Have you ever met a pig? Maybe you have. Have you ever met a pig that can see the future? The answer is almost definitely a no.
It is just that, though, (a pig that can see the future) that begins the wonderful tale that is told within the pages of The Book of Three, which is the first book in Lloyd Alexander’s series The Chronicles of Prydain.
Taran wants to be a hero. He wants a title, and a sword, and he wants to fight. But he is stuck at Caer Dallben, with Coll, and the enchanter, Dallben. He wants a title that shows his courage, and bravery, but instead, he gets the title of Assistant Pig-Keeper. It is part of his job to look after Hen Wen, the oracular pig that resides at Caer Dallben.
But, when Hen Wen runs away, fleeing the terrible Horned King, it is up to Taran to get her back. He must leave the safety of Caer Dallben, and go into the wilderness of Prydain, searching for the pig.
Along the way, he gathers to him a group of friends. First, there is Gwydion, who quickly becomes a hero in Taran’s eyes. Not only is he a prince in the House of Don, he is wise, and brave, and strong.
Second, there is Gurgi. Gurgi is neither human nor wild animal. Taran finds him bothersome, and prone to complaining about not having enough food, but Gurgi becomes just as important to their mission as any of the others.
Then, there is Eilonwy. When Taran first meets her, he sees only a scatterbrained, silly little girl, with not much respect for Assistant Pig-Keepers. But along the way, Taran realizes that Eilonwy is much braver, (and much, much more stubborn) than he had thought.
Last, there is Fflewddur Fflam, the bard. Fflewddur is known for "coloring up the facts," but his harp is enchanted, so every time he does not tell the truth, a string breaks, revealing his lie.
The friends must find Hen Wen, but they also must be wary. The evil Arawn is at large in Prydain, and he has servants everywhere, the most fearsome of which is the Horned King...
One thing I especially like about The Book of Three is the variety of characters. Gwydian, Gurgi, Taran, Eilonwy, and Fflewddur all have their own strengths and skills to add to their group, and together, they are very strong.
The Chronicles are less well known than Harry Potter, or Percy Jackson, But Lloyd Alexander writes in a way that sucks you in just as much as any other adventure story. Taran, Eilonwy, and the rest, feel real, as you read of their adventures.
I would recommend The Book of Three and the rest of the series to anyone about eight and up. There are scenes that get rather creepy, but altogether, the books are wonderful reads.
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander. Square Fish, 1964. Buy the book here and support Stone Soup in the process!
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