The Black Cauldron: The Chronicles of Prydain - Book 2

by Lloyd Alexander

Paperback, 2006



Call number

PB Ale

Call number

PB Ale

Local notes

PB Ale (c.1)




Square Fish (2006), Edition: 0, Paperback, 208 pages


Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper of Prydain, faces even more dangers as he seeks the magical Black Cauldron, the chief implement of the evil powers of Arawn, lord of the Land of Death.



Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1968)
Newbery Medal (Honor Book — 1966)

Original publication date


Physical description

208 p.; 7.74 inches

Media reviews

Syndetic Solutions, Inc.
The Newbery-winning fantasy series now available in gorgeous new paperback editions! SinceThe Book of Threewas first published in 1964, young readers have been enthralled by the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper and his quest to become a hero. Taran is joined by an engaging cast of
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characters that includes Eilonwy, the strong-willed and sharp-tongued princess; Fflewddur Fflam, the hyperbole-prone bard; the ever-faithful Gurgi; and the curmudgeonly Doli all of whom have become involved in an epic struggle between good and evil that shapes the fate of the legendary land of Prydain. Released over a period of five years, Lloyd Alexander s beautifully written tales not only captured children s imaginations but also garnered the highest critical praise. The Black Cauldronwas a Newbery Honor Book, and the final volume in the chronicles,The High King, crowned the series by winning the Newbery Medal for the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Henry Holt is proud to present this classic series in a new, redesigned paperback format. The jackets feature stunning art by acclaimed fantasy artist David Wyatt, giving the books a fresh look for today s generation of young fantasy lovers. The companion book of short stories,The Foundlingis also available in paperback at this time. In their more than thirty years in print, the Chronicles of Prydain have become the standard of excellence in fantasy literature for children. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions, Inc.
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Children's Literature
Sonya Goldman (Children's Literature) Five enchanting books comprise the "Chronicles of Prydain" by Alexander. Prydain is a land with heroes and legends drawn from Welsh mythology. In TheBlack Cauldron, book 2 of the series, Taran takes further steps toward manhood. He must help destroy the
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vessel from which the fearsome Cauldron Born warriors spring to march with the evil lord Awren. The companions join with him again on this new adventure. Wondrous magic and a very arrogant young nobleman punctuate this gripping tale. The princess Eilonwy has been growing like a weed. Other books in the Chronicles include The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, The High King and The Book of Three. 1965, Henry Holt and Bantam Doubleday Dell, $16.96 and $4.99. Ages 10 up.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member StormRaven
In the second book of the Chronicles of Prydain, Taran sets out for adventure once more, slightly more prepared than he was in The Book of Three. He is once more accompanied by Gurgi, Fflewddur and Eilonwy, and the whole group is led by Gwydion. Some new characters are introduced: the chief bard
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Aadon, the cunning King Morgant, the jovial ham-handed King Smoit, and the egotistical prince Ellidyr.

Gwydion has learned that since the Horned King was killed, Arawn has been using the magical device known as the Black Cauldron to produce more and more of the deathless cauldron-born warriors. The plot of the novel revolved around the heroes' attempts to recover and destroy the object, preventing Arawn from increasing his army. It turns out that the cauldron has been stolen from Arawn already, but eventually Taran locates it, and bargains with its new owners to obtain it. After various betrayals and deaths, the cauldron is destroyed, but at a significant cost.

For a book aimed at young adults, the book is quite somber. Several notable characters die, characters one thought would be allies turn out not to be, Taran is forced to give up something very valuable, and the Caulrdon itself can only be destroyed if someone willingly gets in it while still alive, which will kill them (which draws directly upon the original Welsh legend the cauldron is based upon). Unlike the crappy Disney hack-job movie in which Gurgi came back to life after destrying the cauldron, in the book, the death is irrevocable. While The Book of Three was more of a romp, this book seems to up the ante, showing that defeating Arawn will be neither easy or painless.
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LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
This has always been my favorite of the series. It has such danger & humor & the various hero's journeys deepen as the story continues. Here we meet Gwystyl & Kaw & the tragic figures of King Morgant & Ellidyr & Islimach.

