The Black Cauldron is a 1965 fantasy novel, the second book in Lloyd Alexander's five-part novel series The Chronicles of Prydain (first published in 1964). The story centers on the adventures of Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper in the magical land of Prydain, as he joins in a quest to capture the eponymous vessel, a magical device which can be used to create armies of the undead. The book was awarded a Newbery Honor.
Having suffered a grievous blow with the death of his champion, the Horned King, in The Book of Three, Arawn begins to increase his number of deathless Cauldron Born with his vile tool, the Black Cauldron. Recognizing the danger that this poses, Prince Gwydion resolves to destroy the evil weapon and convenes a council at Caer Dallben, where reside Dallben, Coll, Princess Eilonwy and, of course, Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper. Joining the council are the wandering bard-king Fflewddur Fflam, Doli of the Fair Folk, the jolly but powerful King Smoit, the cool and calculating King Morgant, Adaon, son of the chief bard, and the arrogant Prince Ellidyr who, between his two older brothers was left nothing of his father's kingdom besides "his name and his sword".
Gwydion and the other leaders devise a plan for Gwydion to lead a small band into Annuvin by way of a little-known mountain pass to seize the cauldron by stealth. Along the way, Taran and Ellidyr find themselves often at odds with each other, with Taran envying Ellidyr's noble birth and the Prince in return scorning Taran's lack of parentage. Doli turns invisible and enters Annuvin, only to find out that the Cauldron is already gone. Meanwhile, servants of Arawn chase the party away from their camp into a Fair Folk watchpost, where it is revealed that the thieves of the Cauldron were the witches of the Marshes of Morva, known as Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch.
After leaving the post, Ellidyr sneaks away to the Marshes, determined to win back the Cauldron for personal glory. Adaon and the rest follow to save him from any attacks from Arawn's servants. They themselves are attacked, and in the battle that follows, Adaon is mortally wounded and Fflewddur and Doli are separated from Gurgi, Taran, and Eilonwy.
Taran takes Adaon's brooch, as promised, and realizes it has power to give its wearer prophetic dreams and visions. Using his dreams as guidance, Taran leads the group back to Fflewddur and then onward to the Marshes. Taran discovers the house of Orddu, Orwen, and Orgoch, and reluctantly barters Adaon's brooch for the cauldron. Upon acquiring the cauldron, the group attempts to smash it, but their attempts are futile. The witches tell the group that the only way to destroy the cauldron is for a living person to enter the cauldron, knowingly and willingly, sacrificing his own life to destroy the cauldron.
As the group attempts to return with the cauldron, it becomes lodged in a riverbed. Ellidyr returns and offers assistance, provided Taran swears to tell Gwydion that Ellidyr discovered the cauldron. After freeing the cauldron, Ellidyr attacks the group and rides off with the cauldron.
When the group recovers, they are found by King Morgant and his men. When they enter the camp, Morgant shows the group a beaten and bound Ellidyr. The King then reveals that he intends to use the cauldron to create his own legion of Cauldron-Born to rule Prydain. Morgant orders the group bound and, impressed with Taran, offers to allow Taran and his friends to live on the condition that Taran enters into his service. As the bound group discusses their options, Doli returns and frees the group, including Ellidyr. Ellidyr decides to rush the cauldron and, although wounded by a guard, is able to throw himself into it, sacrificing himself. As the cauldron shatters, King Smoit and Gwydion return and attack Morgant's camp. Morgant is slain and the group rescued.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. p. 6.