The Chronicles of Prydain is a young adult staple series. The books have been nominated for and won awards in the world of children’s literature. They have been read widely since their publication in the 1960s. After reading Taran Wanderer, the fourth and penultimate book of the series, I have a deeper understanding of why the books are so well-regarded.
Our tale picks up with Taran a little older than he was when we left him. He has realized his feelings for Eilonwy are romantic, and wishes to marry her. There’s only one problem — how does an Assistant Pig-Keeper get the courage to propose to a princess?
Taran has no idea of what his parentage is. He sets out on a quest to find out who his father is. Adventures ensue.
The special thing about the adventures is that, wherever he goes, Taran proves himself to be a mature young man. He acts with honor and honesty, fights only noble fights, and seeks peace and belonging where he goes. He makes a place for himself wherever he ends up through his good actions. He earns himself a dozen “parents” along his path, one so desperate that he lies about being Taran’s father. Yet Taran, like all teenagers, needs to find and realize himself; only when he gets to the end goal of his journey does he realize the truth.
This is a different book from the others. Taran is in a very different head space, already knowing right from wrong, and able to restrain himself. Alexander has crafted a storyline that is much closer to traditional stories and myths in Taran Wanderer, and the result is pleasant. It retains our familiar characters while giving them room to show us that they are more than they were at the beginning through the use of variants of often-invoked archetypal plot lines. I found the twining together of our hero’s tale with folktale elements comforting. Alexander does a masterful job of making the traditional plots and Taran’s story one, and produces something wonderful for his effort.