp is “the brooch I wear, a precious gift from Arianllyn, my betrothed” (93).

  • Did Ellidyr’s decision in Chapter 8 result in a death in Chapter 9?

Possibly, Ellidyr’s decision to strike out on his own to try to gain possession of the Black Cauldron led to Adaon’s death. If Ellidyr had stayed with the band of heroes, he would have increased its strength. Adaon may not have died when he saved Taran’s life by attacking the Huntsman who was trying to kill Taran.

  • Why does Taran decide to continue to seek the Black Cauldron?

Once Adaon is dead and has been buried, Taran must make a decision. The band of heroes is much weaker now with the loss of Adaon. In addition, Fflewddur Fflam and Doli are not present because they led the Huntsmen away from the other members of the band of heroes after Adaon was mortally wounded. And, of course, Ellidyr is not present.

The only remaining members of the band of heroes are these:

Taran

Eilonwy

Gurgi

The band wait overnight to see if Fflewddur Fflam and Doli return. They do not, and Taran decides to continue to try to gain possession of the Black Cauldron, surprising Eilonwy, who thought that the band of heroes would go to meet Gwydion.

Taran makes this important decision for these possible reasons:

1) The evil forces of Arawn are trying to find the Black Cauldron, and it is important that the forces of good find it first and take possession of it.

2) When Prince Gwydion gave orders for the band of heroes to rejoin him after the attempt to find the Black Cauldron and take it from the evil forces of Arawn, Prince Gwydion did not realize that the band of heroes would already know the — new — location of the Black Cauldron.

These are good reasons. They are concerned with the good of Taran’s society.

  • Which dreams does Taran have that night (the night before he makes the decision to search for the Black Cauldron)?

Taran has a number of dreams:

1) He sees “Ellidyr seized by a black beast that sank its claws into him and gripped him until Ellidyr cried out in torment” (102). The next morning Eilonwy mentions Ellidyr and Taran tells her about his dream.

2) He sees himself running “through grasses shoulder high, desperately seeking a path he could not find. Overhead, a gray bird fluttered and spread its wings. He followed it and a path opened at his feet” (102).

3) He sees “a turbulent stream with a great boulder in the midst of it. On the boulder lay Fflewddur’s harp, which played of itself as the wind stirred the strings” (102).

4) He sees himself “running […] through a trackless marsh. A bear and two wolves set upon him and made to rend him with their fangs. Terrified, he sprang into a dark pool, but the water suddenly turned to dry land. The enraged beasts snarled and leaped after him” (102).

  • What has happened to Fflewddur Fflam and Doli?

The remaining members of the band of heroes find Fflewddur Fflam at a stream. The bard is “cooling his bare feet in the water” (105).

Fflewddur Fflam and Doli had led the Huntsmen on a chase, luring them away from Taran, Eilonwy, and Gurgi — and the mortally wounded Adaon. Fflewddur Fflam and Doli became separated, and Doli is still missing.

Taran had earlier dreamed about “a turbulent stream with a great boulder in the midst of it. On the boulder lay Fflewddur’s harp, which played of itself as the wind stirred the strings” (102). This dream foretold — but not straightforwardly — the finding of Fflewddur Fflam.

  • Is Taran a good leader in Chapter 9?

Taran is a good leader in Chapter 9. He is able to find water. In addition, while he and the other members of the band of heroes are in high grass, he sees a marsh bird, and he knows that if they follow it, the bird will lead them to the Marshes of Morva.

Taran had earlier dreamed that he was running “through grasses shoulder high, desperately seeking a path he could not find. Overhead, a gray bird fluttered and spread its wings. He followed it and a path opened at his feet” (102). That dream has come true.

  • What does Taran tell Eilonwy about the brooch?

Taran explains to Eilonwy that the brooch has given him some foreknowledge of the future. He dreams about the future, and the things he dreams come true.

Eilonwy replies, “Adaon’s clasp is a priceless gift. It gives you a kind of wisdom […] which, I suppose, is what Assistant Pig-Keepers need more than anything else” (109).

