Jabberwocky Audio Theater is joining other writers and artists for a Summer Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book Bundle Giveaway now through July 12th.
I’m also taking the opportunity to talk about science fiction and fantasy books that have influenced me through the years, including a few that aren’t in the bundle. I wrote about The Expanse and Dune earlier this week and, yesterday, I wrote about the Chronicles of Narnia, which may have been the first book series I tore through… unless is was another one.
The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander is that other series. I have found that most people to whom I mention the series haven’t read it nor heard of it outside of the Disney animated film version of The Black Cauldron. That film itself was not well received. I believe one of the complaints was that it was noticeably darker than typical Disney fare (having the main villain being the “Death Lord” with an undead army will do that I suppose). Ironically, for me, it wasn’t dark enough. One look at the Disneyfied version of Gurgi –a creature that threatens to eat the main character when we first meet him– meant that I never saw the film as a kid. I mean, if they couldn’t get that right, how good could the film be? I finally saw the film about 30 years after it came out and, guess what? My grade school self made the right call.
I finally watched the film because I re-read the books for the first time as an adult and absolutely loved them all over again. Now, I don’t mean to pit Narnia against Prydain because I very much like both, but assuming you know whether or not you’re up for Narnia, I feel like I need to make the case for Prydain.
So, why should you or your kids read the Chronicles of Prydain?
- Unlike Narnia, the characters are stuck in Prydain. No popping in and out of the fantasy world when a crisis might arrive. The aforementioned Death Lord who wants to rule over all? Yeah, they’ll need to deal with him. There’s no wardrobe to escape through.
- Speaking of Prydain, it’s wonderfully specific and different land heavily influenced by Welsh mythology (while not being Welsh mythology per se). It is anything but generic and it is fully realized.
- Oh, and the characters? They’re absolutely idiosyncratic and imperfect and utterly human in their reactions from being noble, evil, and just plain dumb.
- The main character, Taran, is underestimated and, frankly, dismissed by many of the people in authority because he’s an assistant pig-keeper. Over the course of the novels he learns what it means to be an adult on his own terms. I have to think many a kid will identify with him and his struggles.
- Eilonwy, who I guess is still a “Disney princess,” is resourceful and is quite perceptive, not that people around her pick up on this. Again, many a kid will identify. Had we had a daughter after re-reading the books, I would have strongly made a case for naming her “Eilonwy.”
- Dallben is everything you want from your wise, old mentor character.
- The whole series was enthralling as a kid, but just like old Warner Bros. cartoons or the best Pixar movies, there’s some things you pick up deeper as an adult. Taran’s realization working with the potter in Taran Wanderer? That’s a stone cold truth bomb, right there.
- There’s great humor and even whimsy, but the stakes are real. As a kid, I never felt like I was being talked down to (written down to?)
Evidently, Disney has the rights back (or did in 2016), so perhaps a mini-series or movie is in the works. In the meantime, you might find the books at your local library.
And for books you don’t want to give back, there’s the aforementioned Summer Giveaway running until next Friday, July 12th.
Tomorrow, I’ll get back to science fiction inspirations… and a little fantasy.
~Bjorn Munson, Jabberwocky Audio Theater