Arawn, Death-Lord is a fictional character in The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. He is the main antagonist of the series and is based on the god of death in Welsh mythology of the same name.
Fictional character history Edit
In the story Arawn was an evil sorcerer who ruled over Annuvin, a dark realm beyond the borders of Prydain also known as the Land of Death. Many years before the events of the story, he was a mortal man with magical powers who was tutored by the evil Queen Achren, ruler of Prydain. When Achren was overthrown, Arawn, who had grown very powerful, took the Iron Crown of Annuvin and became its king. Achren became a servant beneath him but always plotted his downfall.
He later came into possession of the Black Cauldron with which he created a powerful undead army known as the Cauldron-Born. He then attempted to conquer Prydain, the fictional country where the events of the story take place. He was thwarted in this endeavour by the Sons of Don, a race of warriors from the Summer Country who stood between him and world domination ever since.
The Book of Three Edit
In the first book in the series, Arawn sent his general, the Evil Horned King to amass a vast army with which to topple Caer Dathyl, the mightiest city in Prydain. With Caer Dathyl destroyed Arawn would have been able to enslave Prydain; however, the Horned King was destroyed by Gwydion, Prince of Prydain, Son of King Math and his army was scattered.
The Black CauldronEdit
In the second book in the series, The Black Cauldron Arawn attempted to take over Prydain by despoiling the graves of fallen warriors and using the Black Crochan to turn them into Cauldron-Born but the Crochan was stolen by three witches named Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch and eventually found its way into the hands of the evil King Morgant who planned to use it to overthrow Arawn and become ruler of Annuvin and Prydain. Morgant was later killed and the Crochan destroyed.
The High KingEdit
In the final book, The High King with the Crochan destroyed, Arawn stole the Black Sword, Dyrnwyn, the mightiest weapon in all of Prydain but the Sword could only be used by one with a pure heart and so given the fact that Arawn was evil personified, it was quite useless to him so he kept it shut away in a cache beneath a rock in Annuvin. Unaware that he could not use it, the peoples of Prydain panicked. Arawn allies himself with King Pryderi who commanded the mightiest army in all Prydain and used him to topple Caer Dathyl. With Caer Dathyl out of the way, Arawn sent his legions of Cauldron-Born to conquer Prydain, leaving Annuvin unprotected in the process. The main protagonist, a boy called Taran, led the remaining armies of Don to Annuvin, accompanied by Arawn's former mentor, Achren who had lost the majority of her powers and blamed Arawn.
Pryderi meanwhile plotted to overthrow Arawn and steal his power as Morgant before him did but Arawn was aware of this and sends Pryderi on a suicide mission.
During the siege of Arawn's fortress Taran found Dyrnwyn and used it to destroy the Cauldron-Born. Arawn then used his powers of shape-shifting to take on the form of Gwydion and attempted to trick Taran into giving him the sword but Taran saw through the ruse and attempted to strike Arawn who turned into a shadow and fled.
When Taran's forces gathered in the main gallery Arawn took the form of a snake and attempted to bite Taran but Achren who could see through Arawn's shapeshifting powers grabbed him and sustained a fatal bite to the neck in the process. Taran decapitated Arawn with the Black Sword, killing him instantly. Taran then discovered that he was the subject of an ancient prophecy saying that some day a boy would wield the Black Sword and vanquish the Death Lord and then become king of Prydain. Taran, being the Chosen One of the prophecy, then ascended his place as ruler of Prydain but the wise enchanter Dallben stated that although Arawn, the ultimate personification of evil was Prydain is destroyed, evil would continue to exist independent of him.
Powers and abilitiesEdit
Whilst he usually relied on the strength of his Huntsmen, his Gwythaints, and his Cauldron-Born armies, Arawn was immensely powerful in his own right. He appeared to be immortal though he was obviously not indestructible. In The High King Gwydion said that if Arawn were to go into Prydain unprotected and in his true form, he would be killed on sight so Arawn always employed his shape-shifting powers when in Prydain. His shape-shifting abilities gave him the ability to take on the appearance of anyone or anything but when he did he took on the strength and weaknesses of whatever he was disguised as. This led to his downfall in the final book of the series. Arawn was never seen in his true form over the course of the series although when he was decapitated by Taran while in his snake-form his body and head transformed into the those of a human figure but his body was wrapped in a black robe and his head was lying face down and both immediately disintegrated so his physical features are not known.
In addition to his powers, Arawn possessed an extremely cunning, Machiavellian intellect. This is evidenced by his overthrowing of his powerful former mentor, Achren and his convoluted plans over the course of the stories.
The Black Cauldron film Edit
- Main article: The Black Cauldron (film)
Arawn does not appear in the Disney film adaptation of The Chronicles of Prydain but his role is filled by that of the Horned King. Arawn may in fact be the "spirit" trapped within the Cauldron.