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Headscratchers / The Black Cauldron

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  • QuestForCamelot gets a lot of flak from critics and the online community for its unwillingness to explain magical nonsense, but wow, Black Cauldron is an Executive Meddling mess in this regard.
    • First of all, the decision to re-write the titular Artifact of Doom not as the witch's weapon, but rather an indestructible Soul Jar creates all sorts of problems. The opening prologue, in its attempt to be nothing but ominous, EXPLAINS NOTHING. How can a single king of mortals be so cruel and evil that even the gods fear him? His own subjects, sure. But in the grand cosmic scheme of things, deities are far beyond and removed from the main story, characters or their plight anyway.
      • If you assume this is based on Celtic Mythology (The Chronicles of Prydain are at least loosely based on Welsh mythology) then yes, the gods have a reason to fear a sorcerous overlord. Considering most of them are that.note 
      • If the evil king could not be imprisoned in the current prisons available, then why not build a better prison? Or you know, just execute him and be done with the tyrant?
      • The implication is that like the Horned King, the Overlord was a Sorcerous Overlord who would have pulled a Sauron and returned from the dead if they'd just killed him. So yes, they built a better prison, one that would hold his ludicrously overpowered soul. They called it the Black Cauldron.
      • How does sealing an evil spirit into physical form make the situation ten times worse for everyone else involved? You've disposed of the villain yet you haven't? Your solution is to make the king more powerful and dangerous than before?
      • The Overlord's power is under control as long as the Cauldron is kept by the Witches of Morva and no one goes around dropping skeletons in it. Trapping the Overlord into the Cauldron strips him of his agency — he can only influence the physical world if he is magically summoned with the ritual.
      • Why would evil men search for it? How would they, or anybody, know unleashing its power would enable them to rule the world? There are a lot of presuppositions going on within the narrative here.
      • True, but they're not absurd presuppositions. If, as in the original novels, Magic A Is Magic A in that world, presumably the wizardly intelligentsia would know what would happen if you trapped an immensely powerful Dark Wizard's soul into a physical object.
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    • Why is the Horned King looking for something he doesn't even know with certainty exists or not? He's intelligent, so why isn't he concentrating his efforts on taking over the land? Why waste time and resources pursuing a dark fairy tale without a single shred of evidence of it being real?
      • Because he's mad. Intelligent, but mad. He doesn't just want to take over the world, he wants to rule over a world of the undead. He's not bloody interested in basic conquest. As to his "So it does exist!", my impression was that he'd started out pretty confident the Cauldron existed, but over the centuries of looking had begun to doubt.
    • Why do the witches, having complete mastery and control over the given situation, decide not to turn Taran and present company into frogs, but suddenly decide to do a little spot of business with them instead?
      • If they want the Sealed Good in a Can Sword so badly... then why not just take it by force? They clearly have the power.
      • I know it's confusing because "the Fair Folk" is something else entirely in that world, but the Witches have the role of The Fair Folk here, that is to say Lawful Neutral beings with Blue-and-Orange Morality. Much like a Noble Demon, they have no ethics at all, but magical deals are serious business.
      • And how could they so be certain that after this convoluted scheme, they'll end up with both the Cauldron and the Sword? If the Horned King succeeds well, and Taran dies, well, nope. (This ends up biting them on the ass in the ending as Fflewddur demands they do a trade-back.)
      • No one said the Witches were the epitome of rationality, but anyway, they've got so many magical items that I think they were okay with gambling on the Cauldron/Sword thing. Also, they're ultimately based on the Fates, so maybe they've got some way of knowing how things will turn out…
      • Why would the protagonists presume the Cauldron can be destroyed? Like in the book? Was the ontological association between the corporeal and spiritual not made? Did all five of them not do their homework properly here? Or did Dallben do a terrible job at explaining what this thing even is?
  • He did. Dallben never meant for Taran to go around chasing the Cauldron: he was just meant to keep Hen Wen safe. The whole film is Taran blundering into this complicated magical war and more or less making things worse until he succeeds by a combination of good luck and his friends actually being heroic, unlike him. His story arc here is to realize he was never The Hero or The Chosen One in the first place. So yes. Dallben didn't tell him anything because he didn't think he had any cause to, and Taran rushed in without thinking because he's a young, rash imbecile.
    • Why can't the Cauldron be destroyed? It's a Soul Jar and, like any, those tend to break. It's made of iron? Iron's melting point is 1,538 °C, and it certainly exceeded that in the ending. So why? Did the story not explain this fictional universe's rules between the corporeal and spiritual?
    • How would the Witches even know that if a living being climbs into the Cauldron of their own free will, this would cripple its evil powers forever? Such a feat of the like has never happened before (along with actually using the Cauldron for its own dark design in the first place) so how could they possibly know this?
      • Re: Magic A Is Magic A, and the Witches are clearly the most knowledgeable people in the setting about magic, so if anybody could know, they would know.
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    • How did the Horned King (who not long ago didn't even know if this Artifact of Doom existed or not) know how to unleash the demonic spirit's power? A skeleton (and a killed-off minion in the deleted scenes) combined with a bloodthirsty rant? HOW could he have possibly known how to do this? EXPLAIN MOVIE EXPLAIN.
      • Presumably, the legends/grimoires/whatever that tipped him off about the Cauldron did go into detail about it, its use and its history… the King couldn't know if the entire shebang could be trusted or not. "Possibly untrue" and "vague" are not necessarily the same thing.
    • After Gurgi sacrifices himself to stop the Cauldron... HOW is the evil spirit still performing its evil deeds long after that? Taran could have easily been killed! Fortunately, the lesser Big Bad ends up disposing of himself. Then again Eilonwy, Fflewddur and him were nearly killed in the explosion as well! Was this a bad case of Wrap It Up? Given that the Horned King is powerful enough to teleport outta there? Yet he's the only one who seems to know what the hell is going on given his lines of dialogue, so why is none of this explained for the viewer (and protagonist)?
      • No one said the cancelling of the power would be instantaneous; the whole climax is the power that the Cauldron has expanded being reabsorbed back into itself. This isn't willing meddling by the spirit; it couldn't stop the "vacuum-cleaner" effect if it wanted to. That it ends up getting revenge on the King by absorbing him along with everything else is a lucky accident. As for the King foolishly standing around when he should be teleporting the heck outta here, yes, the Horned King isn't exactly thinking clearly at this point, if the suddenly glowing red eyes (which previously indicated the King was very roused up about something earlier) and uselessly ordering the dead skeletons didn't clue you in. His master plan that he's been perfecting for centuries has suddenly gone wrong because of an idiotic pig boy, and he's not taking it well.

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