My Favorite Fantasy Stories: Lloyd Alexander

This is a (modified) post I originally wrote for a site I did about 3-4 years ago called Fantasy Book Banner.

The idea of the site was to have self-published Fantasy and Sci-fi authors come and promote their works on the site, form a community and gain some authority, thereby driving sales.

Well, it tanked. Hard.

So to hell with that bollocks, then. To the point, I thought of this article because I plan to write up my opinions and commentary regarding some of my favorite fantasy works, and I decided I had to go back and start at the beginning.

The very first fantasy story I ever read was Lloyd Alexander’s The Black Cauldron. You know, the one they made the Disney movie out of? It was a part of his series The Chronicles of Prydain

The Chronicles of Prydain

As a child, comic books are really what started me on my reading journey, but I remember seeing the covers to some of the books in the library. As you can imagine, many of the fantasy themed books had very colorful covers with action shots of knights and dragons and such.

All the kind of things to attract a young comic fan’s attention. After that, I was hooked into the whole Fantasy genre.

Cover of The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander

This is the first real solid Fantasy work that I can remember reading as a child. I believe it was first published in the 60’s, but I got my hands on it in the early 80’s.

The Book of Three (all Amazon links are my affiliate links) is the first title, and introduces you to the character of Taran, a young orphan boy who dreams of being a hero like his idol, Prince Gwydion.

The only problem is that he is stuck living at a farm in the very un-glamorous position of assistant pig-keeper. He doesn’t even rate full pig-keeper.

Oh yeah, even the PIG is more important than him, since she’s an oracular pig. Hen Wen (the pig) can divine the future, and her owner, Dallben, is a very wise old sort. Not exactly a wizard, but he knows his way around magic, and is consulted by the ruling powers of Prydain in times of trouble.

Eilonwy is Taran’s companion. She’s a princess, and yet she’s not. She seems very flighty and somewhat silly, but is quick to cut Taran down with a burst of wit when he starts getting too big for his britches. The two of them came to my mind years later when I was reading dialogue between Rand and Egwene in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series.

Anyway, Eilonwy has a bit of power to her, a little magical mystery that is explained further along in the third book of the 5 book series , The Castle of Llyr.

Cover of The Castle of Llyr, by Lloyd Alexander

Rounding out the immediate cast is Gurgi, some kind of furry creature. Honestly I can’t remember what the heck he is (hey, it’s been a long time since I read these). All I know is he’s constantly hungry and kind of annoying at first. Think of a smaller, less disgusting and non-dangerous version of Gollum from the Lord of the Rings.

Although I don’t remember all the specifics, I came to see that I read the books out of order first, reading the second one, The Black Cauldron, before I went back and read The Book of Three .

Cover of The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander

What I do remember is that I was able to see Taran grow from an immature punk kid into the kind of hero he always wanted to be. The Taran from the fifth book, The High King, is pretty much nothing like Taran from the first book.

Cover of The High King, by Lloyd Alexander

Much of this change is realized in the fourth book, Taran Wanderer, in which the young boy separates himself from his supporting cast and attempts to find himself out in the land of Prydain. He rights wrongs and tries to find out the truth about his own parentage, hoping he’ll discover that he is of noble-enough blood to marry Eilonwy.

Cover of Taran Wanderer, by Lloyd Alexander

This is the book more than any other in which he grows into manhood. The moving speech that Taran makes at the end of The High King is a testament to just how much he has grown up since The Book of Three. This book had some really gripping stuff, and at my age I remember being really worried that Taran may not survive the book! It’s funny now, but to my young mind then the outcome was really in doubt.

This series was the one that made me go out and look for more Fantasy. I always consciously or sub-consciously compared any future stories to this series. I still have those books somewhere. It always annoyed me that I was never able to find the same publishing format of the books, my copy of Taran Wanderer is about an inch wider than the rest, and has a different style of artwork on the cover that I liked less than the others.

The Black Cauldron – The Video Game

I was so entranced by this series that I even tried my hand at making an adventure game based on it, using my Commodore 64, and a piece of software called The Adventure Construction Set. I don’t think I ever finished it, but I remember having a ton of fun making it, and believing that I really was continuing the adventures of Taran, Eilonwy and the whole bunch.