When I read this book as a little girl, I was quite taken with the character
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of Adaon, the son of Taliesin. I hated Ellidyr, the last son of a poor family who has nothing but his sword, his horse & his prideful rage to carry him through. As an adult I found myself pitying Ellidyr acutely - to be cast out into the world with little hope of making your way would be a terrible fate. His story is a painful one.

Our main characters are growing up & beginning to deal with all the hard choices that adults must make. I love that Alexander doesn't make everything black & white, good & evil; rather he shows the world in all its many shades of gray - that's a brave choice in a children's book.

This book also has Orddu, Orwen, & Orgoch - one of the most fun representations of the Fates that anyone short of Neil Gaiman has thought to create. From their appearance in Hamlet through all the other literary places they reside, they are at their most amusing & most frightening here - a clearer picture of the True Neutral alignment I have never met.

This book won the Newberry Award & it's easy to see why having read it. Disney turned it into a dreadful movie that I urge you to avoid. Read these books - they are wonderful.
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LibraryThing member atimco
The Black Cauldron is one of my favorites among the Chronicles of Prydain for its perfect storytelling, maturing characters, and sense of high heroics. In this tale, Lloyd Alexander again draws on Welsh mythology to spin a fast-paced story with subtle moral choices and consequences.

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Assistant Pig-Keeper of Prydain, has already met with danger and adventure in the previous story, The Book of Three. Now a new evil threatens Prydain, as Arawn builds his deathless army by means of the Black Cauldron (or Crochan). If he isn't stopped, he will soon overrun all the land with warriors who cannot be killed. Gwydion is emphatic that the Cauldron must be captured and destroyed, but how?

The whole cast is here: Princess Eilonwy of latent magical powers, Fflewddur Fflam, a sometime king turned bard, Doli the irascible but goodhearted dwarf, and faithful Gurgi, a talking beast poised between the worlds of animals and men. Prince Gwydion is also present, and some new characters: the proud and scornful Ellidyr, the bard Adaon, and of course the the always-entertaining Orwen, Orgoch, and Orddu, the three mysterious Fates who may be found (or not) in the Marshes of Morva.

This is a high adventure that keeps you reading for its own sake, but even as a young reader I appreciated Taran's struggles in dealing with proud people like Ellidyr (who are, sadly, all too common). Even more, I learned to look for the factors that make such people so abrasive: a more profound lesson I am still studying. Never in the least bit preachy, nevertheless Alexander imparted some helpful truths to me that have application far beyond the boundaries of his Prydain.

I'm sure others have mentioned the Disney movie of the same title, lamenting its flattened simplification of the more subtle thrusts of story and character (besides its rather unforgivable sin of smashing several books into one very short cartoon). I can't quite share the hate, having enjoyed the movie for what it tries to do, but of course the books are infinitely better.

Prydain is such a wonderful series to reread as an adult. Next time I revisit it will probably be with my sons!
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LibraryThing member SirRoger
I haven't read these books since I was in junior high. And while The Book of Three left me a bit dissatisfied upon re-reading, The Black Cauldron stands up to the test of time and age. It is still a compelling story, and like all worthy fantasy and/or children's books, it is sewn through with deep
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moral lessons.

Heartless is the man who is not touched by Taran's example, who faces the choices of giving up all he thinks he values most in order to serve a greater good. He chooses nobly and unselfishly every time, and discovers the worth of what he still possesses, and of what he has gained. It is a story of sacrifice, and we would all do well to examine our own character to see what we believe, and what we would be willing to sacrifice
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LibraryThing member Cymrugirl
I loved this book and I can't say so enough. Classic in every sense, a perfect picture of all we love best in literature. The ability of Alexander to write such tales of dread with a light, humorous pen is nearly unparalleled in my experience. He keeps me smiling from start to finish - and the band
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of travelers is as appealing to be with as the Fellowship of the Nine - and they're funnier too.

