The Prydain Chronicles

I’ve read to my son since he was a baby, and continue to do so now. As he’s gotten older I’ve moved on to full novels, seeing what sticks and what doesn’t. The Hobbit was a success, and it is an absolute joy to read aloud. A Wizard of Earthsea was also successful, and I was over-the-moon to revisit the archipelago. But what I’m reading to him now has, so far, been the most successful, and it is criminally underrated in the modern day.

The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander; The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and The High King.

Of the five books we’ve only gotten through The Book of Three, and are currently in the first few chapters of The Black Cauldron. Why do I call it the most successful then, if we’re not even halfway through a lengthy series? Because this is the only one of the novel series I’ve read to him that he’s wanted to move on to the second book for.

He enjoyed both The Hobbit and A Wizard of Earthsea, but when asked if he wanted to move on to The Lord of the Rings or the next Earthsea books, he politely declined. He liked where those stories ended and was happy to leave Middle Earth and Earthsea for the time being. Prydain, however, seems to have captured him. When I closed the book on the last chapter of The Book of Three, he was very excited to hear what happened next to Taran, Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflam, and Gurgi in The Black Cauldron. I think he’s committed to this one for the long haul.

And it’s easy to see why. Lloyd Alexander’s writing is simple but skillful and moves along at a quick pace, perfect for an adventure. The characters are instantly likeable and equally memorable. He gets to the action right in the first chapter of each book, so young readers are not kept waiting. It’s a fast read for adults, but a joy if you take your time to read it aloud to a child.

I first read these books in college, and found them vastly enjoyable. I’d not read them for over twenty years, but I kept them all the same, waiting for the right time to revisit Prydain. That I’m doing it again, this time with my son, is making the return journey all the more magical.