Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander (1967) is my Classic Travel Narrative for the Classics Challenge. I read the entire Chronicles of Prydain this spring and listened to The Disney Story Origins three-part series comparing the book series to the movie The Black Caldron. I appreciated learning more about the Welsh mythology that undergirds the pentalogy.
Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper at Caer Dalton, dreams of becoming a hero and proving himself after taking part in several adventures defending Prydain from the Dark Lord. He believes that discovering his parents will confirm his worthiness to marry the Princess Eilonwy. Taran’s quest leads him through Prydain interacting with kings, bandits, and commoners. His faithful companion, Gurgi, stays with him, but the other familiar companions from the previous books only make brief appearances. Taran must discover his identity without the help of older, wiser friends. The novel had a philosophical vibe that occasionally interfered with the story telling, but overall I cared about Taran and his quest. The satisfying ending avoided cliches.
I always read children’s books with the age-appropriateness for my own children in the back of my mind. Even with a lower reading level than The Lord of the Rings, it felt dark like Harry Potter (or maybe even a tad darker). I think I’ll introduce my kids to The Book of Three in their teens.
*I didn’t quite know what to make of Gurgi and his characterization bothered me throughout the series. I couldn’t tell if he was a different species or perhaps a Welsh mythological reference I didn’t get. Even Wikipedia didn’t shed light on this mystery, so I’ll have to suspend disbelief should I read the series again.