I'll certainly be reading this one again.
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LibraryThing member saeriellyn
This second in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain is considered by many to be one of the strongest in the series, picking up the characters from the first book and continuing their development in a new adventure.

To me, the strength of the series lies in the close bond one develops with its
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main characters, especially the protagonist. Taran is an everyman in a real sense, and his journey to adulthood is roundabout, pitted, obstacled, and thwarted at every turn just as ours is. Though fallible, he rises to his challenges with an inherent nobility and sense of rightness that make him a wonderful role model to his readers (unlike a certain popular young wizard who, though good-intentioned, breaks a myriad of ethical codes in his quests. Don't get me wrong, I love him, but sheez...)

In this second installment, the stakes are a little higher, and Taran is conscripted to assist an important mission rather than thrown involuntarily into the action. His cocky delight at being given a man's responsibility is quickly tempered, first by the unpleasant attitude of a fellow traveler whose pride and bitterness provide a poignant warning of where glory-lust will take you, then by tragedy, and then by a series of heartbreaking sacrifices. He emerges from the adventure with more wisdom, and a more mature understanding of the nature of honor.

The beloved characters from the first novel are back - the subserviant and hilarious Gurgi and the loose-lipped Fflewddur providing their usual comic relief, while the sharp-tongued and pragmatic Eilonwy helps to temper Taran's idealistic obsessions and take him down a peg or two when he needs it. Delightful new characters, such as the doleful and enigmatic Gwystyl, the bearlike King Smoit, and a trio of mysterious goddess/fates/what-are-they-exactly make brief appearances but give us the idea that we'll see them again before all is said and done.

The book is also unique in that it has a real antagonist besides the vague and mysterious dark lord Arawn, in the haughty Prince Ellidyr. As a real three-dimensional tragic villain, he provides a stunning counterbalance, holding up a mirror for Taran himself to understand the motivations and conflicts of his own heart.

A fantastic, action-packed continuation of a delightful series.
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LibraryThing member saroz
I first read all five of Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain in my early teens, and frankly, it's hard for me to remember much about them beyond general emotional impressions: the first two were adventurous, the third a bit odd, the fourth dry and philosophical, and the fifth - well, it all
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went to hell in the fifth book. The announcement of these new yearly 50th Anniversary editions, therefore, are a great excuse not just to revisit the series but to separate them out and consider them somewhat more...individually.

The big surprise for me is that in many ways, The Black Cauldron does not feel like its own story. It feels something like an extended coda to The Book of Three. I kept having to think back to the events and characters of the first book, and it seems obvious that Alexander (or his editor) assumed that the eager child reader of 1965 would have read and probably reread that earlier adventure shortly before starting the new one. The first third or so of The Black Cauldron drags a little as we bridge from what happened before, reintroduce familiar friends, and set up an "easy" goal that pretty clearly won't go easily at all.

Fortunately, once things start to go wrong for the characters, things start to go very right for the book. The eponymous cauldron (or "Black Crochan") is a golden goose, a total MacGuffin - what it does is ultimately far less important than what it drives people to do. Alexander is examining classical, heroic concepts of pride and honor, along with a more modern treatment of the fine line between light and dark. In Prydain, the greatest heroes still have flaws, and traitors were once good men who should still be remembered for their former, braver deeds. Most intriguing of all are Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch, supernatural figures (implied to be the Three Fates) who are also totally amoral. Their interactions with Taran and his friends are both funny and unsettling in turn. Although Alexander's prose is both straightforward and spare, his gentle contemplations on the complexity of morality are surprisingly effective.

The Black Cauldron ends definitively, but the reader is left with the unspoken impression that this is only one small battle in a much bigger war. (Again, it feels like Alexander was writing installments of a series from the outset.) I'm going to be very interested to return next year for The Castle of Llyr; already, we're moving away from simple adventure stories and more into a philosophical examination of Taran's growth. As a child, I found the progression of the series confusing because it defied my "fantasy lit" expectations. As an adult, however, I'm finding it both intriguing and surprisingly rewarding.
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LibraryThing member aharey
The second book in the Chronicles of Prydain, The Black Cauldron takes Taran and his companions on a dangerous mission- to steal the cauldron from Arawn and destroy his ability to create the zombie-like Cauldron Born.

