Taran wanted to be a hero, and looking after a pig wasn't exactly heroic, even though Hen Wen was an oracular pig. But the day that Hen Wen vanished, Taran was led into an enchanting and perilous world. With his band of followers, he confronted the Horned King and his terrible Cauldron-Born. These were the forces of evil, and only Hen Wen knew the secret of keeping the kingdom of Prydain safe from them. But who would find her first?
Lloyd Chudley Alexander was an influential American author of more than forty books, mostly fantasy novels for children and adolescents, as well as several adult books. His most famous contribution to the field of children's literature is the fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain. The concluding book of the series, The High King, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1969. Alexander's other books have also won the National Book Award and the American Book Award. He was also one of the creators of Cricket Magazine.
Hooboy. I have conflicted feelings about the book, and my feelings about those conflicted feelings are also conflicted. So there's that.
To make a long story short I loved this series when I was kid, I needed to pick up a gift for my nephew who is apparently Mini-Me, so I grabbed him the first couple of books in this series. Figured I'd give him something better to read then the Eragon type crap he's reading now. Of course I couldn't resist but take a look at them first, after all it's been about ten years since I've read these things.
I was both satisfied and disappointed. To get the bad out of the way what my twelve year old self didn't notice is that Lloyd Alexander is not a particularly graceful writer. One could even call him clunky. If one was cruel one could say that he lays on exposition like it's fucking mortar. Also it's pretty clear now that Alexander is basically doing Tolkien for kids, right down to the grotesque man creature with a panache for talking in the third person, a wise mentor who "falls into darkness" only to come out with a greater understanding of the world and Olde English mythology. The characters who once lived in my mind now come off as pretty flat and the quest that once seemed so important is now kind of pat. Some of these things would deepen as the series went on, some wouldn't.
That said, what still holds this above the crap mill of JK Rowling wannabes that passes as young adult fantasy literature today, is the fact that there is a real imagination burning beneath this thing. He didn't write it because that's where the money is, he wrote it because he felt he had too. Also I have to love the fact that someone apparently told Lloyd Alexander that the purpose of Young Adult literature is to scare the shit out of young adults. The main antagonist The Horned King, goes around wearing a human skull his arms literally stained red from blood, and is introduced burning men alive inside wicker baskets.
I'm always going to have an affection for these books, as far as I can recall they are the first ones that made me write. So I owe my life of poverty and degradation to Mr. Alexander at least in part. Still I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed. Was I unfair? It is after all a children's book, the point of which is not to confuse the shit out of children.
Yeah I probably was unfair, but what can I say? You always expect more from the one's you love.
Did you know that this was the basis for the Disney movie The Black Cauldron?
I didn't. I didn't even realize that this beloved fantasy story even existed until recently. And now I can see why fans of Lloyd Alexander's books were upset over the Disney treatment. Yes, the basic bones of the story was there but that's it. I'm assuming that's because they tried to smoosh 5 books worth of stuff into one animated children's movie. A children's movie that is apparently amazing to watch if you're tripping balls. <--or so I've been told by sources that will remain unnamed.
Taran is an assistant pig keeper at Caer Dallben, and when Hen Wen (a white oracular pig) runs off, he sets out on an adventure to save her from the Horned King. He meets up with the sassy Eilonwy who bosses him around, and the annoying & smelly creature Gurgi who always wants his munchies and crunchies. Is he good? Is he bad? Read it and find out because I'm not telling you. Along with the good prince Gwydion, the wandering minstrel Fflewddur Fflam (also a king, btw), & a grumpy dwarf named Doli, Taran tries to stop an undead hoard from wreaking havoc in their kingdom. There's more to it than that, but you get the basic gist.
