The Book of Three, by Lloyd Alexander, is the first book of his well-known fantasy series called the chronicle of Prydain. This is the story of a young man named Taran, an Assistant Pig-Keeper in a place known as Caer Dallben. Taran leads a simple life, caring for farm animals and making horseshoes, but he dreams of making a sword and becoming a hero. One day, something strange happens to the farm animals. They begin running away as though they are frightened. Most troubling is that the special pig, named Hen Wen, manages to escape. Taran dashes after her, leading to an unexpected adventure to save the land of Prydain.
Many elements of the story are inspired by Welsh legends and mythology. I found some of the names difficult to pronounce, but I think the Welsh influence adds to the charm of the book. The ancient feel of this fantasy makes the book very enjoyable to read. Taran joins with several unusual characters who aid him on his quest and add humor and intrigue to the story. For example, Taran encounters a bard named Fflewddur Fflam, who possesses a magical golden harp. Fflewddur is prone to exaggeration, and whenever he stretches the truth, at least one of his harp strings breaks.
This book is a wonderful blend of action, adventure and humor. We also learn many good life lessons, as Taran seems to learn something valuable from each of his companions. After reading this book, I highly recommend reading the other four books in the series. The titles of the other books are The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King. These books are worth reading not just for the delightful characters and engrossing story, but for their portrayal of the true meaning of heroism.
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.