Premiered in: The Black Cauldron (1985)
Voiced By: Susan Sheridan
The first of the true princesses to be denied the right of being a Disney Princess, Eilonwy is all the more infamous for this and her starring film, The Black Cauldron. As I’ve said previously, The Black Cauldron is a film the likes of which are so frightening and violent that it’s no surprise that Disney has all but disavowed its name and characters. In point of fact, aside from the film itself and some pins, I’ve yet to see anything featuring the characters of The Black Cauldron save perhaps for the Horned King and the Cauldron Born. A mighty shame really as, save perhaps for the film’s hero, there wasn’t a character I didn’t like and Eilonwy, despite her obscurity, is easily one of my top favorite female characters.
For those who’ve never seen the film or simply have no intention to otherwise, allow me a rather simple comparison. If The Black Cauldron and its cast could be compared to a more popular, and easily recognized, story, then I would say that Eilonwy is easily the Hermione Granger of the film. Admittedly not as far as being a bookworm is concerned but she is certifiably of the same no-nonsense attitude as Hermione and is not afraid to get her hands dirty if it means getting the job at hand done. Heck, much like Snow White, Eilonwy knows how to sew despite being of royal blood and thus the chore being far too beneath her to be of note let alone practice. She’s also in possession of a remarkable balance of cynicism and pluckiness. To this day, I thoroughly enjoy the scene where she browbeats Taran
Oh Taran… I’ll get to you in a minute…
Eilonwy’s sidekick, if it can even be called as such, is easily the most unique amongst all princesses, Disney or unofficial. Named as the Golden Pelydren in the books but more simply referred to as a bauble by Eilonwy, it is a semi-sentient orb capable of flight and varying degrees of luminescence. The bauble’s intelligence is questionable only in that it doesn’t directly show a means of communicating with anyone besides Eilonwy who guesses its moods based on its glow. All that can be said of it is that it has a great adoration in chasing rats and is deathly afraid of witches, or at least the Witches of Morva.
As to Eilonwy’s love interest Taran… If Eilonwy is Hermione than Taran is Ron with absolutely none of his redeeming/good qualities. From beginning to near the end, all that Taran talks about is becoming a great warrior, something highly unlikely due to his status as pig keeper. While I can’t fault him for his dream of being something greater than what he is —it is the basis of most stories after all— I can blame him for what he does later in the film. Shortly after Eilonwy rescues him from his cell —where he had been crying might I add— the pair stumble upon the tomb of the king whose castle the Horned King had taken over. While Eilonwy, rather sensibly, goes on ahead to find a way out Taran steals the dead king’s sword.
The hero committed grave robbing.
Oh but it gets so much better!
While Eilonwy is rightly disgusted by this, Taran argues that the king had no further use of it before the sword reveals itself to be a quasi-sentient magical item much like Eilonwy’s bauble. The sword, named Dyrnwyn in the original book series, can not only fight entirely on its own in the presence of evil magic but whenever its blade is about to strike something, it manifests a flaming aura the likes of which is strong enough to cut through iron chains meant to hold up a freaking drawbridge. Immediately upon discovering this fact, Taran proceeds to act like a two-year-old with the thing and starts swinging it about like an idiot. With the sword, he proclaims himself a great warrior though Eilonwy argues that it was the sword and its magic that did all the work. Taran tries to insult her only to get browbeaten in return before she is driven to tears by a scathing remark questioning her royal blood.
Needless to say, Taran is not my favorite character.
As to Eilonwy’s kingdom of Prydain, imagine for a moment, a landscape reminiscent of Wales and England but completely if not utterly overrun with all of their supposed mythological creatures and beings. While humans are the dominant species, there are certainly not those in the greatest of power as was demonstrated firstly by Gurgi, a creature that bears semblance to a chimpanzee combined with a sheep dog. Then there is the Horned King, of whom I’m absolutely sure is some manner of demon, followed by King Eidilleg of the Fair Folk (or faeries if you prefer), and is eventually wrapped up with the Witches of Morva whom I’m sure are some form of hag. Oh and the Gwythaints. Think wyverns shrunk down to be akin to hunting falcons.
Much like Wonderland, I’m sure that Prydain would be an exciting place to visit but one that I certainly would not want to stay in long for fear of ticking off one of the many magical species running about never mind running into the numerous barbarians formerly under the Horned King’s employ.
Sad as it is, I believe that Eilonwy will forever hold her title as “The Forgotten Disney Princess” until such a time as Disney is no longer ashamed of a movie that, frankly, they should feel the exact opposite. They took a dangerous step with The Black Cauldron and though they stumbled with it, particularly in the case of Taran, it was a grand attempt that will always be remembered for being forgotten. I would also like to add that, whether or not Eilonwy is included amongst the Disney Princesses, she will forever hold the title of being the youngest princess in the Disney Animated Films.