Man, was that movie missing a lot of the characters and PLOT. Not to mention the character growth of Taran! He turns into quite the leader and hero in this one. I don't want to spoil anything but this was a very good story. And short. I loved that it didn't drag on and on and on. For a classic (1964) fantasy novel aimed at a young adults, this was surprisingly readable to me. That does NOT mean I think it's going to be a winner for everyone. Classic. Fantasy. For kids. If you go into it knowing what it is, I think it's more than likely something you will be able to appreciate. If you go into it thinking you're getting some Harry Potteresque story, you will be sorely disappointed. Recommended for people who know what they're getting.
On a side note, I was gifted a really lovely copy of The Prydain Chronicles but I haven't had the time to sit down and read it yet, so I decided to jump into the series with the individual audiobooks till I can peruse my copy. James Langton was the narrator of the one I listened to and he did a wonderful job.
There are certain books that beg to be read over and over again throughout our lives. To return to a book is a sign of love and dedication. It's a sign that the book was just that good! It is as familiar as greeting an old friend, and sometimes there's a comfort in that reunion. One series that I’ve returned to countless of times is Lloyd Alexander’s “The Chronicles of Prydain”-- and it all started when I stumbled upon “The Book of Three” in my elementary library.
The setting of the story is Prydain, a land pulled from Alexander’s love for Wales and Welsh mythology. The story has a host of would-be heroes: from the enchanter, to a retired warrior, to an heir-apparent of the High King of Prydain, to an errant king-who-would-be-bard, to a fiery princess from an ancient magical line. Alexander could have chosen any of these characters to be the hero in his classic children’s fantasy but, instead, he chooses the boy whose job it is to help take care of the pig.
That boy is Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper living on a small, isolated farm. Taran is bored with his peaceful life under the care of the farmer Coll and the old magician Dallben. He longs for adventure and the chance to perform heroic deeds, and finds them sooner than he expects when the search for the runaway oracular pig, Hen Wen, draws him into a battle between good and evil. In his quest, he meets the brave Prince Gwydion, the fiery Princess Eilonwy, the bard Fflewddur Fflam, the creature Gurgi, and the dwarf Doli. He is both seeking Hen Wen and headed to warn the High King that the Horned King is planning an attack; and on the way, finds himself faced with choices he had never imagined.
The plot may seem like your typical Fantasy fare -- it sounds like tween Tolkien. But in truth, it's an exceptional work for young readers, drawing from the same deep well of European myth as Tolkien but delivering its complex story with simple, elegant language that kids can immediately embrace. Prydain grew into something more than a thinly disguised ancient Wales; undeniably, it was similar to that land, but reshaped by the addition of contemporary realism, modern values, and a generous dose of humor, as well as the special depth and insight provided by characters who not only act, but think, feel, and struggle with the same kinds of problems that confuse and trouble people in our time.
The series, taken as a whole, is Bildungsroman, and “The Book of Three” is only the beginning of Taran’s transformation. He has no great powers, no hidden strengths. He doesn’t discover that he’s the chosen one, or even dig deep into some well of previously untapped strength to rally for a strong finish. He is much like you and me: an ordinary, often weak, self-doubting person, bumbling through a life journey, who gets to the end, looks back, and wonders if he contributed anything of value at all. As such, Taran’s perspective and the changes he goes through can act like a mirror to us: it reminds us that heroes more often lead quiet lives -- that in actuality they are more ordinary than extraordinary.
This is the start of my first Fantasy series. This is the one that started me on my long trek through hundreds of other great books and dozens of other great series. I still love this series to this very day! The strength of “The Chronicles of Prydain” is the way the books build on each other. “The Book of Three”, when you look at it by itself, may be considered the weakest in the series -- but the whole is greater than its parts and should be consumed as such.
The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain, #1), Lloyd Alexander
The Book of Three (1964) is a high fantasy novel by American writer Lloyd Alexander, the first of five volumes in The Chronicles of Prydain.
The series follows the adventures of Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper, a youth raised by Dallben the enchanter, as he nears manhood while helping to resist the forces of Arawn Death-Lord.
تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز دهم ماه آگوست سال 2008میلادی
عنوان: افسانه های پریداین - کتاب 2 - تاران و شمشیرِ سحرآمیز؛ نویسنده: لوید الکساندر؛ مترجم: مریم سیادت؛ تهران، تندیس، 1385؛ در 222ص؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایالات متحده آمریکا - سده 20م
عنوان اصلی جلد نخست از سری پنج جلدی در زبان اصلی «کتابِ سه» است، هر چند نخستین جلد از سری «ماجراهای پریداین» میباشد، عنوان سری در برگردان فارسی به «افسانه های پریداین» و عنوان جلد نخست در برگردان فارسی «تاران و شمشیرِ سحرآمیز» نامیده شده است، عنوان اصلی جلد دوم نیز «پاتیل سیاه» بوده، که بانو «مریم سیادت» عنوان «تاران و پاتیل جادویی» را برای آن برگزیده اند، عنوان اصلی جلد سوم «قلعه ی لیر» بوده، که با عنوان «تاران و قصر قدیمی» در کشور ما چاپ شده است، جلد چهارم نیز عنوان اصلی اش «تاران سرگشته» بوده، که در برگردان فارسی عنوان: «تاران و آیینه مرموز» برای آن، برگزیده شده است، عنوان اصلی جلد پنجم نیز «شاهِ اولا» بوده، که مترجم آن را «تاران و فرمانروای بزرگ» نامیده اند
سری پنج جلدی «افسانه های پریداین» در دهه ی شصت سده ی بیستم میلادی، برای نخستین بار در «ایالات متحده» به چاپ رسیده (1964میلادی)، به نوشته ی سرکار خانم «مهتاب روشنگران»: «لین کارتر»، منتقد مهم ادبیات فانتزی، از نویسنده ی سری «ماجراهای پریداین» نقل میکنند، که جدا از اثر پذیری ایشان از «تالکین»، کار ایشان ملهم از کتابِ مهم دیگری با عنوان «شمشیر در سنگ (کتابی که به افسانه های «آرتورشاه» میپردازد)»، در ادبیات فانتزی سده بیستم میلادی، نیز هست؛ همین مهم باعث شده، تا سری «پریداین»، علاوه بر داشتن المانهای فانتزی بزرگسال، به طنز و شوخ و شنگیِ فانتزیهای نوجوان هم نزدیک ��شود
تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/04/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
A good classic. I first read this book when I was about 8 years old, and I remember loving it back then. It was fun to revisit it now, and thankfully, it aged surprisingly well!
There are a lot of subtle layers here underneath what is an otherwise Tolkien-inspired book for kids.
The assistant pig keeper Taran starts out surprisingly unlikable, but whenever he does something kind, the world responds in turn. His quest is a bit generic, but there are a lot of funny flashes that make things great. Each little episode of adventure has its own strengths, though some are stronger than the others, and the cast of characters that grows slowly is a good comical mix of people on similar missions of learning to improve themselves in gentle ways.
There are a few dated problems, most obviously the general lack of women. But at least the women that are present here are interesting characters.
I really liked how by the end of the book, the boring town characters at the start of the story have ended up as models for finding a good place in the world. The former hero becomes a blacksmith. The wizard teaches how to grow a garden and build a community. That's wonderful.
Back in the days before Harry Potter, I was too young to get through Tolkien and wasn't interested in The Chronicles of Narnia - fortunately, I had The Chronicles of Prydain. The series (there are five books in all) takes place in a setting similar to Wales in the Middle Ages. The main character is an assistant pig-keeper named Taran - the reason there's a need for both a pig-keeper and an assistant is because the pig in question can predict the future. The books are full of witches, magic swords, evil kings, and zombie armies. (I'm not joking - Taran and his friends have to fight off an army called the Cauldron Born, which are magically reanimated corpses.) I don't mind saying that Taran was probably my first literary crush back in 4th grade. He's not the typical hero at the start of the series - he's clumsy, impulsive, and kind of a dork - and by the time the series end he's matured a lot and is totally hot. Just thought I'd share that.