The Black Cauldron – The Movie

Disney made an animated movie, The Black Cauldron based on an amalgamation of the works, but it strayed a bit far from Lloyd’s work and was not really well received.

I think the plot of the Disney movie was actually more like the plot from the first book The Book of Three and not the second book that was actually titled The Black Cauldron.

I saw it like 3 times in the theater, and where I lived it didn’t last longer than two weeks. Now that I think of it, I might pick up the DVD just for old time’s sake.

Another interesting bit – in one of the Amazon reviews, someone mentioned that Gurgi was a main character in the Disney Gummi Bears series, and that Taran and Eilonwy showed up from time to time. I never watched it, so I wouldn’t know but it sounds pretty cool.

Fantasy for younger people

I enjoy the Fantasy genre a lot, but in these days of Game of Thrones and all, it seems like a lot of the stories are upping the ante to see how brutal and “realistic” they can be.

The Chronicles of Prydain was possibly the perfect entry for a young child like myself to be introduced to Fantasy worlds. It’s pretty safe, even though the times do get tough for our heroes towards the end of the series.

I remember being really sad when the final book ended, but at the same time feeling pretty good somehow (yeah, it was one of those endings).

Anyway, if you want a good light read where no one is horribly maimed or savaged sexually, and maybe a “starter” fantasy series for young kids, there’s nothing better than this.

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18 thoughts on “My Favorite Fantasy Stories: Lloyd Alexander

  1. Hi JG! I’m not really a fan of fantasy stories. But I appreciated all the movies like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. It’s just that the author/writer are amazingly genius! I’m curious about this book series of The chronicles of Prydain. I’ve never heard about this book before. Maybe if they can make it as a movie series, this would be another hit.

    1. Hi Francoise, I suspect after the commercial failure of the Disney movie, Hollywood may not see it as viable. However, once they run out of ideas again they might get back around to this series lol. Thanks for your comment!

    1. You’re welcome, Melinda!

      I’m flattered that you would trust my recommendation :) I hope your son enjoys it!

      Oh yeah, good luck on the rest of the christmas presents lol

  2. I love fantasy books! I’m 26, but I still read some fantasy aimed for younger people. Diana Wynne Jones is really good, her books are amazing. I also love Neil Gaiman, and he has some books for younger people that are still entertaining for an adult. If I see any books by Lloyd Alexander in my local library, I’ll check it out for sure.

    1. Hi Kay! I will look up Diana Wynne Jones, I had never heard of her until now. Neil Gaiman I knew form his comics work but I never read any of his other stuff.

      I’m going to be continuing the favorite fantasy series so stay tuned and thanks for commenting!

  3. Hi John,

    I don’t really read too much fantasy, but I’ve always loved the illustration work! I think if I were to read more, I’d probably read fantasy as I’ve always had quite the imagination! Thanks for sharing these, my friend Marissa would love to read a few! I’ll have to lead her to this post!

  4. As a young boy I always enjoye reading fantasy adventure stories. My grandson just has a natural afinity to the animi characters.

  5. Oh I remember the early days from my childhood, how I was reading every fantasy book I could get my hands on, and the TV was showing some really awesome cartoons which made my imagination go wild and I am very thankful for that, had an awesome childhood ! Nowadays it seems those kids are all doomed only with stupid cartoons and it’s so hard to bring them that spirit of “fantasy” when they are every time connected to iPads, iPhone’s and whatever there is out there.

  6. Hi,

    It’s shame but I checked that this series aren’t translated to my language. Maybe some day some studio will do it so I could try this books. My best fantasy book is Lord Of The Rings. I’ve read all three books several times and will read it still. The same with film version.

  7. I’m trying to remember who told me about Lloyd Alexander. I know I have not read any of this stuff but I KNOW some of those titles and cover images are familiar. I think one of my friends must have his collection or something. I will have to ask around and see if I can borrow a book or two.

    1. Yeah these have been around for a long time so you’ve probably seen them in the bookstores at some point. I would definitely recommend wholeheartedly. Let me know what you thought if you ever read any!

    1. Hey Richard!

      Yes I wish there was some plugin or method to be notified when a youtube video stops working right, but thanks for notifying me.

      I replaced it with another one, so we’ll see how long this lasts.

      I hope this article brought back some good memories!

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