The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 1
by Lloyd Alexander
Brief Summary: Taran wants to be a hero, however, his life has only afforded him to achieve the rank of Assistant Pig Keeper – not exactly noble and heroic in Taran’s eyes. The pig – aka Hen Wen – seemed to have other ideas when she suddenly rushes from her enclosure, forcing Taran to follow her. Unbeknown to him, that quest would turn more daring than he ever dreamed and introduce him to characters he never would have imagined.
Brief History: So, this book was first published in 1964 and is the first of a set of five books in the series (there also is a set of short stories set prior to the events of this book.) My lovely friend Brynne was reading it for one of her classes and asked if I had read it. To which I obviously replied I hadn’t. In fact, I had never even heard of it. Lo and behold, however, both Brynne and Wikipedia opened my eyes to how huge this book (and the series in general) were and are. So, I had to give it a go, right?
Kell’s Chatty Review: If I was being honest, I normally am very bored in the beginning of most books. My constant refrain to friends is “it was a bit slow to begin” because the set up usually seems that way for me. Not so in The Book of Three. You get exactly 13 pages of background and the rest you just pick up as you go a-questing with Taran, Assistant Pig Keeper (aside – when I do finally get my button maker, that is TOTALLY going to be a button). And the plot just never. stops. And it’s awesome. You pick up characters and twists and turns and backstory as we make our way up and around Prydain. It was, in a word, awesome.
Also: I should note, this book is def. a juvie book. But don’t let that stop you. It’s a quick and really fun read. And the characters? They are brilliant.
But my fave, natch: was Eilonwy (I don’t even know how to pronounce it. Eye-lon-way? Ee-lon-wee?). I appreciate a strong, stubborn, and charmingly chatty female character and Eilonwy fits this to the brim. She says it like it is and refuses to be treated differently because she’s a girl.
Myths: What really made me interested in reading this (besides the fact it was an unknown classic) was its basis in Welsh myths. Its not a perfect retelling Alexander notes in the beginning of the book, but many are similar. And I love myths of all kinds.
And with Myths, Come Morals: And The Book of Three was full of very subtle morals throughout the book. Vegetarianism and respecting every living thing, honor, good deeds, and, as I mentioned above, feminism. But, like any good children’s book, the morals aren’t shoved out there – stealing the limelight of the plot, rather they are interspersed and natural to the story. My favorite?
Eilonwy put her hands on her hips. Her eyes flashed. ‘I don’t like being called ‘a girl’ and ‘this girl’ as if I didn’t have a name at all. It’s like having your head put in a sack. If you’ve made your decision, I’ve made my own. I don’t see how you’re going to stop me.”
Eilonwy may be stubborn, but she also shows that girls are not weaker or lesser than boys. And done in such a cheeky, honest way. Love it.
More Wikipedia-ing: Brynne may have told me this, which means I totally forgot, but the Wikipedia page has also informed me that this series was the basis for the Disney movie The Black Cauldron. Who knew? I’ve actually never seen the movie, but now I’m intrigued! I want to read the other books in the series first, naturally!
What I most want to do after reading this book: Study up on my Welsh myths – they sound fascinating (and terrifying, if I’m being honest.)
Where this book came from: The local library!