RIP Lloyd Alexander, author of the Prydain Chronicles

Chronicles of PrydainThe literary world has lost one of its greats this week. Lloyd Alexander, author of the Prydain Chronicles and a host of other children's books, passed away this Thursday in his home in Drexel Hill, PA. The New York Times has a lovely article about him.

Before there was Harry Potter, there was an assistant pig keeper called Taran. Before there was Hermoine, there was a feisty red headed princess called Eilonwy. I didn't discover the Prydain series until my twenties, but considering that it is just as enchanting as the Narnia series I loved as a kid, but with a heavy dose of Welsh instead of Christian mythology, I can only imagine the wonder it would have brought me (and will one day bring my children, should they decide to exist) to be exposed to it at that age.

Some of you who haven't (yet) read the series might also recognize Prydain as the first web domain I owned, and my original email address. For the story behind that, I give you the letter that I once wrote to Lloyd Alexander, and his response back to me. The man was a prince, and will be missed.


My letter to Lloyd Alexander

Dear Sir,

In addition to the "I loved your books, yadda yadda" that I'm sure you get quite often, I also have an offer for you that might be interesting…

I first ran across your Prydain Chronicles about three years ago. A friend of mine had a license plate that read "Lluagor", and when I asked she mysteriously refused to tell me what it meant, simply saying "it's a literary reference". So, of course, my curiosity unsatisfied, I had to look for an answer elsewhere.

I was working tech support for a computer company called WebTV at the time, which meant that a good portion of my time at work consisted of sitting in front of a computer, being bored. So after this conversation with my friend, I searched the web for the term "Lluagor", and ran across a web page that was a pronunciation guide for the Prydain Chronicles. Ah hah, I thought! Now I'm on to something.

The next day I raided the local bookstore, and came home with the entire series, reading them back-to-back over the following weeks. I'm sorry I didn't get to read the series as a kid, since I'm sure I would have loved the adventure aspects even more then. But the coming-of-age / soul-searching portion of the series still rang true to this 24 year old (at the time) reader.

I was smitten so much with the series, in fact, that when I started dabbling in web site development a few months later, I snatched up "prydain.com" as my personal web site address. Since then, I've turned web development into my full time career, and have been repeatedly disappointed to not be able to find any exhaustive web sites on the series. Sure, there are a lot of book reviews and author bios, but nothing that really does the series justice.

During this time, I'd also been searching the web to try and find some way of contacting you directly, to see if you'd be interested in letting me help you create such a site, using 'chronicles.prydain.com' as the address. And tonight it looks like that search has finally been successful.

So what do you think? I don't know how much you've played with the Internet so far, but I do know that the kids who your books would appeal most to have grown up on the net. So if you're interested in trying to tap into that new generation, to give increase the chances of them finding Prydain in their travels, (and maybe giving that Potter kid a run for his money), let me know. I'd love to see an official site for the Prydain Chronicles find its way to the web, and I'd love even more the opportunity to help you make it happen.

Thanks for your time (and for the books!),

Ray Hill
 

PS: Another friend of mine who is a fan of the series, and also a Gaelic scholar, thinks that she has found the origin of the word "Prydain" itself. I'm interested to know if her theory is correct. Here's a quote of the email she sent me on the subject:

"See, in Gaelic (though I don't know about Welsh, nor do I have any idea how much of this concerned Mr. Alexander), the voiced consonants tend to sound unvoiced to an English speaker, and vice versa. When we see 'B' in print and then hear the way a Gaelic speaker pronounces it, it will usually sound to us more like 'P' because it's less voiced than an English 'B'. Likewise, a medial 'T' in a Gaelic word may sound to us like 'D' because it's more voiced than our 'T' would be in the same position. (Voiced/unvoiced = b/p, d/t, g/c, v/f, z/s) So if I saw an unknown Gaelic word spelled 'Britain', my attempt to pronounce it (assuming I was remembering all this and putting on my best Gaelic accent) would come out sounding like 'Prydain'"

-- Kirsty Fitch


Lloyd Alexander's letter back to me

Lloyd Alexander's letter back to me


Chris Hopkins, wherever you are, thank you for your cryptic license plate. :)

12 Comments:

  1. damn… i have been a huge fan since, i don’t know. . . must be around 6th grade. . . and even before that I _loved_ the disney version of the Black Cauldron (before I knew really what the original story(s) were. . .)

    I feel very sorrowful now… … …

    he will be missed greatly.

  2. I plowed through all of these in 6th grade, myself. I own one of the books and keep saying I need to buy the rest and re-read them, especially as I’ve read more of the actual Welsh mythology since then.

    I was so excited about the Disney movie, and then I saw it and have since decided it doesn’t exist. That was such a disappointment.

    • I still haven’t seen the Disney version. Every Prydain fan I talked to was so let down by it that I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it. Except apoundofflesh, apparently, since he saw it before reading the books and therefore didn’t realize it was a bastardization of something much, much greater.

      I just ordered a copy of the all-five-in-one hardback edition that was briefly available through a book club ages ago for myself (because I can’t find the copy I already owned), and a copy of the individual books to give to my neicling and nephling, who are at just the right age for them.

  3. I believe I was also in sixth grade, when I first read them, and read them … and read them again. They were one of the launching series into my Sci-fi fantasy interest (I now have over 1k books in that genre).

    Lloyd Alexander – Thank you for the fine stories. RIP

  4. When I was in 3rd grade, we had a book fair, and one of the books they were touting was the Prydain chronicles. I remember some reel-to-reel projector documentary on the author and the series. I still have my paperbacks from those days. (Remember that awful Disney movie? My parents have it on DVD!)

    It’s pretty neat that so many people remember Taran so fondly. It’s a shame about Lloyd, but then again, he seems to have lived to a ripe old age. May he rest in peace!

    • A ripe old age indeed. And his wife of 62 years passed away just two weeks before him, so he clearly had other places to go other things to do. I’m sure they’ll have wonderful adventures in the Summerlands.

  5. As I said in my email, I hope Lloyd Alexander’s books keep getting reprinted forever. Children need to hear the things he said, and nobody ever wrapped them up in a more attractive and endearing package. I actually first read “The Book of Three” for a book report in a college children’s-lit. class, and then had to immediately read all the others to find out what happened!

    Thank *you* for letting me know about the letter; it still gives me shivers of happiness.

    –Kirsty

  6. I actually remember your first domain, and reading about the letters between you two.
    It makes for a good re-read, and I am glad you have such good memories of the man and his works.

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