What Is the Movie "The Black Cauldron" About?

by Nathaniel Williams

Disney's "Black Cauldron" is more accessible than the novel to young kids.

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Disney's "The Black Cauldron" (1985) is based on Lloyd Alexander's popular children's fantasy novel of the same name published in 1965. The animated movie retains most of the characters and basic story of the novel, but it makes some key changes, mostly to lighten the novel's dark tone and fairly grim ending.


"The Black Cauldron" is set in a fantasy universe primarily based on medieval Wales, with many character names reflecting that Welsh background, such as Eilonwy and Fflewddur Fflam. Place names, such as Caer Dalben, are also Welsh in origin. The movie also owes a good deal to Arthurian legends and J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth. "The Black Cauldron" is a world of knights, kings, princesses and magic, which are common to many popular fairy tales.


The hero of the movie is a young assistant pig-keeper, Taran. Despite his menial job of caring for a magical pig, he dreams of glory and adventure. The villainous Horned King, an evil ruler who leads an army of invincible Cauldron Born warriors, is the persistent threat that Taran must find a way to defeat. Along the way, he meets the spunky Princess Eilonwy, the buffoonish minstrel Fflewdur Fflam, and the strange but friendly creature Gurgi.

The Story

Taran's elderly guardian reveals to him that their pig Hen Wen possesses the power to see the future. Hen Wen shows them that the evil Horned King is seeking the pig to find the legendary Black Cauldron, an artifact that can create invincible undead warriors. Taran takes Hen Wen into hiding, where they meet Gurgi, but Hen Wen is quickly captured by the Horned King. Taran infiltrates the Horned King's castle, and he meets Eilonwy and Fflewdur Fflam, who are prisoners.

The Story, Continued

Taran and his new friends escape the castle with Hen Wen and try to find the cauldron before the Horned King does. When they do, they are captured by his henchmen, realizing they've inadvertently led the evil king to the powerful artifact. The Horned King begins to create his invincible army, but the loyal Gurgi sneaks into the castle and frees his friends. During a struggle, the Horned King falls into the cauldron, a victim of his own greed.


A recurrent theme of "The Black Cauldron" is what it means to be a hero. At the movie's outset, Taran believes that being a hero is about fighting and glory. He comes to learn from his new friends and their trials that being a hero is about bravery, honesty, and loyalty to those you care about, whether you are a great warrior or a humble forest creature like Gurgi.


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