The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander

The Black Cauldron (The Chronicles of Prydain)Takeaway: The bad things we do, can often be seen better through others. Or, I never noticed how annoying that thing I do was, until I saw you do it.

Purchase Links: Paperback, Kindle Edition

The Black Cauldron may be the best known book of the Prydian Chronicles because of the Disney movie. But I have never seen it. As I was glancing around I saw that a 25th anniversary edition of the movie was released last year. That makes me feel old. I am pretty sure I was reading this series before the movie was released and just never saw it.  My memory is that most people did not think it was all that good.  But maybe I will watch now.

This book picks up fairly soon after the Book of Three lets off.  Taran and Eilonw are at Caer Dalben and have settled into their routine.  Prince Gwydion (the crown prince and war leader for Prydain) has called a council to solve the problem of the Cauldron born (basically zombies).  They are going to go into the heart of Annuvin to steal and destroy the Black Cauldron to prevent Arawn (the bad guy’s leader) from being able to create any more of these zombie soldiers.

Taran is a little bit older, and not quite as impetuous, but still seeking after glory and honor.  Ellidyr, young prince just a little bit older than Taran is the main foil for this book.  Ellidyr is a prince, but he is the youngest brother of a poor family and has nothing other than his name.  He also is seeking after honor, and will do what it takes to find it.

The Black Cauldron is a bit older in theme than the Book of Three.  Still appropriate for most 8-10 year olds as a read aloud (most 10-12 year old will be able to read it on their own).  But there is the death of characters and others are lost and feared dead.  Taran learns by watching the negative example of Ellidyr that Taran’s own search for glory might have a cost.

This is a book about seeing yourself in the other and learning to empathize with the problems that others have.  What I like about this series, and many well written children’s and young adult books, is that there is lesson underneath, but it is told through the story and happens organically.  Too many poorly written children’s books have no concept of allowing the story to teach the lesson, they have to get explicit and tell you exactly what they want you to learn.  Never does Lloyd Alexander monologue about what he wants Taran to learn.

Taran and Princess Eilonw are still growing in this book and Taran especially is given lots of responsibility for making the right decisions.  Again, what is important is that Taran be good, not strong or intelligent or a skillful leader.

I am listening to these on audiobook from the library.  I have not been impressed with the audiobooks.  The narrator has a lot of cheesy accents and strange voicing for the characters.  The audio quality is fine, I just am not excited about the audio acting.  But the books are free, so I will keep listening.  But I would recommend getting a print or kindle version of the book and not purchasing the audiobook.

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