Paperback, 190 pages
Published May 16th 2006 by Square Fish
(I read a different version than is pictured here)
“Most of us are called on to perform tasks far beyond what 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.”
The Book of Three by Llord Alexander is present on the reading list that Professor Judith Saltman hands out to new students in the Masters of Arts in Children’s Literature program at UBC. This list contains the names of nearly all the books that have done a lot to define what children’s literature is. I never got around to reading this when I should have because I was too busy reading other books so when I was asked to give this chance for the blog tour, I thought, “why not?” I plunged into the novel and almost immediately (and even though I usually find it difficult to relate to male protagonists) I was immersed into the story and engaged by Taran. I actually really like Taran’s name; it feels like music on my lips.
The novel falls in the high fantasy genre with a secondary world that is not at all related to the human world as we know it apart from being populated by human beings. Taran lives on a small estate in Prydain which is, as Lloyd Alexander insists in his foreword, not Wales but with certain undeniable similarities to Wales. Taran has grand dreams about being a hero and fighting the enemy. However, all his efforts to move out of his humble station as an Assistant Pig-Keeper is thwarted by Dallben, the master of Caer Dallben, the estate on which Taran lives. When a strange enemy causes panic amongst the animals Taran is slightly responsible for and leads to the escape of the future-telling pig he is completely responsible for, Taran has no choice but to live his safe, but limiting, home to find this very important pig.
On the 50th anniversary of this book, one can’t help but question whether modern readers will still be able to relate to and engage with the story of Taran and his journey to his place in the world. Obviously the answer is yes. What resonated most with me was Taran’s desire to be more than what he is. His unwillingness to accept his station in life as all that he can be spoke to me. When Taran sets off on his journey, he meets a lot of people and learns a lot of lessons that lead to him re-evaluating his priorities. The similarities this novel has with The Lord of the Rings is striking and it makes me wonder how much of the same foundational folklore both texts use.
Here’s a list of sorts of characters present in both Tolkien’s texts and The Book of Three:
Medwyn, a wizard character with a great love for animals and nature bears a great deal of resemblance to Beorn.
Gurgi may as well be Gollum.
Doli could be Gimli.
Gwydion is obviously another name for Aragorn.
Taran himself could be Frodo.
The point is, I found The Book of Three to be more approachable than The Lord of the Rings (sorry!). It has a fast pace and it contains Eilonwy, a female character that The Lord of the Rings is very much lacking. I loved how sassy and fun she is. Her character presents an interesting foil to Taran’s rather strait-laced personality. She adds colour and spice to the narrative that would have been lacking had she been absent. I even liked the pig though I’m not sure she is worth all the trouble she caused. The novel is a perfect introduction to fantasy for younger readers. It is very accessible and a LOT of fun.
If I did have trouble with anything, it would be how we are told Taran is this noble and heroic person and maybe it’s because I’m an older reader and a cynic, but I wasn’t convinced. I felt that the insistence on Taran’s heroic and noble nature was a big heavyhanded and I could have done without it. However, when all is said and done, I enjoyed this novel. Why hasn’t it been made into a movie yet? What is Peter Jackson doing? Hasn’t anyone sent him a copy of the book yet?
More blogs participating in the tour:
Monday September 22
Tuesday September 23
Wednesday September 24
Thursday September 25
Friday September 26
Monday September 29
Tuesday September 30
Wednesday October 1
Thursday October 2
Friday October 3