David Bruce: Lloyd Alexander’s THE BLACK CAULDRON: A Discussion Guide — Chapters 17-18

Chapter 17: The Choice

  • Write a brief character analysis of Ellidyr as he appears at the beginning of Chapter 17.

Ellidyr is still proud and arrogant. He refers to Taran as “pig-boy” (182 and other pages) and to Eilonwy as a “scullery maid” (182 and other pages). He sarcastically calls the band of heroes a “brave company of scarecrows” (182).

Ellidyr is still very concerned about his honor. He cares more for his honor than he does about the death of “the dreamer” (182), which is how he refers to Adaon.

Ellidyr is as proud as he has ever been, but perhaps he ought not to be so proud.

  • What is verbal irony (sarcasm)?

When Ellidyr calls the band of heroes a “brave company of scarecrows” (182), he uses the word “brave” in his sentence ironically. Verbal irony is sarcasm.

This information comes from <http://guweb2.gonzaga.edu/faculty/wheeler/lit_terms_I.html&gt;:

Verbal Irony (also called sarcasm) is a trope [figurative use of language] in which a speaker makes a statement in which its actual meaning differs sharply from the meaning that the words ostensibly express. Often this sort of irony is plainly sarcastic in the eyes of the reader, but the characters listening in the story may not realize the speaker’s sarcasm as quickly as the readers do.

  • Why ought Ellidyr not be so proud?

Ellidyr left the band of heroes in order to go to the Marshes of Morva, but he has not found them. Before he left the band of heroes, he ought to have learned the location of the Marshes of Morva. Of course, it is Fflewddur Fflam who had been near the Marshes of Morva, as we learned in Chapter 7. And it was the brooch of Adaon that helped Taran to find them.

Of course, Ellidyr ought not to have left the band of heroes at all. Working together, the band of heroes was able to get possession of the Black Cauldron. Working alone, Ellidyr was unable even to find the Marshes of Morva.

In addition, because Ellidyr had left the band of heroes, he was not present when the Huntsmen attacked the band of heroes and Adaon fell. Taran tells him, “Where were you when the Huntsmen set upon us? When another sword would have turned the balance? The price was Adaon’s life, a better man than you will ever be!” (182).

Ellidyr is hungry and has to ask the band of heroes for food. Of course, Gurgi’s magic wallet is always filled with food. When you eat someone’s food, you ought to be civil to that person.

Of course, excessive pride of the sort that Ellidyr has ought to be avoided.

  • What are the advantages of teamwork?

Ellidyr’s concern for his honor is misplaced. He is concerned about being the sole possessor of honor. If he were to work as a member of a team — the band of heroes — he would be able to gain honor. For example, if he had stayed with the band of heroes, perhaps he could have used his sword to save the life of Adaon. And if he had stayed with the band of heroes, he would have had some of the honor of getting the Black Cauldron. Instead, he wanted to get the Black Cauldron all by himself and thus have all of the honor for himself.

We see the advantage of teamwork. Ellidyr tried to get the Black Cauldron all by himself, without help. The result was that he did not even find the Marshes of Morva.

Meanwhile, the band of heroes, working together, not only found the Marshes of Morva, but also got possession of the Black Cauldron.

By the way, Homer’s Iliadis in part the story of two men who do not cooperate. The leader of the Greeks (Agamemnon) and the Greeks’ greatest warrior (Achilles) quarrel in Book 1, and Achilles withdraws from the fighting, with disastrous results for the Greek army. In Book 10 of the Iliad, we see the value of cooperation. Two Greek warriors, Diomedes and Odysseus, undertake a night expedition against the Trojans and their allies. Because the two men are working together, they wreak havoc upon some newly arrived Trojan allies.

By the way, Homer was a bard, just like Fflewddur Fflam.

  • What is the attitude of the band of heroes toward Ellidyr?

Clearly, the members of the band of heroes, including Taran, their leader, do not like Ellidyr.

