• Few writers have inspired as much
affection and interest among readers
young and old as Lloyd Alexander.
• His most famous work is The
Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five
high fantasy novels whose
conclusion, The High King, was
awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for
excellence in American children's
• In describing the influences on his
writing, Alexander once
said, "Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark
Twain and so many others were my
dearest friends and greatest teachers.
I loved all the world's mythologies:
King Arthur was one of my heroes."
• Alexander was born in
Philadelphia in 1924 and grew up
in Drexel Hill, a western suburb.
• His father was a stockbroker and
the family was much affected by
the Great Depression. His parents
read only newspapers but they did
buy books "at the Salvation Army
to fill up empty shelves.“
• “My parents were horrified when I
told them I wanted to be an
author. I was fifteen, in my last
year of high school. My family
pleaded with me to forget
literature and do something
sensible, such as find some sort of
• At one point, however, it seemed unlikely
that he would ever be a writer at all. His
parents could not afford to send him to
college. And so when a Philadelphia bank
had an opening for a messenger boy, he
went to work there.
• Finally, having saved some money, he quit
and went to a local college. Dissatisfied
with not having learned enough to be a
writer he left at the end of one term.
Adventure, he decided was the best way.
The United States had already entered
World War II.
• Convinced that here was a chance for real
action, he joined the army -- and was
promptly shipped to Texas where he
became, in disheartening succession: an
artilleryman, a cymbal player in the
band, an organist in the post chapel, and a
• At last, he was assigned to a military
intelligence center in Maryland. There he
trained as a member of a combat team to
be parachuted into France to work with the
Resistance. "This, to my intense relief, did
not happen," says Alexander.
Instead, Alexander and his group sailed to
Wales to finish their training.
• This ancient, rough-hewn country, with its
castles, mountains, and its own beautiful
language made a tremendous impression
on him. But not until years later did he
realize he had been given a glimpse of
another enchanted kingdom.
• Alexander was later sent to Alsace-
Lorraine, the Rhineland, and southern
Germany. When the war ended, he was
assigned to a counterintelligence unit in
Paris. Later he was discharged to attend
the University of Paris. While a student he
met a beautiful Parisian girl, Janine, and
they soon married.
• The young couple went back to Drexel
Hill, near Philadelphia, where Alexander
wrote novel after novel which publishers
unhesitatingly turned down.
• To earn his living, he worked as a
cartoonist, advertising writer, layout
artist, and associate editor for a small
magazine. It took seven years of constant
rejection before his first novel was at last
published. During the next ten years, he
wrote for adults.
• And then, while doing historical
research, he discovered material on Welsh
mythology. The result was The Book of
Three and the following books in land of
Prydain, the imaginary kingdom being
something like the enchanted land of
• The Chronicles of Prydain is a series of five
children's fantasy novels by Lloyd Alexander.
Henry Holt published one annually from 1964
to 1968, the second earning a 1966 Newbery
Honor and the last winning the 1969 Newbery
• The five novels may be considered a coming-
of-age story, for they follow one protagonist
Taran from youth to maturity, most overtly in
the fourth book, Taran Wanderer.
• Taran has the title Assistant Pig-Keeper at
Caer Dallben but initially dreams of being a
• His most important companions in adventure
are: Princess Eilonwy, a girl his age;
• Fflewddur Fflam, a wandering bard and minor
• Gurgi, a wild hominid between animal and
• and Doli, an irascible dwarf.
• The Book of Three (1964) Abandoned
orphan Taran and his companions race to
defeat an army raised by the Horned King, and
his ally – an evil sorceress.
• The Black Cauldron (1965) — a 1966
Newbery Honor book - Taran and companions
struggle to capture a magical cauldron that is
used to create Arawn Death-Lord’s horrific
• The Castle of Llyr (1966) Taran escorts
Eilonwy to a royal court for her education.
There she is kidnapped by a wicked sorceress
and Taran leads a band to rescue her.
• Taran Wanderer (1967) Taran searches for
the identity of his parentage, and runs afoul of
an evil enchanter and a band of mercenaries.
• The High King (1968) - winner of the 1969
Newbery Medal - Taran and companions join
Prydain's great effort to finally defeat Arawn.
• The Chronicles of Prydain are what’s
considered epic, or “high”
fantasy, with an immersive world of
magic, mythology, monsters, and a
final convulsive battle between good
• The heroes grow up from being
children to heroes over the course of
the five books, learning about both
glory and sacrifice; love and loss.
• The books can be directly compared
to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings
trilogy, with Tolkien’s works based on
English mythology, while Lloyd
Alexander borrows from Welsh
mythology, but each creating a unique
world from their own imaginations.
• Besides the Prydain
Chronicles, Lloyd Alexander
also wrote many other books
for children, including:
• The Iron Ring
• The Fortune-Tellers
• The Cat Who Wished To Be A
• And The Foundling and Other
Tales of Prydan – a book of
short stories that take place in
and around the epic battles of
Taran and his companions.
• You can find all of these books
in the Library today!
• Alexander's last novel, The Golden
Dream of Carlo Chuchio, was
published in August 2007. "I have
finished my life work", he said
about the book.
• Lloyd Alexander died on May
17, 2007, two weeks after the
death of his wife of sixty-one
years. He is buried at Arlington
Cemetery in Drexel Hill.
• But the popularity of his
writing, especially the Chronicles
of Prydain, continues to send
readers to his fantastic imagined
worlds of heroes and legends.
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