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2011 Book of the Month Reads > January's Secondary Read: "The Book of Three (Prydain Chronicles #1)" by Lloyd Alexander

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message 1: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (last edited Feb 02, 2011 02:30PM) (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
For discussions concerning January's secondary read The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander.


message 2: by Catherine (new)

Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 50 comments Page 49 - Slight spoilers

I started this today and read the first five chapters while at the gym. Fast-paced and exciting, this is an easy escapist read. Action starts almost immediately as Taran is "promoted" to assistant pig-keeper, the pig escapes, and Taran is caught up in a major battle which foreshadows (p.21) Taran's destiny to make a quest. Although I previously read this (1987) I remember very little, and wonder now why I didn't read the rest of the series. May have to rectify that situation.


message 3: by Catherine (new)

Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 50 comments End of Chapter 10, SPOILER ALERT !

And the quest is on after some exciting action in which Taran and Gwydion are attacked by the Cauldron-Born (zombie like soldiers) and taken as prisoners by the evil Achren. Fortunately, young Eilowny helps Taran escape but rescues a wannabe bard, Fflewddur, instead of Gwydion.

Is Gwydion dead? If so, Taran is determined to avenge his death and warn the House of Don that the Horned King is on a rampage. The faithful and sometimes ferocious, Gurgi, has also rejoined Taran after his escape from the Spiral Castle.

In reference to future volumes in the series, Eilowny is of the blood of Llyr -- #3 in the series is The Castle of Llyr and The High King -- #5 in the series, is mentioned in the first few chapters.


message 4: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (last edited Jan 14, 2011 03:28PM) (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Great comments about the read so far. It's definitely a quick series. I wrote an extended research paper about the entire series and the Welsh mythology it was based on, the The Mabinogion. There's a quick article you can read about it on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mabinogion

Who's your favorite character so far in the book?

Did your copy have the author's note too?

Added question for discussion-- do members consider this book a purely escapist read? Is that because it is written for young children or because of the genre?

Food for thought!


message 5: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) Here are some discussion questions for The Book of Three. Discussion questions are posted around the second week of the month. Feel free to answer any, all or none. Members may also use ideas from the questions to spark extra discussion about the book.

Remember that discussion questions may contain spoilers.

---------------------------------------

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The Book of Three. Why three?

2. How would you describe Taran at the beginning of the book? How would
you describe him at the end of the book? Does Taran learn anything from his
experiences? Why or why not? How does Taran’s quest change during the
course of the book?

3. What do you think Dallben means when he says, “we learn more by looking
for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the
answer itself?” Do you agree with him?

4. Gwydion says, “It is not the trappings that make the prince, nor indeed
the sword that makes the warrior.” What does he mean by this? Do you
agree? If so, what is it that makes a prince or a warrior? What does Taran
imagine makes a warrior in the beginning of the book? How does his point of
view change?

5. How would you describe Gurgi? Is he as bad as he initially seems? Why
or why not? Why do you think the author decided to include him in the
story? How does Gurgi change during the story? How does Gurgi’s
relationship with Taran change?

6. Most of the characters in this book are flawed in some way or another.
(Which characters might be closer to being unflawed than others?) Think of
the main characters and describe how they are flawed. How do you feel about
them because of this?

7. What are the Cauldron Born? Why are they frightening? Why does Gwydion
say that removing the memory of laughter and tears from them was one of
Arawn’s cruelest acts?

8. Who are the villains in this story? How are they connected? What makes
them evil?

9. Why does Taran rescue the Gwythaint from the thorn bush? What did Taran’s
fellow travelers think of his decision to do so? Was it a wise or foolish
thing to do?

10. How does Taran’s opinion and choice of rewards show that he has changed
from the beginning of the book?

11. This is the first book of a series. There are four other books. Has
anyone read the others? If you haven’t, what would you imagine would happen
to Taran in the future? What would you want to have happen to him? Did you
like the book enough to look for the others?


message 6: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) I've read through Chapter 4 and I love the book so far. It's a quick and exciting read! I enjoyed that the action picked up right away. It's a nice change of pace from what I have been reading lately. I'm intrigued by they mystery surrounding Taran's identity. He has only mentioned having no kinsmen. Who were his parents? How did he end up with Coll and Dallben making horseshoes? And why does Dallben want him to believe that flashing swords and galloping horses are "out of the question" and that he will reach his own conclusions? And what does the oracular pig hold that is important enough that everyone is after her. Plus, the Book of Three which we know Dallben reads from to Taran, but no explanation yet about what it is or why he's read to from it. Lots of questions! I think Alexander does a great job of dropping us into the action with just the tiniest hints of various things to make us want to read further to find out more.


message 7: by Cari (last edited Jan 17, 2011 12:26PM) (new)

Cari (carikinney) *** Through Chapter 14 ***

I just read that Gwydion, Hen Wen and Dallben are all associated with Welsh mythology and the rest are from the imagination of the author. Thanks for the links, Adrianna. I'll take a look at them.

