Why yes, I am a slacker. Seriously, it has been three weeks since my last post, and that was an analysis of The Book of Three. I have been busy (yes, that includes writing on Book Four in The Vergrinn War) and I do hope you will understand. On to a look at The Black Cauldron.
The Black Cauldron is easily Lloyd Alexander’s most well known book, and I am sure that this is why when Disney did a movie they named it thus (even though it combined elements spanning multiple works in the Chronicles of Prydain). If I had to sum up this work in one word, it would be self-sacrifice (is that cheating? Did I really use two words?)
From the beginning of the book, we see that in order for good to triumph over evil, people must do what is best for others regardless of the personal cost. Ellidyr and Taran are both obsessed with personal glory, and the quest they are on suffers as a result of their burgeoning competition. Adaon lets someone else choose the path that is better, not trusting his own judgment because he has foreknowledge of the outcome of the potential choices. Taran comes to understand this, and chooses to sacrifice much in order to gain The Black Cauldron.
I don’t want to provide too many spoilers, but in the end, it becomes clear that Taran is willing to sacrifice his ego, his possessions, and even his life to prevent the evil of the Cauldron from growing, and even Ellidyr has learned this important lesson. All I will say is that unlike the Disney movie, Gurgi does not give his life to stop the Cauldron, and nobody brings the dead back to life.
If you read The Black Cauldron and don’t come away thinking about the value and necessity of self-sacrifice, you probably need to re-read it.
As I compare this to my own writing, I once again see the influences jumping out of the page. In every book thus far, characters have sacrificed their own desires and well-being for the good of the whole. Some have sacrificed their lives, others have sacrificed their comforts. A decent story reminds us of the best parts of humanity and uplifts us, and part of that must include our propensity to do what’s best for others without regard to personal well-being and comfort.