Lloyd Alexander died last week.
This series firmly occupies a space in my personal canon of juvenile fantasy in general, and childhood favourites in particular. (Along with Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy Boston, Jenny Nimmo’s The Snow Spider, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond, most anything by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and Diana Wynne Jones and, and, and…)
It’s got its roots firmly planted in Welsh mythology. It has (in no particular order) an assistant pig keeper, an orcular big, the horned god of the dead, a princess with attitude and a glowing bauble, a bard whose harp strings snap if he lies, and a cauldron that raises an army of the dead. And believe me, the whole is much better than this laundry-list sum of its parts. (Maybe I was never a big Tolkien fan because the epic fantasy centres of my brain had already imprinted on the Prydain Chronicles…)
And that’s not even mentioning the Holly Vesper books or Time Cat or the Westmark Trilogy, or a plethora of others.
I was quite thrilled when we got new paperback editions of the Prydain Chronicles over the summer. I was even more thrilled when a ten year old boy asked me where the Lloyd Alexander books were just last week.
I spent half an hour this past Saturday morning putting up a small display. Nothing fancy, just the SLJ obit backed with some coloured paper, and his books. They speak for themselves. And it’s worth noting that with all of Lloyd Alexander’s books on display, there’s a shelf in the A’s over in the juvenile fiction that’s mostly empty at the moment.
His last book, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, is coming out in August. He was 83.
And from his 1969 Newbery acceptance speech (via the NYT article):
“In whatever guise — our own daily nightmares of war, intolerance, inhumanity; or the struggles of an Assistant Pig-Keeper against the Lord of Death — the problems are agonizingly familiar. And an openness to compassion, love and mercy is as essential to us here and now as it is to any inhabitant of an imaginary kingdom.”
I think I need to pick up The Book of Three now and start reading at the beginning.