I love the book so far! It just has a wonderful flow and the cliffhangers are a wonderful touch. There's lots of adventure, danger, humor, and arguments and mystery. Sometimes I find Eilonwy a little tiresome with her long-winded observations, but Taran has quickly become a favorite character, and I'm enjoying the banter between Eilonwy and Taran most of the time. I'm also enjoying Taran's transformation. Here's a young man who wanted nothing more than to get out of his small village, make a name for himself, and perhaps seek the life of a hero only to find now that he's traveling with a band of companions on what is pretty much a hero's errand, and he's missing home and yearning for the days when he worked in the vegetable gardens and made horseshoes. He's also a lot braver than I thought he would be. I still don't know how he came to live with Coll and Dallben even after 14 chapters into the book, but he had a good home with them and they were
clearly on the side of Good. Taran is also learning some valuable lessons about not judging by one's appearance and that people must learn to accept
help as much as offer it. It's clear that he's going to mature quite a bit as the story progresses.

My book did have the author's note. There's a great quote in there at the end of the note. I'll have to post it later because I left the book upstairs.

The book is geared for readers 10 years and up, but it's very enjoyable for adult readers. It didn't take long for me to care about what happens to Taran and his little band of travelers.

Oh, I also love that the would-be bard/ex-king has a harp whose strings break every time it hears him voicing an exaggeration. Wonderfully funny.


message 8: by Catherine (last edited Jan 18, 2011 02:38AM) (new)

Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 50 comments End of Chapter 14

Thanks for the comments and the links, Adrianna and AerinBlue. My copy does not have the author's notes.  I'll look for a different edition when I go to the library to get the next book in the series.  I did find a Prydain Pronunciation Guide in the back -- I had been wondering how to prounouce some of the names.

I also like the harp strings connection with truthfulness but I find the interchanges between Taran and Eilonwy to be childish, considering the intended audience not out of place though.  My favorite character is Gurgi, love the word play he adds to almost everything he says.

This is an escapist read for me because of the easy reading, the cliff hangers and the exciting plot.

 I loved Fflewddur's mention of Taliesin, "the Chief Bard himself" (page 89) as it makes an unlikely connection with another book I just read, T.C. Boyle's [Book: The Women|3381581], in which much of the action takes place at Frank LLoyd Wright's Taliesin in Wisconsin.


message 9: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) Catherine, I love the words that come from Gurgi also. Very playful and they add a wonderful light note to the story.

I can't remember if Taran's age was mentioned. Do you recall? I didn't find him to be terribly childish until Eilonwy kept poking at him with her comments of how dumb an Asst. Pig Keeper must be. I'd probably have a hard time biting my tongue, too. LOL As for Eilonwy, this is just a guess, but I'm wondering if I'll find in one of the other books that she's older than she appears. She seems to take great offense whenever Taran refers to her as a little girl. I think we may find that she's just spoiled given her background. I finished the book this morning and know now from the last chapter what she is.

I'll post some final thoughts next.... with no spoilers. :)


message 10: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) Finished --- no spoilers.

I’m going to be picking up the second book in the series because The Book of Three has managed to cast an enchantment on me. ;)

Five books make up The Chronicles of Prydain. One of them was a Newberry Award finalist and another was a Newberry Award winner. The Book of Three is the first title in the series. I don’t know how I missed this childhood classic while I was growing up. It was published in 1964 and I was reading many a children’s book in the 70’s during my elementary school years. The series seems to have about as many fans as A Wrinkle in Time, another book I missed reading when I was younger and got around to enjoying for the first time this year.

This is a delightful book. I’m looking forward to encouraging my son to read it eventually. The characters are charming, the adventures are wonderful, and the humor adds a nice touch. What I really like about this book aside from its characters is the elegant writing. Alexander writes with a nice, tight style that lets the story flow easily and yet remain engaging. The little cliffhangers sprinkled throughout the book succeed in making the reader want to know more. The chapters are short enough that when I’d get to a cliffhanger, I’d have to say, “Oh, just one more.”