By the way, Disney made an animated version of The Black Cauldron a while ago that I was unfortunate enough to see. Some advice: don't see it. Don't buy it for a child. Write angry letters to the Disney Corporation complaing about how they butchered Lloyd Alexander's story in every possible way. Just don't watch it. Thank you.
Whenever I'm at my parents' home, surrounded by the books of my childhood, I will inevitably pick one up and read. This time, I selected the first of Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles: The Book of Three. If you haven't read Lloyd Alexander at all, then I feel terribly sorry for your sad and empty childhood.
The basic plot should seem quite familiar: a peaceful land threatened by evil and the people who must band together to save it. It's the telling of the story that really makes it unique, though.The Prydain Chronicles consist of five books with an epic fantasy storyline, heavily modeled upon Welsh lore. The first book in the series is The Book of Three, where we are introduced to our key players and get our first taste of the threat to Prydain. The dark lord Arawn is mustering forces in his kingdom of Annuvin, led by his champion the Horned King. For years the Sons of Don, who rule Prydain, have kept Arawn in check, but nevertheless, Arawn appears to be making movements to start a war.
Taran is a young man, hungry for adventure and excitement, though he spends his days working on the farm of Caer Dallben. Of course, it isn't quite a normal farm -- among the animals is Hen Wen (an oracular pig of great fame and importance, though Taran has seen no evidence of her powers) and the owner of the farm is Dallben (a scholar and wizard who is over three hundred years old). Still, Taran wishes to learn swordplay and fight like his hero, Prince Gwydion. When he longs for a title and destiny, Coll (a middle aged farmer that is clearly more than he appears to be) names Taran "Assistant Pig Keeper." So when a disturbance causes the animals to flee and Hen Wen to escape, Taran feels responsible and so he runs after her. Almost immediately, Taran discovers that the animals fled because the Horned King is near and Taran becomes injured. He wakes up to find his hero, Prince Gwydion, caring for his injury. Gwydion had been traveling to learn something from Hen Wen, and so he joins Taran in his search for the pig.
As they search, we meet several important characters along the way. Gurgi, a half-animal/half-human creature, tells them that he saw Hen Wen being pursued by the Horned King. After being captured by some of Arawn's fearsome Cauldron-Born (soulless warriors created from the dead), they meet the evil enchantress Queen Achren, who offers Gwydion the chance to join her and with her help, rule Prydain and overthrow Arawn. When he refuses, she throws him and Taran into separate dungeon cells. Taran then meets Princess Eilonwy, a young enchantress of the House of Llyr who is supposed to be learning from her Aunt Achren (though Eilonwy is not convinced that they're related). Eilonwy helps Taran escape and also manages to free "his companion in the other cell," though once they escape and the castle has somehow collapsed, killing everyone still inside (which we later learn is due to Eilonwy's removing a particular sword of power from the castle as they fled), it's discovered that the man Eilonwy rescued from the other cell is not Gwydion. He is Fflewddur Fflam, a king who has given up his kingdom to be an unofficial bard, though he owes his talent to his magic harp, whose strings snap when Fflewddeur bends the truth -- which is quite often. Believing that Gwydion must be dead, Taran takes it upon himself to travel to Caer Dathyl to warn the House of Don, but he is not alone, as Gurgi, Eilonwy and Fflewddur (not to mention Gwydion's very wise horse Melyngar) insist on accompanying him. After a chance meeting with Medwyn, a healer who protects animals, and an encounter with the Fair Folk adds a dwarf named Doli (who cannot turn invisible, unlike the rest of his family, to his intense irritation) to their party, they ultimately must fight and stand against the Horned King.
