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The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
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The Book of Three (original 1964; edition 1976)

by Lloyd Alexander

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4,448981,101 (4.01)1 / 194
Member:EmScape
Title:The Book of Three
Authors:Lloyd Alexander
Info:Dell Yearling (1976) Edition: Sixth, paperback, 224 pages
Collections:All the Ebooks, Your library, Childhood Books
Rating:***1/2
Tags:fiction, juvenile, fantasy, medium paperback, read, read in 2012, have ebook, Calibre import, @Garrett

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The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (1964)

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I have a strangely poignant memory of going to the library as a child. While I busied myself with Winnie-the-Pooh, my mom looked in vain for a copy of "The Black Cauldron." I don't recall her ever finding the book, and as this inexplicably seems to be one of Disney's least respected of its animated features, I never saw the movie version until I was an adult, and am only now reading "The Chronicles of Prydain" after finally finding a set of copies.

So the first thing I have to say about "The Book of Three" is that I had very high expectations. I loved the Disney movie, and I loved what I perceived as the slightly similar "Dark is Rising" sequence by Susan Cooper, both as a teenager and as an adult, whereas I am still not finished reading the "Harry Potter" books, and am still just not seeing why everybody raves about them so much. Maybe if you're a kid, Harry Potter is better, I tell myself. I thus went into "The Book of Three" hoping to find something like Susan Cooper, but afraid I'd find something like J. K. Rowling and be horribly let down.

I am pleased to say that while Lloyd Alexander falls between the two extremes, he is in my opinion much closer to the Susan Cooper end. From the second page, I felt that I was reading descriptions of simple everyday events that had a much larger meaning, a foreshadowing of things to come. Alexander has a tendency to introduce a lot of characters at once but not to spend a great deal of time describing them, and a lot of this story has an almost stereotypical "questing" feel about it. Yet this is made up for by the fact that the author develops characters by their reactions to what happens to them rather than by telling you how they are. There is a fantastic C. S. Lewis quality to his writing, whereby you hear important morals every once in a while, but they are told in such a unique way that they don't feel cliché; in fact, you're not sure you really understand what they mean, or whether the characters do, either. Taran and Eilonwy are at times insufferable in their simplicity and youth, but the flashes of maturity they display throughout the novel feel real and authentic, all the more so because of the naïveté with which they are so frequently contrasted. The story in the end feels a bit like "Star Wars: A New Hope." If you're experiencing it for the first time now, you have an idea of the immensity of what is to come next, and you can tell it is a sort of prologue leading up to something great, but in and of itself it contains just enough adventure and wisdom to be a satisfying stand-alone story.

I also can't get over the interweaving between the book's world and the world in which it was written. Imagine an American, in the 1960s, offering the flower children of the time a chance to escape back into a chivalrous mythical kingdom. There must have been a bit of Taran in the author for such an adventure to have come to fruition, as there is in anyone who still cares enough about heroes to desire to read this book. Yet there is a bit of those flower children in Eilonwy, a feminist awkwardly suited for her royal station far before Merida was ever a gleam in an animator's eye. This blend of worldviews masterfully highlights how much humanity has held in common throughout time, in spite of being published in an era when our differences seemed to explode into prominence. For that reason, it is hard to leave the book and return to our own little homes. Reading it makes us so much bigger. ( )
  quaintlittlehead | Oct 11, 2014 |


I started to read this book and became incredibly upset at the poor prose and up-front exposition. In the first few pages we get a few lame similes to help along an old man setting up a world for the rest of the story. Yawn. There is no effort by the author to allow these things to come out naturally through a carefully constructed narrative. Maybe I'll give it another try someday but there are a lot of books out there. I'd have to be desperate for a fantasy read though. ( )
  DanielAlgara | Sep 26, 2014 |
Similar to the hobbit, following the heroes journey in narrative writing, becoming self empowered. Faith in the good. series follows a boys transformation from pig keeper to king. ( )
  Breony | Jul 20, 2014 |
Recently read this aloud with my wife. The Welsh inspired names are a mouthful, but giving the characters their own voice is pretty easy and fun. ( )
  jscape2000 | Jul 8, 2014 |
I have read this book several times before. This review is from reading it to my son. It is still a classic and we both enjoyed reading it greatly. Taran is every boy who craves adventure. The characters are as lively as ever. There is quite a bit of humour in the tales too, especially from Gurgi and Fflewddur Fflam. Some of the names are a bit of a mouthful for an English speaker but they are generally fine. I am enjoying my return to the world of Prydain. ( )
  questbird | Jul 2, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 98 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lloyd Alexanderprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Langton, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lee, JodyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pilhjerta, Ritva-LiisaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For the children who listened, the grown-ups who were patient, and especially for Ann Durell.
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Taran wanted to make a sword; but Coll, charged with the practical side of his education, decided on horseshoes.
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Book description
Blending rich elements of Welsh legend and universal mythology, Lloyd Alexander creates the imaginary kingdom of Prydain to tell a tale of enchantment, both good and evil, and of the Assistant Pig-Keeper who wants to become a hero.

In an enthralling chronicle, Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a famour oracular sow, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil. He meets adventures in which humor and valor are blended in a way that will keep readers of all ages completely absorbed — for this is fantasy that is rooted in reality and truth.

Mr. Alexander says in his introductory note: "Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we can do. Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared. To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart."

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805080481, Paperback)

The tale of Taran, assistant pig keeper, has been entertaining young readers for generations. Set in the mythical land of Prydain (which bears a more than passing resemblance to Wales), Lloyd Alexander's book draws together the elements of the hero's journey from unformed boy to courageous young man. Taran grumbles with frustration at home in the hamlet Caer Dallben; he yearns to go into battle like his hero, Prince Gwydion. Before the story is over, he has met his hero and fought the evil leader who threatens the peace of Prydain: the Horned King.

What brings the tale of Taran to life is Alexander's skillful use of humor, and the way he personalizes the mythology he has so clearly studied. Taran isn't a stick figure; in fact, the author makes a point of mocking him just at the moments when he's acting the most highhanded and heroic. When he and the young girl Eilonwy flee the castle of the wicked queen Achren, Taran emotes, "'Spiral Castle has brought me only grief; I have no wish to see it again.' 'What has it brought the rest of us?' Eilonway asked. 'You make it sound as though we were just sitting around having a splendid time while you moan and take on.'" By the end, Alexander has spun a rousing hero's tale and created a compelling coming-of-age story. Readers will sigh with relief when they realize The Book of Three is only the first of the chronicles of Prydain. --Claire Dederer

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:33 -0400)

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Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper to a famous oracular sow, sets out on a hazardous mission to save Prydain from the forces of evil.

(summary from another edition)

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