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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Book Review – The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain, #1)

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading this series, surprise surprise, because of the Disney film “The Black Cauldron”, named for the second book in the Chronicles of Prydain. What I did not know before reading The Book of Three was that the film was basically the first two books smushed together. After reading this book, I am happy to say that I love it even better, and I’m sad I didn’t get to the series sooner.

Chronicles of Prydain is based on Welsh mythology (though Lloyd Alexander warns us readers not to use the Chronicles as a guide to Welsh mythology for good reasons). The Horned King, famous and skeletal villain of the film, is a nigh unbeatable warrior who serves the main villain, Arawn the god of death. In Welsh mythology Arawn is not so evil as he is here. One of the main heroes is Gwydion, who is a prominent figure in the Mabinogi (Welsh myth).

Our main characters are the same as in the film: Taran the Assistant pig-keeper, who learns that the loveliness of home and friendship is greater than heroic deeds; Hen Wen, the oracular pig; Eilonwy the princess, who is stubborn and determined and cares fiercely for her friends; Fflewdder Fflam the king-turned-bard; Gurgi, the obnoxious creature eager for crunchings and munchings; Doli, who is a dwarf in the book; all accompanied by a cast of other, myriad characters.

What I love about this story is that at the core are the strongest of friendships, and this is what becomes most important by the end of their quest, more important than heroism. It is this theme that I wish more stories would have.

What I liked less was that the titular Book of Three was not featured very much, though hopefully we will see it in the other books of this series.

I am excited to pick up the next book, The Black Cauldron.

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