Taran’s adventures continue in The Black Cauldron, the second installment of Lloyd Alexander’s the Chronicles of Prydain series. In The Book of Three, first of the series, we learn of Arawn’s fearsome, undead warriors—the cauldron-born—that are brewed from the belly of his huge, black cauldron. Now, in The Black Cauldron it is up to Taran and friends, along with some new companions, to destroy the cauldron and prevent Arawn from growing his army.
It’s hard to tell how much time has transpired between the events in the first novel and the beginning of this one but I assume it is a few months. After returning to their respective abodes (Eilonwy and Gurgi remained at Caer Dallben with Taran), they are rounded up by Prince Gwydion to embark on a quest to steal and destroy the black cauldron. Along with Taran and his friends, Gwydion calls upon various warriors and kings from across the land to congregate at Caer Dallben for a council before embarking on the quest.
They travel to Annuvin, Arawn’s lair in the north, where they believe the cauldron is housed. Taran makes some new friends on the journey such as the poetic Adaon, who is both a warrior and a bard, while gaining the ire of others, specifically Ellidyr, a lowly prince from a small kingdom. While Doli and Fflewddur accompany Gwydion and his company in infiltrating Annuvin, Taran remains without the fortress with Adaon and Ellidyr, serving as rear guard. The plan goes smoothly except there is no cauldron steal. Plus, Eilonwy and Gurgi, who were both left behind at Caer Dallben, pop up unexpectedly and the groups—both front and rear guards—are attacked by Arawn’s ferocious Huntsmen. It’s an unfortunate situation but with Adaon and Doli’s help, Taran and his party are able to escape the Huntsmen and seek refuge at a Fair Folk waypost. They had to part from Gwydion’s party while escaping the Huntsmen.
Embark on a rollicking adventure with Taran and his friends as they chase after the oracular pig, Hen Wen, while staving off the advancing army of the Horned King.
Lloyd Alexander has woven a spectacular tale in The Book of Three, which tells the story of a farm boy who tries to save the world from impending doom. Taran has dreams of embarking on great adventures like the knights he often hears of in stories but Dallben, a wizard and master of Caer Dallben where Taran resides, keeps him at his dreary chores and lessons. On the day he is assigned as the assistant pig keeper, Taran loses his charge when the animals on the property are thrown into a frenzy. It was all Taran could do to keep Hen Wen in her pen. Hen Wen was in such a fright that she barreled Taran into the ground and dashed into the woods.
Set on his duty, Taran chases after her but bumps into the Horned King, a fearsome warrior that wears the antlered skull of a stag over his face, and his Cauldron-Born army (akin to zombies). The Horned King is a pawn of Arawn’s, ruler of the land of the dead. Taran barely manages to escape them with a slash across his back. Luckily, he is discovered by Gwydion, a high prince, who nurses him back to health. Gwydion is one of the mighty knights Taran often hears of in stories but in reality he seems nothing more than a man. It so happens that Gwydion was on his way to Caer Dallben to visit Hen Wen for a prophesy. But since Hen Wen has fled, he decides to help Taran find her and warn his people at Caer Dathyl in the north of the Horned King’s advancing army.
“It is not the trappings that make the prince nor, indeed, the sword that makes the warrior.” — Gwydion