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Prydain: Book of Three

I got paperbacks of the Prydain series for a quarter each from NESFA, and I re-read The Book of Three last night. Reactions:

* Where's my map? These little paperbacks don't seem to have the map. Even the larger volumes. I had to go find it online. I feel cheated.

* It's very hard for me to not believe this was heavily heavily influenced by Tolkien. I know, "Welsh myth", but Lloyd Alexander admits his Arawn is way more villainous than the 'real' one. And in corruptive ways that sound almost exactly like Sauron, maybe more elaborately so. And of all the Welsh personages to vilify, yes Arawn was Lord of Death, but his name also *sounds* like Sauron. Granted, there's a Devil archetype underlying both Sauron and Arawn. Plus the Sons of Don Dunadain, Aragorn-like Gwydion (both in ranger ability and in directly opposing Arawn), the fading of magic at the end, the Gandalf-like Dallben (granted, Merlin as archetype.) Gurgi sounds like Gollum, though is much nicer.

** In checking dates on Wikipedia, I find that Tolkien didn't like the title The Return of the King, because duh, spoiler!

* Alexander also says in his preface that Prydain isn't that big. No kidding. "Postage-stamp sized" started coming to mind. Okay, Gwydion spent a month going from Caer Dathyl to Caer Dallben. But I'd swear Taran makes the reverse journey in two weeks top, much of it in a week, despite lack of roads and going over (or under) mountains and evading pursuit. It's like a couple days to Spiral Castle, a week up to Caer Dathyl from there. Gwythaints can fly from Caer Dallben to Annuvin in less than a day. I'm thinking 200 miles maximum length, 100 more likely, like the Lord of the Rings squished into the Shire, with Sauron lurking south of Michel Delving.

* I remember liking the series a lot as a kid; I remember the map after all these years. But it feels a lot more immature now. Granted, almost everyone in it *is* immature, but even Gwydion's words are a lot more hackney and cliched. I feel a bit like how did when I re-read Wind in the Willows right after Watership Down, except i haven't been reading any great fiction recently. (Unless you count Banks' Hydrogen Sonata. Which is certainly different.)

Oh, and if Taran et al. make in a week, Gwydion must have moved even faster, from his hell-experience in Achren's magical prison west of Spiral Castle, back north in time to save the day.

Oh well. It was light fast fun. Maybe the others will be better. But I had a similar reaction to the writing in the two Vesper Holly novels I've read; it really feels like writing down for kids.

I wonder how the Black Stallion would hold up. That series is the first I remember really liking. (I wanted to be a jockey until I saw Feynman on NOVA at age 8; then I wanted to be a Physicist Like Feynman like half the other entering class at Caltech.)

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Damien Sullivan

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