Posts Tagged ‘Lloyd Alexander’


A few posts back, I wrote that the closest antecedent to the classic western pulp market is East Asian “light novels”, not western e-publishing. Translations of these books are becoming more frequent, but there’s still a huge amount that’s yet to be licensed or officially translated and probably never will be. The insanely short release schedules and sheer volume of work, coupled with the general disinterest of western readers and publishers in tackling translations in the first place, dictates against us getting more than a small window into grab-and-go novels geared towards teenagers and people who want a quick read on their commute. Yet unlike other languages, Japanese, and to a lesser extent Chinese and Korean, has a dedicated and active fan translation community that brings out work we otherwise would never see. The legality of these projects is dicey, but oftentimes its the only way to read these works if you’re not fluent in the language of origin and the only way they’d ever come to the attention of English-language publishers in the first place.

What I found was that some forms of storytelling from older English pulp that has largely died out on this side of the ocean is alive and well in Japan, as well as a certain young adult ethos that characterized older middle-grade fiction but not the current predominate mode of YA. These features were especially noticeable in two series that I breezed through this year (both not officially translated, alas). (more…)

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I’ve been trying to get into Avatar: The Last Airbender on the urgings of Alasdair Czyrnyj, with the eventual goal of being able to talk intelligibly about The Legend of Korra. Avatar has all the hallmarks of a great show custom-made to appeal to my interests: dynamic animation, strong characters, solid storytelling and a “land of adventure” setting with distinct, inter-meshing cultures. Yet I find myself continually pulled away from the show, and despite watching the first episode back in December I haven’t managed to get beyond episode six. Meanwhile, I’ve been obsessively watching Last Exile even though I can’t say the two shows are qualitatively that much different (and the plot of Avatar is certainly less confusing). (more…)

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What always struck me about Lloyd Alexander was that while his prose style is elegantly simple, the themes he explored never were. I recently finished the Westmark trilogy with the The Beggar Queen (1984) and was once again impressed by the ideas Alexander played with. The Westmark trilogy begins with a familiar pattern: a teenager gets inadvertently caught up in events much bigger than him and meets a young woman who turns out to be princess, well-trod territory if you’ve read The Chronicles of Prydain. By the end, however, the Westmark Trilogy is nothing less than Lloyd Alexander’s long mediation on the Age of the Enlightenment in Europe, one that’s remarkably mature and nuanced. These are books about the impact of the printing press and widespread literacy, on the rise of humanistic ideals, on absolutism and the end of monarchy, on the changing nature of warfare and, above all about revolutions: revolutions in philosophy, politics, science.


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In a recent episode of Folding Ideas, the paper-built host discusses the problems faced by film adaptations using the Sci-Fi channel’s adaptation of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series as an example of an adaptation gone horribly awry.  I’ve decided to steal my title from that episode. There’s no argument that Sci-Fi’s Earthsea is an abomination unto man, but thinking on that particular travesty makes me wonder whether book adaptations are really worth it all. That question came to a head when I (finally) watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey last night and spent most of the running time completely baffled by the choices Peter Jackson & co. made. This touches on a conversation I’ve repeatedly had with a good friend of mine every time we wander onto the topic of the latest book-to-film, most often HBO’s Game of Thrones series.


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The more I look at it, the less I’m pleased by my map of Prydain.  There are a few errors, and at least one egregious misspelling.  After a discussion with Marie (the podcast, remember?), I decided to have another go at it.

I haven’t attempted a “realistic” map, this time; it doesn’t seem appropriate for Prydain, and working out an accurate scale would take much more time than I’m willing to commit.  I’ve used the Gough Map of the British Isles as my basis for style and geography.  I have no idea why I didn’t think of this before, as the Gough Map’s representation of Wales fits much closer to the geography as described in The Chronicles of Prydain than any modern map.  And, of course, I went back to the books to get a better grasp on the relative locations of key places in Prydain.

Thanks to Marie for help with this new map.  I drew it the same day as we recorded the podcast.

(Click to embiggen)

This should mark the end of my Prydain output on this blog, but, well, you never know…

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Not *my* photo, for reasons revealed in the podcast, but these *are* the editions that I own.

What?  Another podcast, you say?

This time Marie and I talk about one of our favourite book series from the Newbery Era, Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain.

Apologies for the audio quality.  My current laptop has less-than-ideal speakers, so Marie has been recording the podcasts on her end, then sending the files to me for editing.

Download the Podcast

Marie’s Youtube Channel

Source of our Theme Song (“It’s Dragon Tales” by Butterfly Tea)

Bonus Material

Our 21-second “review” of Disney’s The Black Cauldron:

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An Errant Memory

Most of my high school years are a pink blur of unwanted memories, dominated by a single question: “Why did I ever go to my Graduation Formal?”  However, there is one bit that I do cherish.

I was in Grade 11, sixteen years old, and it was springtime in the Yukon.  Classes were called off in the afternoon for a “school pride” assembly in the gymnasium.  After about thirty seconds of thought, I decided not to go, instead cutting back through the forest to a trail running along the Yukon River.  I was offered a joint along the way, but declined.  It was a beautiful day, warm, sunny, the snow melted off most of the trees but still layered on the ground, birds chirping, squirrels chattering, and all that.

Ironically, had I gone to that assembly, I would’ve received an award for perfect attendance.  This was considered the funniest moment involving me in Grade 11, despite not being particularly impressive, and I got bugged about it for weeks.

This is what I did:

I found a bench overlooking the river, sat down, and read The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander.  

This moment sticks with me because, with the sound of the river gurgling in the background and the bright light of sun reflected off ice and snow, the setting was utterly and entirely perfect.  It wasn’t exciting or daring, it wasn’t a first kiss, it wasn’t the time I painted the school roof, but it was calm and peaceful and I had a wonderful book to read, and sometimes, that’s all you need in life. 

So, while I’m glad to forget most everything else from that time if I could, this is the one errant memory I choose to keep.  A memory of of complete contentment on a warm spring day.

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While The Lord of the Rings is a more complex and serious work, I’ve found Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain more personally affecting.  A recent re-read of The High King reinforced my love for Alexander’s vision (and I was delighted to find that my map holds true!).  Plenty of “traditional” fantasy lies caught in concepts of noble birth: the farm boy is nearly always of a far more august lineage than once assumed.  We can chalk this to medieval romances, since tales of hidden ancestry were common enough.  Worth was tied almost exclusively to ancestry within feudal societies.

Lloyd Alexander’s message was quite different.

(The following discussion necessarily involves spoilers, so consider yourself warned.)


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A Map of Prydain

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?


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