There are some familiar themes and familiar journeys if you’re a reader of other fantasy books. You could probably even find some similarities between Taran and Harry Potter as far as young protagonists go. They’re both orphans and have what seem like insurmountable odds to face given their age and experience. But they grow and mature as the story progresses, they find companions who assist and support, and they learn much about themselves along the way. The Book of Three is much older, however, and is a very small book compared to Potter or Lord of the Rings, but a small number of pages can still strike a chord with me.

I think this is a great book to introduce young readers to fantasy. And even though there are other books in the series, this first book has a solid conclusion. If you don’t read beyond this first title, you won’t feel left hanging. You can be content with the ending.

Some of my favorites about this book:

A comical bard, Fflewddur Fflam, whose second job is a king. He much prefers being a bard even though he flunked the bard examinations.

A hairy creature named Gurgi who’s anxious to please as long as some “crunchings and munchings” are in it for him. He later learns the value of friendship in that food doesn’t have to be part of the bargain.

An oracular pig who almost has half of that known world hunting for her because she holds the secrets that everyone wants. You can’t help but be charmed by her when she lets out a “Hwoinch!” :)


message 11: by Catherine (new)

Catherine  Mustread (cuiblemorgan) | 50 comments Great review, AerinBlue! I too am planning to get the rest of the series on my next library visit.


message 12: by Barbm1020 (new)

Barbm1020 Adrianna wrote: "For discussions concerning January's book of the month The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander."

Sorry I didn't get here often enough to know that's what the group is reading! I read the Taran books to my sons when they were in middle school and we all enjoyed them. Imho, the Mab is the root of all stories for Britain, and I'd love to read your paper!


message 13: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) 1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The Book of Three. Why three?
-------

I'm not sure this is answered with this first book in the series. Serena,
do you know? The book seems to be enchanted. Dallben is the only one that
seems to write in it. It burned Taran's hand when he tried to open it and
read from it.

I don't know what the "three" refers to yet, but I'm going to guess it
refers to three people. Dallben was writing in it at the end of this story,
as if he were recording events? I'm guessing he was writing about what
Taran went through. Is Taran one of the three?

I'm reading the second book in the series, The Black Cauldron, and am about
halfway through. No mention of the Book of Three at all so far. I remain
puzzled why it's called The Book of Three.


message 14: by Cari (new)

Cari (carikinney) Catherine, I'm halfway through book 2 and I'm still enjoying this series very much.

Barbm1020: I'm glad to hear that you and your sons enjoyed these books. It gives me much to look forward to as I progress through the series.


message 15: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
AerinBlue wrote: "I've read through Chapter 4 and I love the book so far. It's a quick and exciting read! I enjoyed that the action picked up right away. It's a nice change of pace from what I have been reading l..."

The entire series is really engaging, Aerin. This is definitely something I would recommend to people of all ages. It's my all time favorite books. :)

I could answer much of the questions you just asked...but I would spoil the later books for you. None of that is revealed in this book. ;)

Yup, Alexander is really great at compelling us with just enough information to keep us going. Plus, I like books that start in the middle of the action...sometimes novels take too long to build up for my tastes.

I'll cross-post this response and then start answering some of the other discussions and comments people posted about this read. I'm not very far in "Barefoot," so I'm staying away from most of those comments. :)


message 16: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Barbm1020 wrote: "Sorry I didn't get here often enough to know that's what the group is reading! I read the Taran books to my sons when they were in middle school and we all enjoyed them. Imho, the Mab is the root of all stories for Britain, and I'd love to read your paper!"

That's ok, Barb! You log on when you can. There's no mandatory participation here in Cafe Libri. :)

Are you a member of Yahoo Cafe Libri? I could post my paper there as a Word file or text file. What version of Word do you use? It's a little long to post here...maybe like 30 pages. :-P


message 17: by Cari (last edited Jan 25, 2011 04:17PM) (new)

Cari (carikinney) Adrianna, I'm almost done with the second book, The Black Cauldron. I went through it in almost no time. It's that engaging! I'm really glad you offered it as an extra for Cafe Libri. I might never have picked up the books otherwise. My husband is reading the series, too. He couldn't believe he missed out on these books growing up as well.

