#Believathon: Myths and Legends

First Published in 1964
This edition published by Usborne Modern Classics in 2018
Cover Illustration by Joe McLaren
Inside Illustrations by Alison Read

I read this for the Myths and Legends prompt. The Book of Three is the first story in The Chronicles of Prydain.  It is a fantasy quest inspired by Wales and its legends.  A few of the characters are drawn from legend:  both Gwydion and Arawn, the Lord of Annuvin come from a classic collection of Welsh legends called the Mabinogion

As with many quest adventures, it has an amazing map which is brilliant for helping follow Taran’s journey through the Land of Prydain.

I really enjoyed The Book of Three which, in the story, is a book of knowledge kept in Caer Dallben where Taran lives. It reminds me of The Lord of the Rings but more appropriate for a younger audience. Since I devoured The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, I knew I was going to love this, and I did! It’s a good old-fashioned quest, full of heroics, great deeds, peril, companionship, fantasy creatures and self-discovery.

Taran is a newly appointed Assistant Pig-Keeper, living in Caer Dallben in Prydain, who has been given the responsibility of looking after the oracular pig, Hen Wen.  After a period of peace, a new war lord, The Horned King, has arisen. He takes his orders from Arawn, the Lord of Annuvin who is determined to bring darkness to the world.  The animals in Caer Dallben are disturbed and Hen Wen escapes, leaving Taran with no choice other than to search for her …

So begins an amazing, action-packed quest to find Hen Wen before she is captured by The Horned King who is quite terrifying.  Of course, no quest would be complete without peril, close encounters with the enemy, and meeting companions leading to the formation of strong friendships. 

The first companion Taran meets is Gwydion, a war leader and hero from Caer Dathyl who rescues him from his first encounter with The Horned King.  He is also tasked with finding Hen Wen who holds the secret to The Horned King’s defeat.  They soon meet Gurgi, a creature who is desperate to belong and adores ‘munchings and crunchings’.  He is a wonderful character who grows so much throughout the story from a rather pathetic, ingratiating nuisance to a brave warrior, ready to sacrifice himself for those who have shown him friendship.

Taran and Gwydion are attacked and captured by the Cauldron-Born, a terrifying group of undead warriors, and taken to The Spiral Castle which is ruled by Achren, an evil sorceress. This is where Taran meets his next two companions, Eilonwy, who is a feisty, fierce and quick-witted young girl who does not suffer fools lightly. She helps Taran escape and also attempts to rescue Gwydion only to discover that it is not, in fact, him she has rescued, but a Bard called Fflewddur whose harp strings break every time he tells exaggerates/lies – which is often! But always with good intentions!

Assuming that Gwydion has been killed, Taran decides to give up on the quest to find Hen Wen and instead travel to Gwydion’s home, Caer Dathyl to warn them of the threat from Annuvin and the Horned King. As they travel, they are in constant fear of the Cauldron-Born and the Horned King, and desperately try to outrun them until they have no choice but to make a final stand …

This may be a short book (230 pages), but it is brimming with action, adventure and well-drawn, likeable characters, so masterfully orchestrated that I was completely drawn into the story-telling.

I loved the quote by the author, Lloyd Alexander, at the back of the book:

I never became a world traveller, an explorer, an adventurer. But I did become a writer, which is pretty much the same thing.

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