Taran is well aware that Ellidyr abandoned the band of heroes and thus was not around to fight the Huntsmen when they attacked (182). The result of the attack was that Adaon died.

Gurgi does not want to give Ellidyr food, but he obeys Taran’s orders and gives him food.

Eilonwy clearly does not like Ellidyr:

“And just because we’re feeding you,” cried Eilonwy, “don’t think you’re welcome to it!” (183)

Fflewddur Fflam does not speak badly of Ellidyr, perhaps because Fflewddur Fflam is older than the others. However, when Ellidyr refers to him as “a bird with the wing down” (183) — a reference to his broken arm — he says,

“Birds again,” murmured the bard with a shudder. “Shall I never be allowed to forget Orddu?” (183)

Of course, Orddu constantly referred to the band of heroes, both singularly and together, usually in terms of birds:

  • “mice” (126)
  • “goslings” (126)
  • “sparrow” (137)
  • “chicks” (137)
  • “duck” (156)
  • “my owlets” (160)
  • “duckling” (161)
  • “chicken” (162)
  • “chickens” (165)

Orddu also calls the young Dallben “a “little starling” (132).

Definition: Goslings are young geese.

  • Is Orddu not recognizing the humanity of the band of heroes?

Calling the band of heroes goslings and ducks and chickens can be regarded as a way of denying their humanity.

In Canto 5 of Dante’s Inferno, Francesca da Rimini addresses Dante the Pilgrim as “Oh living creature” (Musa, Inferno5.88). She is guilty of a sin of incontinence, which is about rejecting one’s humanity. We are humans, not pigs, yet gluttons treat themselves as pigs. Instead of making use of their intellect and will, the incontinent sinners ignore those things. A human being can use intellect to figure out how much he or she should eat and drink, and a continent person uses his or her will to eat and drink that much, but an incontinent person ignores his or her humanity and acts like an animal that is incapable of understanding the difference between right and wrong.

This, of course, applies to the other incontinent sins. Francesca’s sin is lust. A human being can use intellect to know that adultery should be avoided and a human being can use will to resist the temptation of adultery, but Francesca has ignored her own humanity and succumbed to the temptation of committing adultery. Reason is not in control of Francesca — sexual desire is.

By committing adultery, Francesca has not recognized her own humanity, and by calling Dante a “living creature” (Musa, InfernoV.88) rather than a human being, she is not recognizing his humanity.

Orddu does not understand good and evil. She and the three enchantresses are not able to care the way that human beings care. Because she does not understand something important about human beings, perhaps that is why she calls the band of heroes goslings and chicks and ducks, etc.

  • How does the lord of Annuvin find out about the Black Crochan?

Three gwythaints fly overhead and see the Black Cauldron. They circle the Black Cauldron, and one of the gwythaints even lands, briefly, on the cauldron. Then the three gwythaints fly toward the north.

They are returning to Annuvin to let Arawn know the location of the Black Cauldron.

  • What does Ellidyr ask for in return for his help? Does he get it?

Ellidyr wants the credit for gaining possession of the Black Cauldron — all the credit. He wants Taran to take an oath that he will tell everyone that Ellidyr alone gained possession of the Black Cauldron.

Ellidyr states the conditions under which he will give his help in getting the Black Cauldron out of the river,

“These are my conditions,” he said. “The Crochan is mine, and you shall be under my command. It is I who found it, not you, pig-boy. It is I who fought for it and won it. So you shall say so to Gwydion and the others. And you shall all swear the most binding oath.”

  • Ellidyr wants glory, but is the glory he seeks in this chapter true glory?

Ellidyr’s motivation is his glory, but it is a false glory. Ellidyr did not gain possession of the Black Cauldron — the band of heroes did.

If Ellidyr wanted true glory, he should simply help the band of heroes to get the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben. This act would result in lots of glory for the band of heroes — including Ellidyr.

  • Is Taran a good leader in Chapter 17?

