|This article does not cite any references or sources. (May 2013)|
The Cauldron-Born were originally mortal men. After being slain in battle, Arawn, Death-Lord of Annuvin, placed their lifeless corpses inside his Black Cauldron. From inside the Cauldron, they arose as undead, mute warriors void of all memory of their past life. They serve Arawn as sentries in Annuvin; however he occasionally sends them on scouting or military missions. Arawn traditionally used bodies of those already dead in order to create the Cauldron-Born. However, following the death of his champion, The Horned King, Arawn sent his men to not only rob graves, but to slay the living and bring them to Annuvin to feed to the Black Cauldron and increase their ranks.
The Black Cauldron
As described in the book, The Black Cauldron, the Black Cauldron is the source of the Cauldron-Born's power and life. Arawn borrowed it from the witches Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch, and ruined it for any task other than making the Cauldron-Born. It is described as a large black iron pot with two rings and a mouth large enough to fit a man, and has what appears to be dried blood flecked on the rim. The wind passing across the cauldron's mouth sounds like the moans of all those who have been fed to the Cauldron.
The cauldon is impervious to all normal forms of destruction including magic. The only way it can be destroyed is if a living person willingly enters the Cauldron "knowing full well what he does". Doing so, however, will kill the person. In the end, Ellidyr, son of Pen-Llarcau, gave his life in this manner.
Strengths and weaknesses
The Cauldron-Born's greatest advantage is that they are not alive, and thus cannot be killed. They feel no pain or fear or mercy, do not need water or food or sleep, and they never question orders because they possess no soul or memory of who they were in life. Simply put, they are puppets of Arawn who will obey his every command. However, the Cauldron-Born are not omnipotent. Their power diminishes the further they get from Annuvin and the Black Cauldron. In fact it is possible for them to stray far enough that they return to a normal corpse. However, it seems they have an innate knowledge of exactly how far they can go before this happens. This limit aside they only have one true weakness, the black sword Dyrnwyn. In The High King, Taran strikes a Cauldron warrior with the sword, which in turn kills all of them.
Because of their great strengths the Cauldron-Born make formidable warriors. In The High King they slew the high-king Math and in The High King, during the battle of Caer Dathyl, they caused the attacking army to draw back into formation, parting like a gate as the Cauldron-Born marched towards the castle. Since the Cauldron-Born never speak, it would seem that they cannot engage in coordinated tactics or strategic movement during a battle, at least not without some person present to relay information. They do, however, understand speech in some fashion: in The Book of Three Achren gives them orders in an unknown language.
Trying to escape an on-coming Cauldron-Born warrior on Mount Dragon, Taran discovers the black sword Drynwyn hidden under a rock. When he drew the sword, the Cauldron-Born warrior actually showed a sign of fear. Taran struck down the warrior. For the first time, the mute Cauldron-Born actually made a noise, screaming when it fell. All the Cauldron-Born dropped to the earth, returning to normal corpses.
Alexander, Lloyd. The Black Cauldron. Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Children, New York, NY. 1965.
Alexander, Lloyd. The High King. Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Children, New York, NY. 1968.