The Castle of Llyr
The first edition
|Cover artist||Evaline Ness|
|Series||The Chronicles of Prydain|
|Genre||Fantasy novel, Children's literature|
|Publisher||March 3, 1966 (Holt, Rinehart and Winston)|
|Media type||Print (hardcover & paperback)|
|Pages||204 (first edition)|
|ISBN||0-8050-1115-3 (first edition, hard)|
|Preceded by||The Black Cauldron|
|Followed by||Taran Wanderer|
The Castle of Llyr (1966) is a high fantasy novel by Lloyd Alexander, the third of five volumes in The Chronicles of Prydain. The story continues the adventures of Taran "Assistant Pig-Keeper", primarily on the Isle of Mona west of Prydain, far from the forces of Arawn, Lord of Death.
Princess Eilonwy "faces the unavoidable (and in her view absolutely unnecessary) ordeal of becoming a young lady", says Alexander. Taran joins her escort to a royal court where she will continue her education, near to her ancestral home. Soon after arrival, she is kidnapped for the sorceress Achren. Taran and companions including Prince Rhun set out to rescue her.
All of the proper names in Prydain are historical or mythological. "Isle of Mona" is a version of Ynys Môn, the Welsh name for the Isle of Anglesey, but that island is very close to the northwest point of mainland Wales, crossed by two highway bridges. In the author's words, the Prydain chronicles communicate "the feeling, not the fact, of the land of Wales and its legends".
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The story begins in the spring approximately 18 months after the destruction of the Black Cauldron. Eilonwy is the last in a line of royal sorceresses, daughter of Angharad, daughter of Regat, of the House of Llyr, which no longer reigns. Dallben the enchanter has decided that Eilonwy, as a princess, needs an education that he cannot provide at Caer Dallben. She will reside at a royal court on the Isle of Mona, west of Prydain. With Gurgi, Taran escorts her to Mona, primarily on a ship "captained" by Prince Rhun, a cheerful but incompetent youth. Taran is finally aware of his feelings for Eilonwy and he envies the prince's noble birth.
While Eilonwy is introduced to the ladies, the banal tedium of life at court, and the maxims of proper ladylike conduct, Taran meets his frequent companion Fflewddur Fflam - who, again having become wearied with the mundane duties of presiding over his peaceful but small hereditary kingdom, is living in the stables as a bard - and a traveling shoemaker, who turns out to be none other than Prince Gwydion. Gwydion tells Taran that Eilonwy is in grave danger, very likely from the evil sorceress Achren, who survived Spiral Castle (The Book of Three). He charges Taran with helping to protect Eilonwy.
Soon after, Taran and Gwydion separately witness Chief Steward Magg leave the castle to go the beach at night and signal a ship at sea. When Magg and Eilonwy do not show for breakfast the next morning, the king organizes search parties. One is nominally under the command of Prince Rhun, although the Master of Horse is really in charge. The bards already sing of Taran, and King Rhuddlum asks him to protect Rhun personally. Rhun must rule one day, and he confides that he and Queen Teleria hope for his wedding to Eilonwy. Although he is appalled and envious, Taran takes the oath.
Shortly before dusk, the prince separates from the group. Taran pursues him, joined by Fflewddur and Gurgi, but finally must halt and spend the night in the forest. The next day they find his horse outside a small, dilapidated house, and he wishes them good morning from the door. Inside they find a small book of empty pages that Rhun decides to keep for himself, and a sheaf of notes by the former resident, Glew. Evidently Glew was a careful experimenter with potions, and he developed one that successfully enlarged a young mountain cat he named Llyan. Horrified by their inferences from a small pair of abandoned boots they prepare to leave, but Llyan herself returns and settles down just inside the door. She is larger than the average horse and they assume that she recognizes four ready meals. She is entranced by Fflewddur's harping, which allows the others to escape through a broken wall in the corner.
Later that day, the party is rejoined by Fflewddur on the run and by Taran's pet crow Kaw on the wing. Kaw has spotted Magg and Eilonwy on horse and Taran determines to pursue alone rather than return to Dinas Rhydnant or try to find the official party. Kaw leads them to the river Alaw and some recent tracks of Magg and Eilonwy's horses. Further, Rhun finds Eilonwy's golden bauble - the Golden Pelydryn - near a rock, where it appears that they dismounted and fetched a boat. The companions build a hasty raft to follow downstream, but it disintegrates before reaching the mouth. Harvesting young willows for repairs, Rhun manages to tumble into a deep pit, and his attempted rescue prompts a landslide that traps all four, but the pit then opens up into spectacular caverns. None of the party is able to light the bauble, but it glows for Taran after he has given up and turned his thoughts to Eilonwy. They explore by its light and eventually find Glew, who is trapped by his giant size. The companions promise him Dallben's aid and persuade him to show them a way out, but he leads them to a dead end tunnel and traps them. Sobbing pitifully, he explains that he knows the recipe for a potion that will diminish him, but he must kill one of them for a final ingredient - the victim shall be their choice.