As a leader, Taran wants to accomplish the task that needs to be accomplished. If accomplishing the task means that the credit for accomplishing the task goes to Ellidyr, so be it. The important thing is to get the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben, not to get credit for getting the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben.

Of course, Taran’s attitude is completely opposite to that of Ellidyr. To Ellidyr, the most important thing is to get credit for getting the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben. That is even more important than getting the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben.

Taran asks the rest of the band of heroes if they will swear an oath to let Ellidyr get the credit for gaining possession of the Black Cauldron. They agree, reluctantly, and they and Taran take the oath that Ellidyr requires.

  • How do they get the Black Cauldron out of the river?

Here Ellidyr gains true glory. It is largely because of his great strength — strength that we learned about in Chapter 3 when Taran admitted, “I have never seen such a feat of strength” (35) — to get the Black Cauldron out of the river. The addition of the strength of Ellidyr’s horse, Islimach, helps.

Of course, the band of heroes is also helping. Even Fflewddur Fflam, whose arm is broken, is able to hold the bridles of the horses with his uninjured hand (191).

  • Write a brief character analysis of Ellidyr as he appears at the end of Chapter 17.

The black beast that is Ellidyr’s thirst for honor — whether gained honorably or not — takes over. Ellidyr has gotten the Black Cauldron out of the river, an act for which he deserves honor and glory, but now he thinks that the band of heroes may have agreed too quickly to his conditions. He thinks that they may not be honorable and may not keep their oaths, thus denying him credit for gaining possession of the Black Cauldron.

Now he thinks that one person — a strong person — can take the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben by himself. That means, he thinks, that he does not need the band of heroes any more. He attacks Taran.

By again not working with the band of heroes, Ellidyr is placing his pride ahead of the important task of getting the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben. To be better able to get the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben, Ellidyr should welcome help. After all, the gwythaints know the whereabouts of the Black Cauldron and have alerted or will alert Arawn, who will send Huntsmen to regain possession of the Black Cauldron. With the help of the band of heroes, Ellidyr has a much better chance of fighting the Huntsmen successfully and of getting the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben. Also, it took the work of many people (and horses) to get the Black Cauldron out of the river. Ellidyr’s strength was very important, and the strength of his horse was very important, but the band of heroes and their horses helped, too. Chances are good that at another time a mishap will happen that will require the help of the band of heroes as well as of Ellidyr and the three horses to get the Black Cauldron to Caer Dallben.

  • What is your opinion of the ending of Chapter 17? Is the reader likely to continue reading?

The ending of Chapter 17 is very much a cliffhanger. Taran is in the river, and Ellidyr is attacking him with a sword. Taran falls backward, hits his head on a rock, and becomes unconscious: “The sharp edge of a rock loomed up, and he knew no more” (194).

The reader is very likely to keep reading in order to find out what will happen next.

Chapter 18: The Loss

  • What has happened since the ending of Chapter 17?

At the end of the last chapter, Taran was knocked unconscious and fell into the river. At the beginning of this chapter, he regains consciousness. With him are the rest of the band of heroes, who have built a fire to keep him warm.

Taran protests against the fire, as it can reveal their presence to the Huntsmen, but Fflewddur Fflam points out that the Huntsmen are much more likely to be searching for the Black Cauldron than searching for the band of heroes.

The rest of the band of heroes tell Taran what happened after he was knocked unconscious. Basically, Ellidyr tried to kill all of them, but Fflewddur Fflam, Eilonwy, and Gurgi were able to escape.

Ellidyr’s greed for honor made him feel as if he had to kill all the members of the band of heroes in order to keep the band of heroes from telling the truth about gaining the Black Cauldron.

After the band of heroes escaped from Ellidyr, they searched downriver for Taran and found him, alive but having swallowed much water from the river.

  • Taran wonders whether Ellidyr was right when he told Taran in Chapter 17 that Taran reproached Ellidyr for seeking glory and yet Taran himself was clinging to glory “with your dirty hands” (190). Was Ellidyr right?

