Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Black Cauldron (book)


In the second entry of Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain series, the Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran and his companions seek the eponymous MacGuffin, the Black Crochan, chief implement of the lord of the Land of Death Arawn, to destroy it and prevent the dark lord from summoning more Cauldron-Born. The book opens with a council at Caer Dallben, which Taran joins, meeting new figures central to the story. Gwydion ultimately lays out tasks in the plot to retrieve and destroy the cauldron, and Taran, on his continued quest towards manhood, receives his own sword as a gift.

Huntsmen of Annuvin the company Taran joins encounters, after which they meet the enchantresses Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch, who aid in the quest to seek the Black Crochan, in the Marshes of Morva. A few members of the company come and go, with the witches having known Taran’s mentor Dallben when he was far younger. Certain treasure the sorceresses also request in exchange for assistance in their quest, with the need for a human to climb into the cauldron in order to destroy it, and a battle around the dark artifact terminating the second installment.

In the end, the second entry of the Prydain series, like its precursor, definitely packs a punch despite its meager length, with general straightforward action and a clear overall goal for the protagonists in destroying the eponymous dark relic, with some occasional twists and turns along the way, and likeable characters. The overall Chronicles of Prydain critics have touted as a Bildungsroman, in other words, a coming-of-age story, and The Black Cauldron does a great job in that respect, with Taran growing morally towards the end, and the sequel standing on its own as a high point of fantasy literature.

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