Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A treat for Lloyd Alexander fans

In preparation to write a new piece on Lloyd Alexander (the details of which I will announce here soon), I have just spent a week or so re-reading the five-book Prydain cycle (1964–68). At one time, I used to read them every couple of years, but it has now been a decade or more since I last did so. They still hold up! They are, of course, not as dense and absorbing as Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but on the whole, I find them superior to Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia — though that opinion may raise some hackles. I have also just read (and for the first time) his How the Cat Swallowed Thunder (2000), a delightful and beautifully illustrated tale for small children. Parents with toddlers (and/or cat-fanciers), do look for it.

By happenstance, not too long ago, I heard from a new Lingwë reader who had enjoyed some of my previous posts on Lloyd Alexander (inter alia). Ed Pierce was kind enough to send me some of his own thoughts and reminiscences on Alexander, as well as a wonderful twenty-minute documentary called A Visit with Lloyd Alexander, produced for Penguin USA in 1994. The film is full of treasures for Alexander fans — including his home in Drexel Hill, his wife Janine, the original harp on which Fflewddur Fflam’s is based, a needlepoint of Hen Wen, Alexander’s Newberry and other medals, the very typewriter on which he typed two letters to me in the 1980’s, and much more. The greatest treasure, of course, is being able to hear him speak about his life, his process, and his books, with all the warmth, charm, wit, and humor that made him one of the greatest writers for young people in the history of letters. I consider that no exaggeration.

The video is in three parts. Its uploader disabled embedding, so I will simply give you the links: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3, each around seven minutes in length. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. Thanks for this! I've been slowly reading and blogging about all of Alexander's non-Prydain books (excluding picture books), and you've inspired me to get back to it. I'm only eleven books from being done, but to be honest, the experience has been so pleasant that I'm not eager for it to end.

  2. Jeff, that’s wonderful to hear. I will have to read all of your Alexander posts when I have the time to catch up on them. Though Alexander’s fan community is much quieter than Tolkien’s, I think there are really quite a lot of us out there. There are still a few of his books I haven’t read yet, but somewhat like you, I’m kind of putting off the inevitable — being finished. :)

  3. Jason, thanks for helping spread the gospel of Lloyd Alexander! Since we last spoke, I was able to pick up some more Alexander books at the library (the Arkadians, Gypsy Rizka) for my son to read, and (of course) he loved those too. The library didn't have the Rope Trick, or The Iron Ring, so I may acquire those in the future for him. One of these days I'm going to catch up on all these books myself. I DID read the Book of Three and the Black Cauldron to my son about a year ago, and was also delighted to find that the books still were as wonderful as I remembered them to be.

    I also agree with you that the Prydain books are superior to the Narnia books. I read the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe to my son a while back, and while I found parts charming, I found other parts less than satisfying.

  4. Hi, Ed. Glad to do it. I’m only sorry it took me this long. But as you can see, I have held your message(s) in the forefront of my mind, even if I couldn’t pass along the links to that documentary until now. :) Speaking of The Rope Trick, definitely look for that one — it has one of the most unique endings of any Lloyd Alexander novel I’ve read.

  5. Thanks for the link, David. I must have missed that. But you’re right: it’s a great book. I wrote my own post on My Five Tigers a few months after yours, here. Perhaps you’ve already seen it, but in case not, there you go. :)