Not to worry -- we're just at the beginning of the story, so all ends well (Hen Wen is found! Gwydion isn't dead! The Horned King is defeated!), but it's clear that there is real danger afoot that will enter into future books. I challenge you to try and not fall in love with Taran, a very real young man with a good heart who gets the adventure he wants, yet still comes to understand the importance of home and peace. He learns and matures through lots of errors, but is also capable of making the right decision in the face of pressure. He ultimately prevails in this first challenge with the help of his traveling companions. As with all Lloyd Alexander novels, the best part is the sense of comedy and whimsy. Eilonwy talks a great deal and is quick to take Taran down a few notches whenever he's too uptight. As a princess with red-gold hair, it's not hard to understand why this redhead always loved her, but she is a charming and outspoken girl, an excellent role model for young ladies, as she never shies away from a fight and always speaks her mind. Fflewddeur is charming as he repeatedly exaggerates, causing harp strings to snap. And Gurgi, well... Gurgi is a bit annoying, but he means well, so the reader, like Taran, ultimately decides that Gurgi isn't so bad.
As a kid, I loved these books. They're notable in my past as being responsible for my first (and only) request for an extension on a paper. In sixth grade, I asked for a single day extension on a book report, which was granted, as I was writing about the whole series and not just one book. I rather wish I still had that paper, as I'd be curious to read my initial impressions. I'm sure it touched on my elementary understanding of Welsh mythology, but I seem to remember a lot of summarizing of the books... kind of similar to this. Hm.
So if you know a young reader aged 10-12 and they're not quite ready for Tolkien or other, similar fantasy novels, you might point them in Alexander's direction. A bit of a warning for the kiddies, though: there's frequent violence and people do get hurt. Also a word of warning to parents: if you buy the first book, you might as well just buy the whole series for your kid, as s/he will certainly want to keep reading about Taran, Eilonwy, and their friends. When they've finished those, you can then start buying the rest of Alexander's oeuvre. He wrote many gems (my favorite series being, of course, the Vesper Holly books) and frequently played with mythology. He's a funny and charming writer and whether the reader is young or old, I think everyone can find something compelling and delightful about this series.
I have very little to say on this book and why I gave it 5 stars. I read it in the past. A re read has revealed many deft touches that the author has meant us readers to discover at our leisure. The book has a boldfaced naivety about it. I enjoyed it from start to finish. I regret so few people will want to give it a chance. I'm thinking of going through the entire series. Ta.
The Book of Three is one of those classic fantasy novels you see on "Top ___" lists and the shelves of used bookshops with a fantasy section of any redeeming value. However, it doesn't rank up there with the best of the bunch and you don't hear people raving about it. I needed to find out what was up with this little book and so I did.
It's a fun, mostly-light fantasy adventure about a headstrong boy who wants to live life, not wallow in the wake of a blacksmith or spend his days as an assistant pig keeper. He gets more than his wish in a fast-paced, action-packed journey that pits him and his new friends in a battle with the land's greatest evil.
The Book of Three is indeed fun, as well as interesting for its take on Welsh myth. It is however a little more silly than I care for these days. It treads too much on gags, like a toady's repetitive speech pattern and a bard's truth-detecting instrument that breaks a string whenever he lies. He must break nearly ten strings throughout this book and such a short book is just not long enough to sustain that kind of repetition. One last quibble, the only female figure in the book is annoying. Everything that comes out of her mouth sounds like "I told you so!" and that sucks.
Right now I'm up in the air about continuing on with the Chronicles of Prydain series, but I've wanted to read this book for as long as I can remember and I'm glad I did.
I adored this series when I was a kid, and I was in the mood for some comfort food reading, and deeply curious to see whether reading it would still hold any pleasure for me decades later. I’m happy to say that it did indeed hold many pleasures. There is an abiding sense of compassion and humor coursing through this book, even as its band of misfit adventurers face peril and hardship. It never reaches the poetic heights of Le Guin’s Earthsea Trilogy, another classic of children’s fantasy literature, but it ceaselessly entertains and enchants nonetheless. Alexander was especially adept at creating indelibly individual characters, most especially the hilarious, courageous, talkative, wise Eilonwy.
I look forward to making my way through the rest of the series.
