Hail and Well Met Friends! We’re back to The Series Series, this time picking up The Chronicles of Prydain, which I’d missed as a kid (I don’t know how? Gendered bullshit maybe? How no teacher or librarian didn’t see me devouring The Hobbit and Tamora Pierce’s books and didn’t hand me these, I’ll never know) but saw people buzzing about online a bit lately, due to talk about a Disney+ adaptation (Disney made The Black Cauldron largely considered to be a terrible adaptation and movie) and Kristi mentioned reading them aloud to her newborn son, and I love talking about stuff with her, so I decided to give these a shot.
I am so glad I did.
The Book Of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of Llyr
The High King
Lloyd Alexander was born in Philadelphia, and served in World War II, the experience shaped him and he spent some time Wales, and fell in love with their language and mythology, which is why he decided to write his own version. He passed away in 2007.
This is a series of five books each telling it’s own standalone story but with the same cast of characters. The story revolves mainly around Taran, an orphaned Assistant Pig Keeper to an ancient enchanter named Dalben. (The pig in question tells the future. Her name is Hen-Wen) Taran accidentally begins adventuring with the great hero Prince Gwydion, befriends a mysterious and kindly beast creature called Gurgi, a bard who is actually a king Flewdeur Flwam, and the fiery and magical princess Eilonwy.
Taran becomes a hero himself, after many trials and obviously marries Eilonwy. (Look it’s an old series and there’s only two people around the same age. They were either gettin’ hitched or secretly siblings)
Alexander largely based the series in Welsh mythology, which is cool. I don’t know Welsh myths, like at all, but it shares DNA with the Arthur stories I love, and the Celtic myths I know the broad strokes of, and so this shares those Campbellian cycles that I love so much. Calls to adventure, mysterious caves, confounding conversations with goddesses that become clear with time, chosen ones who’s choices are more important than being chosen. All that jazz.
They’re executed well, almost perfectly. Taran is a really good hero, you guys, I don’t know how else to say it. I love him. (I’ve mentioned I love a protagonist in over their head, right? God, I love it so much.)
Taran Wanderer is a marvel of a book. It’s so stunningly written and the themes (searching is more important than finding also your birth matters less than your character) are well laid out without hitting over the head with them. Taran himself really matures here, though he also uses a lot of the well worn wisdom of The Castle Of Llyr before choosing his long journey to find himself, and to make himself worthy of the girl he loves.
This also lets me talk a little bit about Eilonwy. I adore her, though she’s a bit underwritten, her determination and personality actually remind me quite a bit of my beloved Annabeth Chase.
Least Favorite Book
I suppose The Book Of Three although I loved the entire series. I think I was just shocked by the way the books just start, there’s not a lot of wind up, you’re just there in Prydain, with Taran, it’s cool.
Taran, hands down. I like everyone here, even Gurgi, who is probably the most “kids bookish” thing and even though to the end Eilonwy has a bit of a “not like other girls” thing going on, (which is why she’s not my pick, I just can’t abide that anymore) His growth is wonderful, his conscience is great, I like him, a lot, I want to spend more time with him and I’m sure he’s a great king in the future we don’t get to see.
Oh I’ll be rereading these. Maybe not soon. But I’ll return to Prydain, probably as often as I return to Hogwarts and Middle Earth, so every five years or so. It won’t be like my yearly pilgrimage to Camp Half Blood, but I’ll be back. I’m sure there’s things I missed in these stories that I’ll get the second time, or even third time I read them.
Our next series (though we have some Star Wars Comics and non fiction in between) will be the Abhorsen series by Garth Nix, I started Sabriel once and dropped it. I don’t remember why. Frankly I remember very little about it, there was a wall? And a missing father? And boarding school? Anyway, it’s five books and they’re relatively thick so it might be a minute before we check back in.