The Book of Three still hasn't been explained in book 2, but there was a reference made to it. I'm still puzzled about what it really is, but that's part of the fun of reading on, I guess. :)


message 18: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
AerinBlue wrote: "*** Through Chapter 14 ***

I just read that Gwydion, Hen Wen and Dallben are all associated with Welsh mythology and the rest are from the imagination of the author. Thanks for the links, Adria..."


Welcome! I hope you enjoyed the information that was located there.

I agree with you: "There's lots of adventure, danger, humor, and arguments and mystery."

The other thing that makes this book so amazing is the human quality to it all despite the fact that it's a fantasy epic. It's very easy to relate to how Taran feels, wanting more from our own lives.

I actually didn't like Eilonwy and Taran until maybe book 3. My favorite character for a large portion of the story was Gurgi. Eilonwy and Taran really progress and grow-up throughout the 5 books, though, which was interesting to see.

I agree with all your points about Taran and the growing he does. He grows a lot just in this book...but you will be amazed by book 4, Taran Wanderer. Any plans to read that far?

I love the quote at the end of the Author's Note. I'm including it in a list of quotes at Lunch. :) Just to confirm, is this the quote you're referring to?

"Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we believe we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart."

One thing I'm disappointed with concerning the newer editions of these books is that they don't have the maps in them. In the original library editions, each book had a map and showed where Taran and the others were traveling to. I really want to buy these copies someday. The visualization helps their journeys become more concrete.


message 19: by Barbm1020 (new)

Barbm1020 Adrianna wrote: "Barbm1020 wrote: "Sorry I didn't get here often enough to know that's what the group is reading! I read the Taran books to my sons when they were in middle school and we all enjoyed them. Imho, the..."

Yes, I'm in the yahoo group, just don't get there all the time. I'm a Mac, but at work we have Word - not sure what version, but I'll find out. If you could post the paper that would be great. Thanks!


message 20: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
AerinBlue wrote: "Finished --- no spoilers.

I’m going to be picking up the second book in the series because The Book of Three has managed to cast an enchantment on me. ;)

Five books make up The Chronicles o..."


I think I found this series because I was reading a lot of fantasy books. If I recall...my school's librarian recommended the author to me. I have to say that "The High King" deserves the Newberry Medal Award. It's my favorite of the five books.

I can't wait to see what your son thinks of the series when he reads it. You should keep us all informed!

Yes, the writing style stands out as being of superior quality than a lot of contemporary titles I've read. I just started "Room," and I'm not really enjoying it. The voice/POV is too distracting. It takes away from the story, imho.

Great thoughts that shared about the book. I heartily agree!


message 21: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Catherine wrote: "End of Chapter 14

Thanks for the comments and the links, Adrianna and AerinBlue. My copy does not have the author's notes.  I'll look for a different edition when I go to the library to..."


Glad to be of help to you, Catherine, by posting the additional links! You definitely should find a copy of the book with the author's note. It's a nice little essay by Alexander.

Was your copy of the book the Library Bound edition? I think that copy had a map and the pronunciation guide, which was really useful when I was presenting a report on the series.


message 22: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
AerinBlue wrote: "Catherine, I love the words that come from Gurgi also. Very playful and they add a wonderful light note to the story.

I can't remember if Taran's age was mentioned. Do you recall? I didn't f..."


Taran's age isn't mentioned, but Wikipedia says this:

"Taran's age is never given at any time in the series, though at the outset he seems to be approximately fourteen years old. The readers are also never given any indication as to the character's appearance, and as a result, he has been depicted in many different ways."

You can read more about Taran here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taran_(c...


message 23: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
Barbm1020 wrote: "Yes, I'm in the yahoo group, just don't get there all the time. I'm a Mac, but at work we have Word - not sure what version, but I'll find out. If you could post the paper that would be great. Thanks!"

I'll post it as a 93/2003 file. I'm going to have to wait until my husband gets home to post it, though, cause it's not located on my current laptop. This means that he has the file on our NAS, and it's hard to search that system, lol. I'll post the url link to the Yahoo folder once it's up.


message 24: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
AerinBlue wrote: "1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The Book of Three. Why three?
-------

I'm not sure this is answered with this first book in the series. Serena,
do you know? The book seems to be enchante..."


I'm going to answer the discussion questions and post some thoughts about the title to all the versions of Cafe Libri. I haven't missed this question yet. I'm just a slow-poke when it comes to playing "catch up," lol!


message 25: by Adrianna, Owner of Cafe Libri (new)

Adrianna (adriannas) | 529 comments Mod
**Minor Spoilers**

I'm not done with re-reading the book, but I've answered most of the discussion questions. I will come back and revisit some of the questions I couldn't respond to later. I'm super excited and happy that so many people enjoyed this first book!

