Review: “Taran Wanderer” by Lloyd Alexander

For the love of books

The fourth and penultimate volume in The Chronicles of Prydain is aptly titled Taran Wanderer.  Driven by his love for Princess Eilonwy, Taran decides to search for his real parents; he becomes a true wanderer during the course of his travels in Prydain.  Joined by faithful Gurgi, Taran’s quest quickly transforms into a test of his own worth as a man.

This particular novel in the series is very philosophical and it greatly focuses on the attainment of wisdom.  Plato said in his Republic that to be wise at all, one must first acknowledge one’s ignorance.  Even though Taran attests to the limit of his knowledge, the reader glimpses Taran’s growing wisdom and clarity of judgment during his experiences and adventures in Taran Wanderer.  He justly settles a dispute between two of King Smoit’s liege men in Cantrev Cadiffor and rewards an honest farmer.  However, Taran’s desire for the truth about himself and his loyalty to his quest result in his refusal of a kingdom offered to him.  When Taran conquers an evil, hypocritical sorcerer and saves the Fair Folk from destruction, he unselfishly risks his life and relinquishes a treasure that could bargain for the information he seeks.

Taran’s wish to be “nobly born” is only dismissed when he understands the meaning of true nobility.  He realizes through his friendships that nobility is the worth of one’s heart and the virtue in one’s character; it is proven by one’s actions.  There is no “noble birth” or royal blood; royalty and aristocracy are selfish human inventions that only divide humanity.  The truth in Orddu’s words to Taran is emphasized when Taran proves his own worth and nobility by having the courage to do hard, honest labor.   Each event and human encounter, whether good or bad, strengthen Taran’s maturity and his identity.  Gurgi’s humility, altruism, and loyalty steady Taran through his trials and sufferings.  Ultimately, the author seriously ponders the meaning of life itself, and different meanings are demonstrated by the lessons that Taran endures.

Original review: Part 4: Lloyd Alexander’s ‘The Chronicles of Prydain’, Examiner.com

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