No, I don’t think so because Taran gave up the glory of having the credit of gaining possession of the Black Cauldron to Ellidyr. If Taran was clinging to glory with dirty hands, he would not have taken an oath that he would give Ellidyr all the credit for gaining possession of the Black Cauldron.

  • What is the difference between being a pig-boy and an Assistant Pig-Keeper, according to Eilonwy? Is she correct?

Taran is very discouraged, and he shows his discouragement:

“You all have done more than I could ever ask. Alas, much better than I. Yes, it would be useless now to seek Ellidyr, as useless as our quest has been. We have forfeited all for nothing — Adaon’s brooch, our honor, and now the Crochan itself. We shall return to Caer Dallben empty-handed. Perhaps Ellidyr was right,” he murmured. “It is not fitting for a pig-boy to seek the same honor as a prince.” (199)

Eilonwy tries to comfort him:

“Pig-boy!” Eilonwy cried indignantly. “Don’t ever speak of yourself that way, Taran of Caer Dallben. No matter what has happened, you’re not a pig-boy; you’re an Assistant Pig-Keeper! That’s honor in itself! Not that they don’t mean the same thing, when you come right down to it,” she said, “but one is proud and the other isn’t. Since you have a choice, take the proud one!” (199-200)

Eilonwy’s advice seems good to me: When you have a choice between a proud title and a not-proud title, take the proud title. One example could be the titles of celebrity and of artist. For many people, “celebrity” has a negative connotation. However, many celebrities are actors, comedians, authors, directors, and artists. A wide definition of the word “artist” would include all of these activities. So if you have a choice, choose the proud title of artist rather than the title of celebrity. (But do your best to make your work worthy of the name “art.”)

  • An example of irony occurs when Fflewddur Fflam says, “Put up your weapons! […] We’re safe at last! These are Morgant’s warriors! They bear the colors of the House of Madoc!” (201). Why is this ironic?

The irony is that Fflewddur Fflam thinks that the band of heroes will be safe in the hands of King Morgant. He and the rest of the band of heroes do not know that Morgant has turned traitor.

Of course, at this point the reader also does not know that (unless the reader is rereading The Black Cauldron).

  • What is King Morgant’s opinion of Gwystyl of the Fair Folk?

Gwystyl of the Fair Folk did not give a good impression when we saw him in Chapters 6-7, as Eilonwy well remembers:

 “Gwystyl?” Eilonwy interrupted. “Not Gwystyl! Why, he wouldn’t have done the least thing for us — until Doli threatened to squeeze him! Gwystyl! All he wanted was to be let alone and hide in his wretched burrow!” (202-203)

However, King Morgant tells the band of heroes that Gwystyl had brought news of them to Prince Gwydion, and that Prince Gwydion and King Morgant had split up to search for the band of heroes.

King Morgant has much respect for Gwystyl, and he defends him to Eilonwy:

Morgant turned to her. “You speak without knowledge, Princess. Among all who hold the way posts, Gwystyl of the Fair Folk is the shrewdest and bravest. Do you believe King Eiddileg would trust a lesser servant so close to Annuvin? But,” he added, “if you misjudged him, it was his intention that you do so.” (203)

Gwystyl may want to mislead people (and Fair Folk such as Doli) so that news of his “incompetence” reaches Arawn, thus lulling him into not being vigilant.

One theme of The Black Cauldronis appearance versus reality. Gwystyl has the appearance of being incompetent but is in reality very competent.

  • Who tells King Morgant the truth about gaining possession of the Black Cauldron? Why didn’t Taran tell the true story of gaining possession of the Black Caldron?

King Morgant’s men came upon Ellidyr, and so King Morgant now has the Black Cauldron.

Eilonwy tells King Morgant the truth about gaining possession of the Black Cauldron. Ellidyr, of course, lies to Morgant, but we find out that Morgant thought that Ellidyr’s story “rang false” (204).