This is really where it all began for me. Over three decades ago this book set me on the path to a lifelong love of, and later career, in fantasy fiction. Between the ages of ten and thirteen I must have read this book six times or more, along with all the others in the series. Alexander's blend of Welsh legend and modern fantasy tropes is both enchanting and compelling and the adventures of Taran, orphan and assistant pig-keeper, are a truly classic example of the hero's journey from boy to man. If there are any young people in your life in need of an addiction that won't see them in rehab one day, this is an excellent first fix.
The Chronicles of Prydain is a classic fantasy adventure that does what great classics, fantasies and adventures do to readers- make them love them. Who says classics cannot be as fun as Percy Jackson series? :)
Kids who cannot understand or don’t have the patience for the Lord of the Rings but who want to read fantasy novels may enjoy this. As for me, if I wanted to read Fellowship of the Ring I would have just read it. I didn’t like this book at all, there were too many obvious similarities to the Lord of the Rings and I just kept becoming more and more irritated with the parallels as the book progressed. (ahemmm... *fake cough* blatant ripoff *end fake cough*) Sorry to my friends that love it, but I just could not get into it. At least I finished it though, I deserve a cookie for that at least.
Story time. My birthday cousin showed me The Black Cauldron when I was about 6 years old. It opened my eyes to what fantasy could be and the darkness that could be overcome with the right pals. In short, I freaking loved it. This book is no different. I really really liked it.
Onto the review, this book came out in the sixties from what I understand and there are parallels to Lord of the Rings just from my small knowledge that came from the movies (I know, I know. I'll read them soon). Regardless of the similarities this book stands on its own and Gurgie will always have a special place in my heart for his bumbling bravery. Now my problem with this is my issue with Eye of the World except instead of Egwyn its Eilonwy. She's so damn irritating, I could drive a nail through the wall with my skull every time she talks. She's just an arrogant little butthole. She's important to the story but still she irks me. I hope that her character grows as a person in the later novels because she has some redeeming qualities that could really be leaned into. Highly recommended regardless of how much it felt like I griped about one character.
Jos jedna od knjiga za koju mi je zao sto je nisam citao kada sam bio jedno 20tak godina mladji. Odlicno napisano i na momente mracno, sa finim likovima. prica je predvidiva al sobzirom od kada je to se moze oprostiti. Brzo se cita i ostavlja apetit za vise.
Mada mi je cudno da prva knjiga u fantazijskom serijalu ima samo 160 strana. Danas tako nesto ne bi pilo vodu :P
Desde que supe que The Black Cauldron estaba basado en una saga de libros de fantasía épica infantil, SUPE que debía leerlos. Esto pasó hace ya un par de años, así que la espera por leerlos fue larga y esperanzadora. Nunca pensé que los terminaría comprando y teniendo en físico.
Muchos acusan al libro de ser una copia para niños de The Lord of The Rings. Si bien veo las similitudes, hay que dejar en claro que son dos sagas completamente distintas. Una utiliza un lenguaje arcaico y pretende mostrar una alegoría del cristianismo, con el pecado por un lado y la lucha contra el mismo por el otro. La otra saga busca simplemente entretener, con palabras sencillas, un humor gracioso (que, a pesar de haber pasado alrededor de sesenta años, sigue siendo inteligente) y personajes que serían más identificables para los niños. Todo bien con The Hobbit, pero no me parece una lectura adecuada para un niño, preferiría darle de leer Narnia o estos libros.
Así que, sí, es de esas sagas de libros que comparten un mundo muy parecido al de The Lord of the Rings, con magos, reinos, guerreros, príncipes. Sin embargo, nuestro protagonista es Taran, un chico de 13 años (o al menos la edad se supone) que quiere convertirse en héroe, pero que no es más que un Asistente Porquero, que debe cuidar de Hen Wen, una cerdita (sí, una cerdita) oráculo (sí, leyeron bien, una cerdita oráculo). Por supuesto que el mal se desata, la cerdita se pierde, y Taran, con su escasa edad y sus pocos conocimientos del mundo, se larga a buscarla por toda Prydain. En el camino se topará con Gwydion, príncipe de Caer Dathyl (que no aparece en la película de Disney y no sé por qué), Fflewddur Fflame, un bardo que no toca muy bien, Gurgi, una criatura que solo pide crunchings and munchings, Doli, un enano un tanto quejoso, y Eilonwy, sin duda la estrella de la noche.
