The Chronicles of Prydain

The five-volume Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander, began in 1964 with The Book of Three, and saw new entries — The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer — appear annually until finishing with The High King in 1968. They’re set in a fantasy version of Wales, and draw from Welsh mythology, but the story is very much the tale of an assistant pig-keeper named Taran who, as he grows from boy to man, seeks adventure, finds responsibility and learns the terrible cost of glory. It’s one of the first works of fantasy I read as a kid and honestly, I don’t think any others, except Earthsea, have measured up in terms of emotional weight (and their refusal to indulge in power fantasy or other cliché). I re-read them recently and that remains true. You ought to read them if you haven’t. They’ll change you, I bet.

Anyway. My editions as a kid were the ‘80s Dell Yearlings with the gorgeous cover art by Jean-Leon Huens. I have a deep love for the first cover and its depiction of the Horned King (and am eternally jealous that Tony DiTerlizzi owns the original). The others are pretty great, too. I love that the giant cat is basically a house cat and I love those alien-looking Cauldronborn on the final book’s cover. The Black Cauldron cover is rather new for me; my original had the movie poster for the god awful Disney movie (beautiful, yes, but still awful and utterly lacking the emotional heart of the books). I’m pleased Huens shows Eilonwy, but now I am a little bummed he never painted the bard, Fflewddur Fflam.

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