Taran took an oath not to tell the story about how the band of heroes gained possession of the Black Cauldron, and so he does not tell the true story to Morgant. In fact, he tries to keep Eilonwy from telling the true story (203), but Eilonwy does not think that the oath she took was binding — after all, she and the band of heroes were forced to take that oath.

  • Where might Lloyd Alexander have gotten the name Morgant?

Morgan Le Fay was an evil woman in the myth of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Perhaps the name “Morgant” comes from her name.

Mark Twain makes Morgan Le Fay a character in his satire A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. The Connecticut Yankee is named Hank Morgan, and his name may have come from her name, as the Connecticut Yankee ends up bringing weapons of mass destruction to Camelot, although his intentions are good.

Here are a few notes on Morgan Le Fay as she appears in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court:

1) She is evil through and through. Oddly, the Yankee’s name is Hank Morgan. Names are important in novels and in satires, and so there must be a reason why the Yankee shares a name with a thoroughly evil character. It may be that the Yankee is not as innocent as he seems. Certainly, in the final chapters, the Yankee brings a great amount of destruction to Camelot.

2) Morgan Le Fay is beautiful, and she speaks beautifully, but she is evil.

3) Morgan Le Fay is the head of her household. Her husband the king does not wear the pants in the family.

4) When a servant boy — a page — loses his balance and falls — lightly — against her knee, she kills him with a dagger. Apparently, this is a common occurrence in her household, as she keeps on talking gaily. The king lets out an involuntary “O-h” (144), but a look from his wife cuts the cry of compassion short.

5) She makes sure that the remaining servants do a good job of cleaning up and of removing the body.

6) When the Yankee compliments King Arthur, forgetting that Morgan Le Fay hates the king her brother, she wants to have him and Sandy taken to the dungeon. Fortunately, Sandy lets her know who the Yankee is — the Boss. Immediately, Morgan Le Fay changes her manner, and she says that she was hoping to surprise the Yankee into consuming the guards with fires.

7) Morgan Le Fay is a despot.

In the King Arthur myth, Morgan Le Fay is an enemy of King Arthur and the Kings of the Round Table. Of course, King Arthur and the Kings of the Round Table are the good guys.

In the article at <http://www.kidsreads.com/authors/au-alexander-lloyd.asp>, Lloyd Alexander is quoted about reading both works by Mark Twain and works about King Arthur.

  • What has happened to Ellidyr?

King Morgant has Ellidyr, and it is apparent that he and his men have mistreated Ellidyr. In a tent, Taran and the band of the heroes see Ellidyr:

There, bound hand and foot, lay the still form of Ellidyr. His face was covered with blood and he appeared so grievously battered that Eilonwy could not stifle a cry of pity. (205)

Taran protests this ill treatment of Ellidyr: “Sire […] your warriors had no right to use him so ill! This is shameful and dishonorable treatment” (205).

However, King Morgant is merciless: “Do you question my conduct? […] You have much to learn of obedience. My warriors heed my orders and so shall you. Prince Ellidyr dared to resist me. I caution you not to follow his example” (205-206).

  • Write a short character analysis of King Morgant of Madoc based on what we learn in Chapter 18.

We can guess that King Morgant is evil, although at the beginning of The Black Cauldron, he at least seemed to be good.

We do not know many details yet, but we can believe that King Morgant is evil because he allowed his warriors to mistreat Ellidyr and because he orders Taran and the rest of the band of heroes to be disarmed and tied up.

We also learn that he demands obedience from his men, and he also demands obedience from Taran.

  • What is your opinion of the ending of Chapter 18? Is the reader likely to continue reading?

The ending of Chapter 18 is very much a cliffhanger. King Morgant orders his men to disarm Taran and the rest of the band of heroes and to tie them up: “Disarm them and bind them fast” (206).

The reader is very likely to keep reading in order to find out what will happen next.

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