Gurgi volunteers and Rhun surprises everyone by nominating himself, for he has recognized that he is a burden to all and incompetent to rule. Taran explains his oath to the king, which Rhun opposes. Instead, they notice an exit above their heads and construct a human ladder which enables Rhun to reach a ledge and some unknown passage. He promises to return to the city and bring help. When Glew permits the exit of his final ingredient, the trio breaks out and attacks him. Meanwhile, Rhun has not left the caverns but returned by another route with the help of the Golden Pelydryn. Because his action is selfless, the bauble now blazes for him and blinds the giant. The enraged Glew inadvertently helps them escape from underground.
When they reach the mouth of Alaw on the reconstructed raft, they meet Gwydion, who hides them and tells what he knows. He has visited the offshore ruin of Caer Colur and seen Achren, Magg, and Eilonwy with several mercenary guards. The ancestral home of the House of Llyr and its former peninsula have been sinking since Eilonwy's mother Angharad eloped with a common man. Achren hopes to rule by bringing Eilonwy to her full ancestral powers yet maintaining control by her personal magic.
The book of empty pages that Rhun took from Glew's hut actually records the House of Llyr's most powerful enchantments, which are only revealed under the light of Eilonwy's bauble.
At night Gwydion rows them all to land below the seaward walls and hides the book and bauble before they begin to search.
Kaw quickly discovers the tower room where Eilonwy resides, and helps to secure a rope for Taran to climb, only to find that Eilonwy does not know him or any of the names of her former companions. Her memories stir, for he has interrupted a dream of Caer Dallben, but he fails to persuade her and she flees from her room and cries out. Taran vainly hopes to halt the alarm and follows her until Magg arrests him.
Gwydion, Fflewddur, and Gurgi have entered the halls as well, and they have the better of a struggle with Magg and some guards, but the appearance of Achren and Eilonwy everything. Achren demonstrates Eilonwy's power, and Rhun stupidly reveals that they know she cannot complete her plans. Rhun shuts his mouth in shame, and Gwydion does not yield. Achren turns to Taran and offers to pay him for what he knows: she will restore Eilonwy's memories of him and allow them to wed. Gwydion interrupts the torment by revealing the cache and Magg retrieves the magical implements.
When Eilonwy takes hold of the heirlooms and begins to examine the book in the light of the bauble, she also begins to fight against Achren's spell and finally makes her own choice. Calling upon the full power of the Pelydryn, she incinerates the book in a column of crimson flame, which also quiets the stone whispers of Caer Colur and breaks Achren's spell completely. Meanwhile, Magg has responded to Achren's scorn by opening the gates that protect the castle from the sea, and he and the surviving guard have escaped by the only ship. The sea threatens them all and the rowboat has been shattered.
Taran loses consciousness and awakes to discover that all reached the shallows alive, and Llyan pulled them up the beach. Eilonwy tells how Magg tricked her, gagged and kidnapped her, but she knows little of the episode offshore. Before leaving the sea, she finds a ceremonial horn that has washed ashore, which she calls "all that's left of Caer Colur". She gives it to Taran as a pledge that she will not forget him during her tenure at Dinas Rhydnant. He can pledge only his word in return, but "the word of an Assistant Pig-Keeper ... shall do very well indeed." He mentions the royal plan to engage her and Prince Rhun, which she scorns him for taking seriously.
Caer Colur was the seat of power of the House of Llyr, where Eilonwy's grandmother Queen Regat was the last in the line of women to reign. It stood at the northeast point of the Isle of Mona, just north of the mouth of River Alaw, some ways by ship west of northwest Prydain (a region never visited in the Chronicles).
The point of land broke and began to sink with the castle, which was abandoned after Princess Angharad eloped with "the True Enchanter" Geraint against her mother's orders. She traveled with the book of spells and the Golden Pelydryn necessary to read them. But countless magical implements remained at Caer Colur.
American Library Association: Notable Children's Book
- The Castle of Llyr, Author's Note, p. viii.
- Lloyd Alexander Interview Transcript (1999). Interview with Scholastic students. Scholastic Inc. Retrieved 2011-12-17.
- About the author (1973). The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain, Henry Holt and Company, first edition, page .
- The Castle of Llyr, Author's Note, p. ix.