So we’ve come to the end of the Tales of Prydain. Lloyd Alexander’s young adult fantasy series about Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper with a most interesting history, is tied up neatly here, with small events occurring far in the past making big differences in the end of the story. It makes for a rich conclusion, made bittersweet by the more serious tone Alexander employs.
The story starts with Taran and his companions setting off to assist Gwydion with the task of stopping Arawn from achieving total control over Prydain once and for all. On the road to completing this task, the group faces down adversity from varied sources. In these challenges, Taran leads his followers admirably, facing difficult choices well — not without debate and doubt, but always with a mind as to what’s best for his companions and his land.
One thing that sets this book apart from the others is the number of notable deaths that occur. I won’t say who, but many of the people Taran holds dear end up falling along the way. The darker tone creates a mood of foreboding and sadness that is appropriate; after all, we are seeking the end of an evil man. Because of this, the book also has a greater sense of urgency than the previous four, with a more doubtful ending — indeed, it may not be the ending the reader expects.
The culmination of this series is the development of a boy into a man. Before our eyes, Taran has gone from a headstrong youth eager for a fight to a man who seeks truth and wisdom. It’s a worthy example for younger readers to be exposed to. For those of us who are older, we get to enjoy his development (and perhaps be reminded of our own paths of growth).
The Chronicles of Prydain have come to their end. Yet the lessons they teach — that we can shape our own destiny, that we should strive for the correct path and not the easy one, that true friends are worth sacrificing for — endure. What a treasure of a series.