Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Authors of Note: Lloyd Alexander

So I've never done a series of blog posts before but I think I would like to start.

My plan is at least once a month writing up a piece on an author I think has influenced my own writing.

Most of these authors I encountered when I was young, either in elementary school or as a young teen. Each of them had a profound impact on the way I think about speculative fiction, myself as an author or storyteller, and books in general.

This won't necessarily be book recommendations, most certainly not reviews, and not even rereads. Instead I want to highlight my personal experience with books, books I loved and books that changed me. It will undoubtedly be pretty nostalgic and personal but I am interested in thinking and writing about the kind of literary traditions and histories that form the backbone of who I am as a writer.

By doing this I hope to both pay homage to writers who's work has made me who I am but also understand myself and my literary roots a little better.

So jumping right into that.

Lloyd Alexander (January 30, 1924 – May 17, 2007)

Lloyd Chudley Alexander was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature.[1] He won U.S. National Book Awards in 1971 and 1982.[2][3]
Alexander was one creator of the children's literary magazine Cricket (Wikipedia )

If I were to pick one author I read as a child who has had the biggest impact on myself as a fantasy author it would be Lloyd Alexander.

 I remember, vividly, the first time my mother read the Book of Three allowed to me and my sister. I remember being completely enthralled, I couldn't get myself out of the story. I was terrified and enraptured in turns. It was like the world of Pyrdain was living inside of me, as if it had crawled into my skin and curled up in my rib cage. I carried it around inside myself for years. I might still be carrying it even now.

Before I ever red Tolkien, Alexander taught me about the use of mythology in fantasy. Lloyd Alexander unapologetically entwines mythology, folklore and history into his stories. Chronicles of Pyrdain are based on Welsh myth, The Iron Ring is based on Indian mythology and The Remarkable Journey of Prince Jen is based on Journey to the West and another Chinese folktales. Although I loved the Vesper Holly books these fantasy novels were always my favorite of his works. 

I was already a fan of mythology and folk lore before I started reading Lloyd Alexander's books but it had never occurred to me before encountering the Chronicles of Pyrdain that I could use the mythology I loved to make stories of my own. Already knowing some Celtic mythology I recognized when Alexander wove Welsh legends it into the world he created in the Book of Three. Suddenly I was faced with a whole new possibility I had never thought of before, original fantasy that incorporated mythological characters, themes and events.  

About eight at the time it started me off re-telling and re-imagining different tales from Arthurian legend. If Lloyd Alexander could do it, I reasoned, so could I. I would reinvent different versions of the characters and stories surrounding King Arthur and his knights throughout my childhood and well into my adolescence. 

There was a brief period when I was about nine or ten years old, where I actually considered becoming a professional author as a serious life goal. I loved books, and being read to, I was already an accomplished story teller. I thought being a fantasy author might be a good career path for me. When I thought of the authors I most wanted to be like Lloyd Alexander's name was high on that list. 

Almost twenty years later his name still ranks high on that list, if for no other reason than I would over know that my books affects someone the way his books affect me the first time I read them.    


  1. You're really bringing me back to my childhood too. I loved the Book of Three and the entire series! it's such a shame what Disney did to The Black Cauldron.

    1. I think I watched part of the Black Cauldron when I was about thirteen and then quit in disgust. The thing about the books is they would probably make good movies, just not Disney movies.