Go forth, my deathless warriors! Destroy all in your path!!!
~ The Horned King commanding the Cauldron Born.
The Cauldron Born (also spelled Cauldron-Born) are an army of undead skeletons that kills the living. They are the deathly and most dangerous villains from the fantasy book series The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. They also serve as the supporting antagonists in the Disney movie The Black Cauldron.
These deathless warriors had "livid" or "pallid" features and "lightless eyes" like stones. Their mouths were "frozen in the hideous grin of death". They wore studded bronze breastplates, heavy bronze belts, and wielded swords and black leather whips. Certain Cauldron warriors, sent on Arawn's "ruthless tasks" of reconnaissance or capture, wore no helmets nor bore shields; while those deployed for battle were more heavily armored and bore both helms and shields.
The Cauldron-Born were originally mortal men. After being slain in battle, Arawn, the Death-Lord of Annuvin, placed their lifeless corpses inside the Black Cauldron. From inside the Cauldron, they arose as undead, mute warriors void of all memory of their past life. They serve Arawn as sentries in Annuvin; however he occasionally sends them on scouting or military missions. Arawn traditionally used bodies of those already dead in order to create the Cauldron-Born. However, following the death of his champion, the Horned King, Arawn sent his men to not only rob graves, but to slay the living and bring them to Annuvin to feed to the Black Cauldron and increase their ranks.
Trying to escape an on-coming Cauldron-Born warrior on Mount Dragon, Taran discovers the black sword Drynwyn hidden under a rock. When he drew the sword, the Cauldron-Born warrior actually showed a sign of fear. Taran struck down the warrior. For the first time, the mute Cauldron-Born actually made a noise, screaming when it fell. All the Cauldron-Born dropped to the earth, returning to normal corpses.
The Black Cauldron
The Cauldron Born are first seen rising from the Black Cauldron's green mist-like water via a summoning ritual perfected by the Horned King himself and attacking some of the Horned King's human henchman (though it is off-screen).
The Horned King orders the Cauldron Born to kill all in their path. They proceed out of the Horned King's castle to kill all the people of Prydain but start dying when Gurgi jumps into the cauldron.
The majority of the scenes that were cut from the The Black Cauldron involved the Cauldron Born and their attacks. The music score for the soundtrack also had a jump because of the editing of the scenes. Many fans want to see these scenes but it is very unlikely because the Disney Company cut them from the movie for a reason.
In the end, not only the Cauldron were all no more but also the Horned King was later destroyed and his entire palace became erupted in flames and crumbled.
The Black Crochan
As described in the book, The Black Cauldron, and the Disney film of the same name, the Black Crochan is the source of the Cauldron-Born's power and life. Arawn borrowed it from the witches Orddu, Orwen and Orgoch, and ruined it for any task other than making the Cauldron-Born. It is described as a large black iron pot with two rings and a mouth large enough to fit a man, and has what appears to be dried blood flecked on the rim. The wind passing across the cauldron's mouth sounds like the moans of all those who have been fed to the Cauldron.
The cauldron is impervious to all normal forms of destruction including magic. The only way it can be destroyed is if a living person willingly enters the Cauldron "knowing full well what he does". Doing so, however, will kill the person. In the end, Ellidyr, son of Pen-Llarcau, gave his life in this manner.
Powers and Abilities
The Cauldron-Born were invulnerable to all mundane weapons. A sword buried in their breast would produce only a brief halt to the deathless warrior's advance; the wound was bloodless and did no damage to the wounded Cauldron-Born. These warriors were mute, emanating a "ghostly silence", and felt no pain. In the act of their unnatural resurrection, Arawn destroyed all memory of their former selves; they could only fulfill their master's commands, and to bring others into death's cold bondage.
Their power weakened the farther and longer they stayed away from Annuvin. The Cauldon-Born were vulnerable only to the power of the magical sword Dyrnwyn, as revealed in the final volume in the series, The High King.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The Cauldron-Born's greatest advantage is that they are not alive, and thus cannot be killed. They feel no pain or fear or mercy, do not need water or food or sleep, and they never question orders because they possess no soul or memory of who they were in life. Simply put, they are the puppets of Arawn who will obey his every command. However, the Cauldron-Born are not omnipotent. Their power diminishes the further they get from Annuvin and the Black Cauldron. In fact, it is possible for them to stray far enough that they return to a normal corpse. However, it seems they have an innate knowledge of exactly how far they can go before this happens. This limit aside they only have one true weakness, the black sword Dyrnwyn. In The High King Taran strikes a Cauldron warrior with the sword, which in turn kills all of them.
Because of their great strengths the Cauldron-Born make formidable warriors. In The High King, they slew the high-king Math and in The High King, during the battle of Caer Dathyl, they caused the attacking army to draw back into formation, parting like a gate as the Cauldron-Born marched towards the castle. Since the Cauldron-Born never speak, it would seem that they cannot engage in coordinated tactics or strategic movement during a battle, at least not without some person present to relay information. They do, however, understand speech in some fashion: in The Book of Three, Queen Achren gives them orders in an unknown language.
The Cauldron-Born marches onward to obey the will of the Horned King.