  • What are the powers of the brooch?

The powers of the brooch are threefold:

1) The brooch gives its wearer dreams that foretell the future. However, the dreams are often hints about the future; they do not necessarily straightforwardly reveal the future.

2) The brooch increases the awareness of its wearer.

3) The brooch increases the intelligence of its wearer.

The wearer already has intuition, awareness, and intelligence, but the brooch increases each of these.

  • The brooch is a magical item, and magical items do not exist in our world, although they are “real” in fantasies such as the Prydain Chronicles. What can we do in our real world to acquire such powers as those of the magic brooch?

The brooch increases three things that its wearer already has: intuition, awareness, and knowledge.

Intuition can be regarded as a kind of knowledge that is different from logic. This is a definition of the word “intuition”:

instinctive knowing (without the use of rational processes)

Source: wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

Date Downloaded: 14 July 2010

Perhaps intuition can be developed through artistic pursuits such as drawing, painting, music, theater, and poetry.

Awareness can be increased without magic. Simply taking time to be aware can increase awareness. Simply take note of what is going on around you.

Knowledge can be increased without magic. Study and reading can increase knowledge. A study of marsh birds can lead to being able to identify them. Logic tells us that marsh birds live in marshes.

Let us consider the rational, the irrational, and the nonrational.

Some things are rational, such as mathematics and logic.

Other things are irrational (completely against reason), such as repeatedly hitting yourself in the head very hard just to see what it feels like.

The realm of the nonrational is the realm of beauty, poetry, laughter, dance, and love. Art connects the world of the rational and the nonrational. A great deal of intelligence goes into producing art, but much art explores the world of the nonrational.

Love is nonrational. Suppose you are confronted with two individuals who are basically alike in beauty, form, character, and personality, but one individual is rich and the other individual is poor. Reason would tell you to fall in love with the rich individual, but you may fall in love with the poor individual.

We need to avoid the irrational; instead, we should seek to increase our understanding of the rational and the nonrational. Adaon’s clasp helped Adaon and now helps Taran to do that.

In the next chapter, we discover that the clasp has a bardic symbol that means “knowledge, truth, and love” (112). Apparently, the clasp increases the wearer’s knowledge, truth, and love.

As Fflewddur Fflam says in the next chapter, “Put them all together and you have something very powerful indeed” (113).

  • Can we accurately foretell the future?

We can use our reason to make predictions about the future, but predicting the future accurately is very difficult, unless we predict such things as that the sun will rise in the morning or what we will eat for breakfast.

However, scientists are working to improve their success at predicting such things as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Still, it seems unlikely that we will ever be able to accurately predict the exact day that an earthquake or a volcanic eruption will occur.

In Chapter 1, Fflewddur Fflam said this about Adaon: “He is one of the bravest men I know. That and more, for he has the heart of a true bard. Someday he will be one of our greatest, you can mark my words” (11). Unfortunately, this prediction did not come true.

Chapter 10: The Marshes of Morva

  • What do the three lines on the brooch mean?

Taran has already figured out that the brooch gives him a kind of wisdom, and he has told that to Eilonwy.

In this chapter, we have further confirmation of that.

The brooch bears a bardic symbol, which Fflewddur Fflam, who has studied to take the bardic examination, is able to interpret. The three lines, which resemble an arrowhead, stand for “knowledge, truth, and love” (112).

  • Are knowledge, truth, and love rare?

They certainly exist, but we would like them to be more prevalent than they are.

The author of this discussion guide has seen nearly every episode of the TV series The X-Files. The only episode that scared him is titled “Home.” It is about a family that takes pride in its ignorance and stupidity and lack of morals.

Fflewddur Fflam thinks that knowledge, truth, and love may be rare. He says,

“I sometimes think it’s hard enough to find any one of them, even separately. Put them all together and you have something very powerful indeed.” (113)

However, it is certainly more than probable that the children reading The Black Cauldronwill know of the love of parents.

  • What can a child learn from reading Chapter 10?

