The Book of Three
by Lloyd Alexander
This first of five books about an Assistant Pig-Keeper named Taran draws its inspiration from Welsh folklore, and vaguely bases its settings and characters on the people and places of Wales. Thus American storyteller Lloyd Alexander has created a rich and exciting fantasy world. It is the long-ago (fictional) kingdom of Prydain, which is divided into any number of sub-kingdoms ruled by what I suppose we would call local warlords--some of them big, some small; some good, some evil.
The most powerful of the evil warlords is Arawn, king of Annuvin, the land of the dead. Among his enemies are the valiant prince Gwydion and the ancient and wise enchanter Dallben, who both come into these stories. Dallben is pushing 380 years old, and the first novel in the series, The Book of Three, is named after the magical tome in which he keeps all his power and wisdom. Dallben lives in a wee cottage on a wee farm populated by unremarkable chickens and bees, like I suppose any farm of that time. But he has several very remarkable individuals living on the farm with him. One is the great warrior Coll, whose past career is unknown to his Assistant Pig-Keeper because to Taran, Coll is just an old bald man who takes care of the vegetable garden, feeds the pig, and makes horseshoes in the forge even though there isn't a horse anywhere in Caer Dallben.
The other remarkable individual is an "oracular pig" named Hen Wen, which is to say, a perfectly ordinary sow who happens to be able to tell the future (though you have to be able to understand pig language to find out about it). And one day, when Taran has been instructed to bring Hen Wen to their master, the pig takes fright for no apparent reason, and runs away. Taran chases after her and before he knows it, he's up to his noodle in high adventure. He meets Gwydion, he falls into the clutches of the evil sorceress Achren, he makes friends with a chattery girl named Eilonwy, a wild man named Gurgi, a bard named Fflewddur Fflam whose magic harp always breaks a string whenever he fibs, and a dwarf named Doli who is very grouchy because he can't figure out how to make himself invisible.
These motley companions aren't much good at anything except making mistakes, but somehow they manage to confront the monstrious Horned King (one of Arawn's evil generals), save Hen Wen, and stave off a devastating ambush by the forces of evil. Not a bad day's work for an Assistant Pig-Keeper!
Recommended Age: 10+
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