This book is full of adventure, but also has a deeper vein running through it.
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Taran faces some difficult choices and deals with tragic events. I really love how the author allows his characters to grow and develop, even with negative traits. I especially love when Taran is given a serious choice which really mirrors choices we all sometimes face- do we do what is right for ourselves or the greater good? I really love this book and truly hated the Disney version. I even had the audacity to point this out to the author, who wrote a really gracious letter back to a young teenage girl. He really was wonderful. I just learned that they are planning to do a series of movies of the entire series- I REALLY hope they do it right this time.
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LibraryThing member kimbernaldez
Three or so years I ago I picked up The Book of Three to do my first reread of the series since childhood. In a dive of a halal restaurant in Hell's Kitchen, eating dinner while waiting for my laundry to dry, I found myself trying to discreetly wipe away manly tears as the four companions met for
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the first time and began their adventures and friendship. The Book of Three owes a great deal to Tolkien but Lloyd Alexander begins to forge his own path with The Black Cauldron. The strength of this book lies in the character based story, a thing which is frequently, sadly absent in most high fantasy novels. There is no prophecy yanking everyone along from plot point to plot point. Taran matters and the decisions he makes while trying to lead have consequences which affect him and his friends. This series is entertaining because of the adventures and meaningful because of the gentle wisdom underlying them. Thank you Mr Alexander for these wonderful books which still affect me to this day. I hope that I can become half the writer you were.
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LibraryThing member KarenLeeField
Like book 1 in the series, book 2 is a winner in my eyes.

It is wonderful to pick up a book and just fall into the story. The pages seem to turn themselves and the characters and plot play out in front of your eyes, with the reader feeling as if they are right there with them. This is how I see The
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Chronicles of Prydain books. Simply love them.

The characters are so much fun and if young readers are lost in the story, a parent can relax knowing they are being taught how to work together, be loyal, think of others and be self-assured. It's important to recognise good and evil, but this book also reminds us that sometimes there is a grey area where we can go either way if pushed--yet we can be saved if offered help.

The author has a writing style that pulled me in and held my attention. The words flow with the storyline and characters. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member lizbee
A dark and scary entry in one of my favourite childhood series. The Cauldron-born are as terrifying a monster as ever appeared in children's literature, but Taran and his motley band of heroes, compatriots and tag-alongs are as charming as ever.
LibraryThing member jimmaclachlan
I really loved this series when I was younger, but when I went back to read it around Y2K, it wasn't as good. Something about the writing style didn't sit well, which is why I only gave it 4 stars - it really is a Young Adult classic. Some writers, like John Christopher & L'Engle, are a bit better
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at writing - FOR ME - over the years. I read all their books as a kid & again as I grew older. Some stories are still re-readable, some aren't. It's a fantasy with magic & such. Nothing terribly remarkable about it, but it was originally a neat new world. There are 5 books in the series.
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LibraryThing member Miranda_Paige
This is by far the best in the series. I read this at a young age with my father and we both loved it, my father more than I. This fantastical, well created world is believable and appeals to all ages. I fell in love with the adorable Gurgie and my father related well to the bard. There is most
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definetly something in the characters for every one.
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LibraryThing member mrsarey
The second book in the Prydain series finds Taran going on a true adventure, invited by Prince Gwydion. They are in search of the dreaded Cauldron, which creates the Cauldron-Born, literally dead men walking. This is a great book with great characters.
LibraryThing member abbylibrarian
In this second book of the Chronicles of Prydain, Taran is back and he is accompanying a band of men in search of a magic artifact known as the Black Cauldron. It is with this cauldron that the evil lord makes his undead warriors and the band of men is charged to find the cauldron and destroy it.
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When Taran and his companions get separated from the larger group, they decide to press on and try to find the cauldron themselves, but this task turns out to be harder than they could ever imagine. Trusts are betrayed, and not by who you might suspect...

