I have a question for you. How many of you have heard of The Chronicles of Prydain, a fantasy series similar to The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series? Hmmm…almost no positive acknowledgement. Okay…another question. How many of you have heard of Lloyd Alexander, a prolific modern author of books for all ages? WHAT? I thought so.
Whenever I ask anyone personally these two questions, it’s usually older generations who favor me with an enthusiastic response and a list of their favorite novels by Alexander. My generation…5 out of 5 people I ask so far give me a blank stare if I even mention Lloyd Alexander’s name. This is most unfortunate, because this particular author has penned many truly fantastic works. The Chronicles of Prydain are his most famous series, and perhaps the masterpiece of his lifetime’s creations. It’s a five-volume series, but every volume has helped me to fall completely in love with literature, especially fantasy fiction, and spurn me on the path to being a hopeless bookworm. I would like to remind all fantasy fiction lovers that an interesting and propelling reason to just try The Book of Three (volume#1) is that Alexander’s mythical series is somehow an anachronistic cross between The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series. Is this bad news if you’re anti either of the series I just named? No, because you don’t have to make these connections, counting the fact that the last volume in The Chronicles of Prydain was published more than 25 years before J.K. Rowling submitted her first manuscript. As for Tolkien, he was British, and Alexander was not. Apart from some particular similarities and a definite Celtic aura, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Prydain were (and still are) truly oceans apart in content and storyline construction.
Okay, the analogies/similarities:
Taran, the main character and hero of The Chronicles of Prydain, is an orphan just like Harry Potter, having escaped a premature death and destined to defeat an ancient evil.
No matter how evil Voldemort is as an antagonist, winning top spot in fantasy lit. as a super-villain, Arawn (the Lord of Death) can match him in despicable deeds and hiring merciless, cruel mercenaries. Arawn is Taran’s fiercest enemy, and he must die in the end (so says “The Book of Three”).
Like Aragorn, Taran will become a warrior and a leader of men, a fate he tries to avoid.
Prydain is a little like Middle Earth, a representation of what a young earth could have been like with the existence of magic and magical beings/creatures, and how that co-existence of magic and reality could have ceased.
The character of Dallben is very similar to the characters of Gandalf and Albus Dumbledore…or should I say that the latter is similar to Dallben?
Rowling’s Inferi sound so similar to Alexander’s Cauldron-Born that I can’t help wondering if she read this series before or after she started her bestselling series and got inspired by Alexander’s idea. Both the Inferi and the Cauldron-Born are dead people resurrected by an evil enchanter to do his wicked bidding…go figure.
All volumes in The Chronicles of Prydain have the strong themes of mortality versus immortality…
I know some fans of Alexander have expressed a firm dislike of Taran’s character, saying that he acts too immature and is like a prat, but it’s enjoyable to watch Taran mature and grow out into this exceptional person and the man “who must be king.” I’ve also pointed out more than once that Alexander has some obvious extracts from Platonism in his series, but you’ll have to read the entire work to find out what those are. I have to remark that Alexander really knew how to develop characters you’d instantly love and those you’d love to hate. Princess Eilonwy (Taran’s friend and future love interest), the amusing Fflewddur Flam, Gurgi, Doli of the Fair Folk…wonderful characters I would be honored to call my friends in the real worlds, although I’m fast friends with them in the book world.
While Alexander includes Welsh mythology in every volume of The Chronicles of Prydain, he really won my admiration through his direct writing style…the way that he interpreted truth and wisdom, love, death, and the purpose of life itself. This series and each of its volumes earns my 5 out of 5 star recommendation to every reader on this planet, and whether you’re intrigued by how Alexander re-defined some magical creatures these novels or you just have to see the showdown between Taran and Arawn (who turns into a serpent at the end…does this symbol sound familiar from any series…?), The Chronicles of Prydain is my all-time favorite. It has everything: exciting battle scenes; humorous moments that still make me laugh; a gigantic, music-loving cat; a fairy king who has a temper problem; a self-named bard whose harp harps him on about telling the truth as it is; a princess who knows how to fight; and Taran, a boy who turns into a man through hardship, suffering, and the burden of his own destiny.
Do I have a favorite volume in the series? No. Amazing as it may be, I love each of the volumes equally, and I have favorite scenes from each one that I like to muse over, like a pleasant memory.
I really can’t stop praising this series enough, and I so want it to become a live action film or a series like Merlin. Disney’s animated adaptation of The Black Cauldron isn’t very true to the volume it’s based on as far as the plot is concerned…
On a side note, The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain is a prequel (unofficial volume#6) to The Chronicles of Prydain, a collection of intriguing stories that give background information on some major characters from the series.
Now, enough of my enthusiasm…The Chronicles of Prydain is only one major hunk of Alexander’s bibliography, but prove me wrong! When someone like me asks you if you’ve heard of Lloyd Alexander or The Chronicles of Prydain…perhaps you will be able to respond. 😉
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