Here are my answers to the discussion questions:

1. Discuss the meaning of the title, The Book of Three. Why three?

The Book of Three's title is revealed in Book 5. I can explain it...but only if people don't mind a slight spoiler.

As for the powers of The Book of Three, in the novel, it's initially used as an instructional tool for Taran. However, the reader learns that there is a power within its depths, when Taran touches it he is stung as if by hornets. Some of the powers are explained in "The Black Cauldron."

2. How would you describe Taran at the beginning of the book? How would
you describe him at the end of the book? Does Taran learn anything from his
experiences? Why or why not? How does Taran’s quest change during the
course of the book?

I'm still re-reading the book, so I can't comment on much about his transformation in the end. He begins the book as an annoying boy wanting more from life, typical teenage attitude. Throughout the quest, he learns to value peace and safety and yearns for simplier times. He also learns to not judge people by how they look, a lesson he picks up with his hero Gwydion.

3. What do you think Dallben means when he says, “we learn more by looking
for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the
answer itself?” Do you agree with him?

I marked this quote to save. I definitely agree. A lot of life and teaching is about researching. Sometimes you don't find the answers to an original problem, but you learn so much from all the research.

4. Gwydion says, “It is not the trappings that make the prince, nor indeed
the sword that makes the warrior.” What does he mean by this? Do you
agree? If so, what is it that makes a prince or a warrior? What does Taran
imagine makes a warrior in the beginning of the book? How does his point of
view change?

Again, another quote that stood out to me; I believe I marked this one as well. Basically, appearances are deceiving. Your attitude and the way you treat others make you a prince or a warrior. Fighting for good and for justice is important too. Taran imagined a warrior to be someone big, daring, impressive, etc. He had his own fairy tales in Pyrdain. He learns that reality can be a dark place, and that there's more to people than fanciful stories that are told.

5. How would you describe Gurgi? Is he as bad as he initially seems? Why
or why not? Why do you think the author decided to include him in the
story? How does Gurgi change during the story? How does Gurgi’s
relationship with Taran change?

Gurgi is innocent and self-absorbed. He's always been looking out for himself; it's about his survival first. However, he's very lonely, which is why he follows Gwydion and later Taran around. I believe he's the only one of his kind, and because he's so different, he has no friends. He's not bad when we first meet him. Just different and hard to understand. Gurgi realizes that friendships include sacrifice. He grows so much in the five books. He's really a fantastic character.

6. Most of the characters in this book are flawed in some way or another.
(Which characters might be closer to being unflawed than others?) Think of
the main characters and describe how they are flawed. How do you feel about
them because of this?

Gwydion, Dalben, and Coll are the closest characters to being unflawed. Hen Wen is also unflawed.

I like that the main characters are flawed because it makes it easier for the reader to relate to them. It gives the fantasy book some reality. I especially like Taran and Eilonwy's exchanges because they remind me of some of the girl/boy exchanges I had when I was in junior high.

7. What are the Cauldron Born? Why are they frightening? Why does Gwydion
say that removing the memory of laughter and tears from them was one of
Arawn’s cruelest acts?

I don't remember the Cauldron Born too much. I believe they are dead people that are put in the Black Cauldron and brought back as undead warriors or something. Once I get there, the details will become more apparent. Removing their laughter and tears is cruel because those are positive emotions...and they symbolize the people's humanities. Arawn takes that away from them.

8. Who are the villains in this story? How are they connected? What makes
them evil?

I can't remember them all other than the Horned King. That guy is CREEPY!

9. Why does Taran rescue the Gwythaint from the thorn bush? What did Taran’s
fellow travelers think of his decision to do so? Was it a wise or foolish
thing to do?

Not at this point in the story yet.

10. How does Taran’s opinion and choice of rewards show that he has changed
from the beginning of the book?

Not at this point in the story yet.

11. This is the first book of a series. There are four other books. Has
anyone read the others? If you haven’t, what would you imagine would happen
to Taran in the future? What would you want to have happen to him? Did you
like the book enough to look for the others?

I've read them all. I don't want to say too much because I might spoil some of the surprises. Taran comes a long way, as do all the characters. It's pretty fantastic to see everyone change because of the experiences in their lives.


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