Review: “The Book of Three” by Lloyd Alexander

For the love of books

The Chronicles of Prydain begin in the first volume, The Book of Three.

The reader is introduced to Taran, the main character, and the land of Prydain, which is partly based on the land of Wales.  Raised from infancy by the enchanter Dallben and his friend Coll, Taran is a headstrong adolescent who longs for adventure and heroism outside of Caer Dallben, the only home he has ever known.  However, peace is a rare commodity in all of Prydain as evil is a constant adversary in the form of Arawn, the Lord of Annuvin, and his servants.  When Dallben’s oracular pig Hen Wen runs away, Taran relentlessly pursues her, starting his own adventure.  His unwise decision quickly transforms into a breathless journey which will gain Taran many enemies, bring him new friendships, and ultimately change his rash ideas about glory and honor.

Lloyd Alexander himself acknowledged that some of his characters had a fundamental basis in Welsh mythology.  However, The Book of Three presents the initial part of The Chronicles of Prydain as being more than a fantastical adventure set in a mystical land.  The struggle between good and evil is a dominant theme, while philosophy certainly places a firm hold on the entire novel.  Morals, ethics, and the cardinal virtues are deeply fixed into the storyline with the reader vicariously experiencing their repercussions through the character of Taran.  Taran’s character itself is similar to that of a young pupil who is slowly learning to master himself.  He makes many errors, but he learns from them every time, gaining wisdom as well as the tempering of his own character through altruism and self-sacrifice.  It is necessary to comment upon that abundance of wisdom which the author carefully unfolds in his novel, from the mention of herbal medicine to the treasures found in friendship and loyalty.  In addition, the Socratic method is a common tool that Alexander employs to continue his search for the knowledge that accompanies his search for the answers to his questions.

Original reviewPart 1: Lloyd Alexander’s ‘The Chronicles of Prydain’, Examiner.com

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