La narración es simple, desde el punto de vista de Taran, quien se deja sorprender por todo. Los diálogos los encontré ingeniosos, en especial los de Eilonwy; la personalidad de cada personaje se nota bien a través de sus palabras, y me parece que esa es la característica mejor desarrollada del libro. Tiene sus cosas, sin embargo: a Alexander le gustaba mucho la palabra "plunge", que de tanto leerla ya la puedo usar en un lenguaje cotidiano más o menos, y que, después de tanta espera, le había puesto muchas expectativas al libro. Me habría gustado mucho ponerle cinco estrellas, pero se queda corto en algo, no sé en qué. Eso no quita que tengo muchas ganas de leer los siguientes.
Me alegra por un lado que el protagonista sea un niño que va a ir creciendo a lo largo de los libros. Una de las mejores cosas que puede hacer una saga es dejar al lector crecer con sus personajes. No es determinante, obvio, pero es un factor que a mí me gusta mucho. Se dejaron muchas puertas abiertas en este primer libro, que espero pronto dilucidar en los siguientes.
Recomendado! Una lectura fresca, tierna, tal vez un poco más de lo mismo ya conocido (excepto por lo de la cerdita oráculo, en serio), pero no por eso menos valioso.
The Book of Three is not the most impressive book on first reading, even despite there being some things that set it apart, first and foremost its Welsh-inspired settings and characters of myth and legend. Mostly, it seemed a bit like a Tolkien clone with a plot barely even trying to be anything more: Collecting the group of adventurers. The beyond evil bad guy. Swords and sorcery, kings and princesses and princes. Wizards who commune with animals.
Right away The Book of Three did demonstrate a contradictory and rather cheeky sense of humor, with the main quest (at least for our main character, Taran) being a search for his white pig, Hen Wen, rather than the defeat of some evil lord or other (although that is a side benefit for Taran). Taran is an Assistant Pig-Keeper (a title that will follow him with persistence all the way through book five and beyond). It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that Hen Wen wasn't just any old pig that evil beings wanted to kidnap. She is an Oracular Pig--she can tell the future. So yeah, let's rescue her.
On his quest, Taran picks up many companions (and this is the bit that felt most like Tolkien): Gwydion, the Prince of Don, a warrior who looks very unlike the royalty he is; the bard Fflewddur Fflam, a former king who 'gave all that up', and whose harp has strings that break whenever he stretches the truth (which is quite a lot); Gurgi, the strange beast that is not an animal nor yet a man, who speaks in the third person and has obsessive tendencies about food and such (Gurgi especially felt like a Gollum clone to me at first, though he distinguishes himself--not necessarily for the better--pretty quickly after the first book); Doli the Dwarf, the obligatory member of the fair folk, who complains while doing anything; and of course, the Princess Eilonwy, who is a complete delight from the first moment we meet her. She's probably the best thing that Lloyd Alexander ever created.
This is very much children's literature, and the first book is the roughest of the five. Alexander has a tendency to give his characters one or two traits and have them stick to them like mad, but luckily Taran and Eilonwy especially are wonderfully fleshed out. In fact, after this book, Taran's inner journey and growing characterization is the highlight of the series. The ending is also pretty sudden and felt rather convenient. No idea why it's called The Book of Three, as that titular book--owned by the enchanter, Dallben, who is also Taran's guardian--actually gets more focus in future volumes than it does here.
