I was never happy with the maps included in the hardcover editions of Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. Evaline Ness is a fine artist, but the Prydain maps were rough affairs that changed from book to book, reshuffling locations while erasing others. My own paperback editions don’t include maps, and newer editions drop them as well.
The only other Prydain map I know of lies in The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. While the descriptive text is excellent, as are all the entries in the Dictionary, the actual map is beyond awful. The cartographer places the Marshes of Morva directly west of Caer Dallben, sticks Annuvin south of the Great Avren River, and plunks the Forest of Idris there as well. These placements are completely out of whack, and it seems James Cook hadn’t even paid attention to the entry itself. The map is also, unfortunately, a full-page spread, so there really isn’t an excuse for such sloppiness.
In light of my disappointment with the Dictionary I went searching for a complete map of Prydain. Eventually I stumbled across a post concerning Prydain geography. Lotesse created a composite map from the four extent maps of Prydain to help get a better grasp on the place. After seeing that, I thought: why not draw my own map of Prydain based on Eveline Ness’s maps, Lotesse’s work and my own knowledge of the novels?
The task turned out to be more difficult than I initially imagined, and ended up eating two evenings and quite a few sheets of paper.
Here’s the final result:
1. We know Prydain vaguely resembles Wales. The Great Avren River is clearly based on the Severn River, though it meanders a great deal more eastwards, and that the Ystrad roughly follows the Wye. Using an actual map of Wales as a base, however, would result in an incredibly squished finished product–there was no way this would accurately represent what happens in the books, and most of the geographic features of Prydain simply don’t exist in the real world.
Nevertheless, my map follows the Welsh Coastline and rivers far more closely than Ness’s maps.
2. In the forward to The Caste of Llyr Alexander stated that the Isle of Mona was the old Welsh name for Anglesey. See above, however; using the real location of Anglesey doesn’t fit with the text. Thus the location here, roughly the same as Ness’s placement.
3. I wasn’t ready to dive deep and actually try to work out a scale. Distances are therefore conjectory, but relative distances should be more or less correct.
4. The Llawagadarn Mountains were tricky, and Ness’s maps didn’t help any (they are indistinct from the Eagle Mountains in her maps). However, knowing their proximity to the Free Commots led me to believe they lie roughly to the south-east of the Eagle Mountains.
5. Lotesse inserted kingdoms mentioned in the text into her composite map even when the locations were fuzzy; I’ve only included places where some geographical information was available. All we know about Ffleweddur Fflam’s Kingdom is that it’s a few days’ journey east from Caer Dathyl; I’ve marked its approximate location on the map.
6. The Forest of Idris always struck me as stretching quite a ways, unlike the tiny western forest in the map of The High King, so it’s shown here as growing on either side of the River Tevyn. I don’t think this conflicts with the text, but feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
7. Avren Harbour…we don’t know where it is, except some place at the mouth of the Avren. It doesn’t appear to be subject to Cantrev Caddifor, so I placed it on the southern bank of the Great Avren (as Lotesse did).
All in all, I’m quite happy with my map of Prydain. A more accurate one would require a re-read of the series. An, well, that’s a perfect excuse, isn’t it?