Friday, August 27, 2010

The Prydain Chronicles

I finished reading The High King by Lloyd Alexander last night.  I loved every book.  Mr. Alexander (1924-2007) was great at sensationalism.  Every succeeeding book is bigger and badder than the one preceding it.

The Companions & Other Main Characters:
Taran of Caer Dallben- Assistant Pig-Keeper to Lord Dallben
Dallben - Old enchanter, primarily raised Taran
Coll - warrior-turned-farmer, primarily raised Taran
Eilonwy - sharp-tongued Princess, Taran's love interest in the later books
Fflewddur Fflam - King-turned-bard.  Whenever he colors the truth, a string on his harp breaks
Gurgi - creature that befriends and serves Taran, obsessed with food
Gwydion Prince of Don - The best leader of all Prydain, Taran's hero
Arawn Death-Lord - the main villian in the books
King Math Son of Mathonwy - High King of Prydain

The Book of Three kicks off the series with Taran getting a new title:  Assistant Pig-Keeper.  But it's no ordinary pig he's responsible for.  This pig, Hen Wen, is the only oracular pig in all of Prydain.  When Hen Wen gets loose, Taran must find her.  Instead, he finds his hero, a king-turned-bard, and several other colorful persons.  He finds there's a lot more to being a hero than just glory as they face Arawn Death-Lord's lackey, the Horned King.

In The Black Cauldron, we rejoin our hero Taran Assistant Pig-Keeper and his friends.  Gwydion Prince of Don has called a council and announces he wishes to destroy the Black Cauldron, where Arawn Death-Lord creates Cauldron-Born, deathless warriors.  Deathless, as in, they can't be killed.  They can't destroy what's there, but they can prevent more from being born.

The back synopsis of The Castle of Llyr threw me off a little.  It led me to believe this book was more about Taran's love interest, the sharp-tongued Princess Eilonwy.  Taran is still our main character, however.  Eilonwy is being forced to leave home and learn how to be a proper lady.  She's already a Princess, why does she need to be a proper lady?  Everything goes awry when she's kidnapped and the Companions must find her.

Taran Wanderer was my personal favorite of the series.  Taran longs to know who his parents were and sets off for answers.  He has hopes of being of noble blood so he can propose to Eilonwy.  It has the feel of an old fairy tale to it with someone searching for something.  It's a coming-of-age story.  Taran's no longer seen as a pig boy and more as a man.
Taran returns home to find all of his old friends waiting for him--save Prince Gwydion and Fflewddur Fflam.  They arrive shortly after with Prince Gwydion wounded.  The great sword Dyrnwyn has been stolen by Arawn Death-Lord.  The Companions rally the armies of Prydain and face Arawn one last time.  It's a wonderful conclusion.

I'm familiar with The Mabinogion, so I was surprised to see Arawn as the villian, but it's a masterful epic and if you were like me and didn't read it when you were a child, well, it's not too late to read it.  The books are still in print and easy to find.

If you were like me, you may want to know before hand whether or not Taran gets Eilonwy in the end.  Well, you've seen the highlight-the-spoiler trick haven't you?  Highlight after the colon:    Yes, he does.!

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