Book Review – The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

The Black Cauldron

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When first going to read The Black Cauldron I was comparing it to its two relations: the Disney film of the same name; and the second book of the Mabinogion, the tales from Welsh mythology, in which a cauldron that brings the dead back to life is used by the king of Ireland to fight the Britons. I was pleased to find that this story closely resembled the second book of the Mabinogion in its basic plot (not that the Disney film was not good, but if I had to choose).

The companions come together again to steal the Black Cauldron from Arawn, but find that it has been taken. Thus Taran, Eilonwy, Flewddur, Gurgi, and Doli all embark on the quest to find the cauldron and destroy it. During their quest sacrifices are made, and honor is learned through trial and recognition of the true good of the world.

In this book it is not Gurgi who sacrifices himself to destroy the cauldron, as in the film, but Ellydir, who is this story’s parallel to Efnisien, the character of the Mabinogion so full of anger, that the cauldron is destroyed when he jumps in alive. So the same happens to Ellydir, whose excessive pride brought him to this noble end.

The main theme to really take away from this book, the main lesson, is in the seeing of how honor is gained. Taran learns that there is no honor in war and bloody heroism, but in the deeds that help save friends, indeed the beauty of the world the hero cherishes. Taran sees this in the end, and because of this becomes a true hero like his own hero, Gwydion. Eilonwy, being the observant and heroic person she is, realizes this all from the beginning. But it is a lesson that must be learned for oneself, as she realizes with Taran along the way.

I recommend this second book of the Chronicles of Prydain to those who value above all else love and friendship, and the adventures that come with them.

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