Another action-packed book with twists galore, recommend this series to any fans of high fantasy.
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LibraryThing member meggie
A must-have for any fantasy library, regardless of age. The Black Cauldron isn't a particularly wordy or lengthy book, but some children may be frightened by the portrayals of death and darker material. Parents should read this book to determine whether or not it is an appropriate novel on a
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child-by-child basis. I make a point of reading this entire series (The Book of Three, Black Cauldron, Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King) once a year and have been doing so for well over a decade - the development of the overarching plot and the growth of the characters from children to adults is excellent, and its focus on a more Welsh perspective is a refreshing touch compared to many other fantasy novels for children of the same audience.
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LibraryThing member sumik
Second book of the series more fun and this time with Witches. .. if that's what they are.
LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
This sequel to [The Book of Three] was more enjoyable for me. It was less of an introduction to characters and more of a novel to be enjoyed for the story.
LibraryThing member Nikkles
Llyod Alexander was one of my favorite authors as a young adult and his work has really held up now that I'm an adult. The stories and characters are just so well crafted and executed. This is a great book to go back to or to get for someone who is just starting to explore the realms of fantasy.
LibraryThing member bookwyrmm
I had a hard time getting into this, but once I hit the middle, when they are in the marsh, it got really good. It tapered off some towards the end, though. I did enjoy it more than The Book of Three.
LibraryThing member allthesedarnbooks
This is the second book in the Chronicles of Prydain, and it's much stronger than the first, and more than a little darker. Full of adventure and sadness, as well as a few lighthearted funny moments provided by my favorite character, Gurgi, as well as the introduction of the bizarre three witches,
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Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch. An excellent installment; highly recommended, but you must, must read them in order, starting with The Book of Three. Five stars.
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LibraryThing member jasmyn9
The evil Lord Arawn is creating mindless, undieing cauldron-born. The familiar companions from The Book of Three join forces with the greatest lords of the land with a plan to steal the cauldron and destroy it. Plans like this never seem to go well, and this one seems to be foiled from the very
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beginning. We are intruduced to a handful of new characters, I'm not sure if they will continue throughout the rest of the series or not.

I enjoyed this book more than the first in the series. Alexander has slowed the pace down, without losing momentum. I felt like I was able to settle into the scenes and enjoy them before I was suddenly rushed on. It gave many of the scenes more of a atmosphere that I enjoyed very much. I also felt as if I was able to get to know the characters much better by being able to listen to conversations.

I think that my favorite character this time around, has to be the dwarf, Doli. He was honorable, brave, complaining, and funny. Everything that a real person seems to have in varying degrees. I was glad to see that Taran had developed and grown, as has Eilonwy. The two still argue almost non-stop, but you can see that they have learned to rely on each other for advice and guidance.

I can't wait to read the third book. The series is exciting and I look forward to seeing how the furture pans out for everyone.

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LibraryThing member CeridwynR
I loved these as a kid, but he writes outlines of myth not story. And I had to work not to be offended at how much he steals (and how badly it's been warped) from the Mabinogion.
LibraryThing member CeridwynR
I loved these as a kid, but he writes outlines of myth not story. And I had to work not to be offended at how much he steals (and how badly it's been warped) from the Mabinogion.
LibraryThing member porch_reader
This is the second in the Chronicles of Prydain series that I'm reading for the group read. Once again, Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper, is facing off again the evil Arawn. Together with his friends from book one (including Doli, Gurgi, Eilonwy,Fflewddur Fflam), Taran sets out to destroy the black
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The first two-thirds of this book felt somewhat predictable. Once again, Alexander keeps the plot moving forward, but most of the interactions felt vaguely similar to those in the first book of the series. Taran has developed a bit more modesty, but little else has changed. However, the last few chapters brought the pieces together, leading to a satisfying conclusion and some advancement of character development as well. Definitely worth reading!
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