So, not the best beginning of the series, with as much predictable fantasy cliche usage as there is turning of those cliches on their heads, and as much cutesy-wutesy character stuff as there is genuinely insightful inner development. I definitely recommend reading further in the series if you liked this one even in the slightest.
March 2023: if you see an update on this because i fixed a two year-old typo, NO YOU DIDN'T 😂
April 2021: Definitely some differences from the Disney movie, which is one of my favorite animated films. But I enjoyed a little more swordfighting versus the film in this first volume, and the actual fighting with the Horned King (though his end was much cooler in the movie). Eilonwy is a delightful character, and the guy who speaks with animals was too. The audio narration was fun and lyrical.
Let's talk about what a melodramatic little dipstick Taran is about every little thing that happens. Like he goes from "I am Assistant Pig-Keeper; that is my title until the end of days, and I must seek out glorious adventure" to "A man I met yesterday is maybe dead and there is nothing left for me in this age of sorrow and ashes but to sacrifice my life for the quest he left in my hands" in the span of a weekend.
Anyways, five stars, this whole series is five stars, we all know the drill by now.
I stumbled across THE BOOK OF THREE in the local bookstore right after I had finished THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy, and I had nary a clue I was about to fall under a deep spell woven by the masterly Lloyd Alexander. I literally could not read these books fast enough. I couldn't stop thinking about the Assistant Pig Keeper named Taran and his dear friends and companions, Eilonwy, Fflewddurr, Gwydion, and poor mistreated Gurgi.
Truth to tell, if forced to choose between Tolkien's Middle Earth and Alexander's Prydain, I'd have to choose Prydain. That's how dear this five-book-series (i.e., pentalogy) became to me, and still is to this day. I absolutely love these books and the characters within. This remains Lloyd Alexander's masterwork, and I highly recommend THE PRYDAIN CHRONICLES to fans of young adult fantasy or enthusiasts of Celtic/Welsh myth and lore.
The highest of high marks for me. THE BOOK OF THREE receives five out of five stars.
For some reason, I've had a hankering to reread these books for a few months. A yen I gave in to this weekend when I checked out a Science Fiction Book Club omnibus edition of all 5 novels and a collection of short stories (the latter of which, I haven't read).
Having read The Book of Three, I can see where my moral compass may have begun to form. I first read these books in sixth grade as an extracurricular project, and then made a filmstrip of the final book, The High King (yes, a "filmstrip" - for the young'uns out there, think PowerPoint presentation without the laptop :-). The characters are honorable, kind & loyal to their friends, and they fight only when they must.
Even looking at it today with a sadly more jaundiced eye, I enjoy reading it, and am happily plowing through The Black Cauldron, book two.
Great book. I think this is the first time I've read Lloyd Alexander, although I can't believe that's true. As a parent, I would like to put the main character, Taran in the corner quite a bit, but he's a boy that likes danger. It seems like the adults treat him like an adult way too easily, even though he's probably twelve years old, if that. I like the fantasy aspects of the book, and I like that the fantastical creatures aren't all happy and tra-la-lally (not a word, I know). The book is quite dark in spots, so I might recommend it for people who like Harry Potter, but probably not those who like Ella Enchanted. :)
I really enjoyed this book! It took me a little bit to fully get into it, but once I did, I was all for it!
There were so many nods to LOTR within Alexander’s prose; I loved those moments so much! And all the characters felt very distinct and unique, much like Tolkien’s fellowship.
I also loved all the animals and the themes!!
I will say, one thing that still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense is the title of this book; I find that it doesn’t hold a lot of bearing to the narrative except in its secrecy. Perhaps more will be revealed in The Black Cauldron?
An Assistant Pig-Keeper, a snarky red-headed princess, one of those comical Bards with a tendency to exaggerate, a very Gollumesque (but considerably more pleasant) creature, and a really awesome horse go on a quest to find a really wise pig?
That. Is brilliant.
Add to that mix an abundance of magnificent Welsh names, mythology references, the no-nonsense but still witty writing style, and you have this delightful book.