Perhaps a child will learn about the importance of knowledge, truth, and love.

Taran’s clasp that he inherited from Adaon shows what can happen when one person has all three of these qualities. The result is indeed powerful.

  • Is Taran a good leader in Chapter 10?

Yes.

First, Taran recognizes that it will rain, and he leads his band of heroes into a cave — or, at least, a deep recess in a hillside. One reason that he knows the weather will change is because the wind has shifted.

Second, he recognizes that the cave will collapse, and he gets the band of heroes out of the cave before it collapses.

Third, he gets the band of heroes away from the Huntsmen by going into the marshes. Taran is able to lead the band of heroes safely through the marshes, but the Huntsmen are swallowed by the marsh.

  • What does Fflewddur Fflam advise Taran about the brooch?

Fflewddur Fflam advises Taran, “Never part with that clasp, my friend. It’s a true treasure” (113).

  • What new dreams does Taran have? Are these dreams likely to come true?

Taran dreams more dreams again, but he tells Eilonwy, “I can make no sense of them” (114).

He tells Eilonwy what he has dreamed: “I saw Ellidyr in mortal danger. At the same time it was as though my hands were bound and I could not help him” (114).

Fantasies such as The Black Cauldronare not set in the real world. Fantasies include elements that are not real. Part of what we are asked to believe in this fantasy is that magical items such as Adaon’s clasp exist. Adaon’s clasp makes the wearer dream of things that will occur. Therefore, we know that what Taran dreams will in some way come true.

  • Describe the Marshes of Morva.

We read this:

[…] huge growths of thorny furze rose up. At the far side, Taran distinguished meager clumps of wasted trees. Under the gray sky, pools of stagnant water flickered among dead grasses and broken reeds. A scent of ancient decay choked his [Taran’s] nostrils. A ceaseless thrumming and groaning trembled in the air. (115)

  • How does one of Taran’s dreams come true?

In Chapter 9, Taran had this dream: He saw himself “running […] through a trackless marsh. A bear and two wolves set upon him and made to rend him with their fangs. Terrified, he sprang into a dark pool, but the water suddenly turned to dry land. The enraged beasts snarled and leaped after him” (102).

Here in Chapter 10, the dream comes true, but the reality is a little different from the dream: The bear and two wolves are actually Huntsmen dressed in the skins of these animals. This means that although the dreams foretell the future, they do not do so in a straightforward way. For a reader, this is good. The reader has hints of what will occur, but the reader does not know exactly what will occur. This allows for suspense in the narrative.

Taran guides the band of heroes safely into the marshes, but the Huntsmen are sucked down into the bog.

  • Describe the cottage and surrounding buildings at the end of Chapter 10.

We read this:

At the side of the mound, almost a part of the turf itself, rose a low cottage. It was so cleverly concealed with sod and branches that Taran had to look again to see there was a doorway. Circling the hill were tumbledown stables and something resembling a demolished chicken roost. (117)

When Eilonwy and the others look in a window, the cottage seems to be deserted. They see this:

[…] the room was even more heaped up and disorderly than Dallben’s. In one corner stood a wide loom with a good many of the threads straggling down. The work on the frame was less than half-finished and so tangled and knotted he [Taran] could imagine no one ever continuing it. Broken crockery covered a small table. Rusted and broken weapons were piled about. (118-119)

  • What is your opinion of the ending of Chapter 10? Is the reader likely to continue reading?

Very definitely, the reader will continue to read to find out what happens. The chapter ends with the band of heroes in a cottage in the Marshes of Morva when they hear a voice:

“How would you like it,” asked a cheerful voice behind Taran, “if you were turned into a toad? And stepped on?” (119)

What is your opinion of the threat that is made at the end of Chapter 10?

In a way, the threat is funny. In a way, the threat is serious.

The idea of being turned into a toad and stepped on is funny, but if such a thing could occur, the result would be a dead toad/transformed person.

In the fantasy world of The Black Cauldron, we must suppose that such a thing could occur; after all, such a thing as Adaon’s magic clasp exists in that world.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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