My Goodreads Quotes

Allison’s quotes

"Don't you think it's rather nice to think that we're in a book that God's writing? If I were writing a book, I might make mistakes. But God knows how to make the story end just right--in the way that's best for us."
Do you really believe that, Mother?" Peter asked quietly.
Yes," she said, "I do believe it--almost always--except when I'm so sad that I can't believe anything. But even when I don't believe it, I know it's true--and I try to believe it."— E. Nesbit

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Favorite Books: Number Two-- The Chronicles of Prydain, by Lloyd Alexander

I remember the year I spent in third grade with sharp clarity.  It was the first year I, or anyone else in my family, homeschooled, and we really hadn't the faintest idea how to go about it.  The first few weeks, my dear mother sat Big Sis and me down before the whiteboard and talked us through each subject.  Eventually, she grew frustrated with our lack of interest, gave us the necessary school books, and told us to do it on our own-- which we did, with rather more success.  It is a tradition we continue to this day.

That's not to say my mother had no role in my education.  Quite the opposite, in fact, as you can see from my post about Harry Potter.  Although she helped me in numerous ways over the years, I can easily pinpoint her shining moment.  Y'see, when I was in the third grade, my wonderful mother did something that changed the course of my life, so much so that I can't imagine what sort of person I would be today if she hadn't.

Long before my mother encouraged me to write... long before she introduced me to Harry Potter... she gave me a copy of The Book of Three.

I didn't like reading.  Not one bit.  But surely this strange, wonderful story didn't count as reading.  It didn't have any of the prerequisites that had filled my literary experience until then: a wise teacher, a bratty sister, and a precocious third-grader.  Instead it had Taran, a lovable Assistant Pig-Keeper who wanted to be a hero, and his charge, the oracular pig, Hen Wen.  (I am sure I was not alone in knowing the word oracular before my tenth year.  Come on; raise hands!)

And then, despite himself, Taran succeeded in having an adventure!  I announced to my family that I loved reading.  Who didn't?  Reading was great!  Deliriously happy, my mother picked up the other four books from the library, and I sat down to read with a vengeance.

Young Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper, longs for nothing more than adventure.  He resents the days he spends with his wise guardians, Coll and Dallben, in tranquil splendor on a farm.  But when Taran loses his charge, the oracular pig, Hen Wen, his chase for her leads him far from his kind, gentle life and into the miseries of high adventure.  Accompanied by a princess, a bard, a monster, and the most famous hero of them all, Taran's quest becomes more than just a hunt for a pig.  He must wage a battle against evil and, in doing so, discover what makes a hero, what makes an Assistant Pig-Keeper, and what makes a man.

There are many children's fantasy series in the world, and I have read a decent sliver of them.  If you squint and tilt your head, they all go the same way.  Nobody becomes a Somebody, gets the girl, and is finally lauded for their hidden talent.  I don't mean this is a flawed or broken archetype.  I'm glad that there are hundreds of books like these out there, because it means I can hold this series up next to them and say, "It's better."  You may have heard of this pretty neat author; he wrote a children's series that's an allegory of how we grow to know God.  I read his books for the first time this year, and they are amazing.  But remember in The High King when Orddu gives Taran the tapestry, and he has to struggle over its meaning?  I remember.  I remember crying when he finally made his choice.  I know many of you will disagree with me, but the Chronicles of Prydain have a deeper meaning to me, as a Christian, than the Chronicles of Narnia.

I recently read this series for the first time in 5+ years, and I am pleased to say that my appreciation and love has only grown.  As an 8-year-old, I thought Taran Wanderer was as dry as toast, but now I am floored with its powerful message of self-discovery.  Although less action-packed than its fellows, it explores more of human nature than any book I've ever read (or at least can think of right now).

Even after eight years, I still cannot think of a single criticism to make of this series.  I'm sure, technically, something could be improved-- an unrealistic character, a heavy-handed message, awkward plotting-- but when I read these books, it is still with the wide eyes of an eight-year-old, swept away with Taran in the breathless delight of adventure.

I remember the day when I read in the papers that Lloyd Alexander had passed away.  I would've been nine years old, hardly begun to appreciate the majesty of this children's author.  It left me with a debt I could never repay, because in their own way, the Chronicles of Prydain prepared me for the adventure of growing up.

"Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what we believe we can do.  Our capabilities seldom match our aspirations, and we are often woefully unprepared.  To this extent, we are all Assistant Pig-Keepers at heart."
-- Lloyd Alexander
Reminder: Comment on any of the favorite books posts for a chance to win any book from the list!  Entries are capped at one per post; you can earn an extra by mentioning that Hannah from the Writer's Window sent you.  The final book on the list is so secret that it receives no hint and will be announced tomorrow!


ghost ryter said...

I'm 17 ... is it too late to read these?? (And I don't mind being called Ghosty) : )

Hannah said...


I just read them. The first three are fun and charming, but that last two. WOW. Talk about a heart-jerker. You MUST read them....Ghosty. ;)

Do not be put off if you find the versions with the hideous covers.

ghost ryter said...

Awesome! Now, all I have to do is muster up the courage to venture into the Junior room of my library . . . oh, the horror, the horror. : )

Allison Ruvidich said...

I know! It's something about getting taller than the bookshelves that's off-putting... And I always imagine that people give me dirty looks. "What?" I say defensively, clutching my stack of children's books. "A children's book that can be only be enjoyed by children is-- oh, never mind."

Sarah said...

I just discovered the Chronicles of Prydain last fall, actually. :) I definitely agree that these are amazing books. :)

Also, on the subject of venturing into the children's section of the library: the only time I feel awkward is when I'm looking for research books, and then only because all the books are so tiny. :P Anything else and I'm fine.

Allison Ruvidich said...

I usually play it safe and request the book. : ) I know! It's cowardly of me! I can't help it!

Allison Ruvidich said...

Luckily, though, the Chronicles of Prydain are under the A's, which is right near the edge of the section, so if you pretend to fall cunningly you can snatch them up without anyone being the wiser!

LadySaotome said...

I was homeschooled back in the 90s when it was just beginning to gain in popularity. While my younger siblings had more one-on-one attention, I was similar to you. My mom provided the books for the year and I would schedule myself and teach myself, only going to her with questions. I loved it, especially as math was the only subject she insisted be done every day. So I would throw myself into my books and finish my science, social studies, etc. within a month or two. Then I'd have a few months with only math - so much glorious reading time - until she'd decide it was time to get me another science/history/etc. book.

Allison Ruvidich said...

That sounds exactly like my schooling experience!! I get frustrated because I describe myself as self-taught, and people view me as sitting alone in my basement rediscovering trigonometry... One one year I would do a math lesson each day(my mom was particular about that, too), write an essay on a topic of my choice, and read for two hours. It's a wonderful way to learn. : )

Rae said...

Yeah, I definitely need to read these; I can't believe I haven't yet. This series of posts is giving me great suggestions for my reading list! And I am enjoying your writing style at the same time. :)

Allison Ruvidich said...

Haha, thanks, Rae! I'm so glad you like them! : )