Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Authors of Yesteryear, Part III of VI

Lloyd Alexander was best known as the author of the Prydain Chronicles, five books and a collection of short stories set in a fantasy world (which was based on Welsh legends). Although it's all swords and sorcery, the books are fairly well-known, since the first two were turned into a Disney movie and the fifth was a Newberry Award winner. The books tell of the adventures of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper and his friends as they grow and mature. Among other characters you might recall: Gurgi, the shaggy creature who spoke in ending couplets, constantly after 'munchings and crunchings', Eilonwy, the analogy-loving princess with the glowing bauble, and Fflewddur Fflam, the itinerant bard-king whose harp strings snapped whenever he told a lie.

Although every book was good in its own way, the collection of short stories was my favourite work (The Foundling and Other Tales). Unlike the Narnia side-tales, this collection of stories really blended well into the mythos -- it was as if the events were integral to the main stories, rather than being woven in to prolong the series. The fourth book, Taran Wanderer was my least favourite as a kid, because it's really an introspective look at maturity and coming to terms with the self. However, looking back now, it's probably some of Alexander's finest work.

The best part of this series was the fact that the author didn't talk down to the readers, just because they were youngsters. Events happen bluntly, and people die, both good and bad. Though Taran is a fairy-tale hero in the broadest sense of the term, the stories never sugar-coat pain and losses, and the heros don't always live to see the results of their triumphs. This gritty realism in fantasy was probably what doomed the unsuccessful animated movie, The Black Cauldron. Although the movie was an amazing piece of work with great imagery in the pre-computer days, the sight of the Horned King resurrecting his Army of the Dead by killing people in his cauldron didn't really go over too well with parents, and the movie became a cult favourite. If I recall correctly, Gurgi also sacrifices his life in the movie, and Disney rule number one is to never kill off the cute, furry sidekick!

In one scene in the first book, The Book of Three, a description of the Horned King's camp includes men in hanging baskets, who are burned alive as part of a ritual ceremony of evil. It's amazing that ever made it into the world in a kid's book, especially in those conservative times. Even now, I'd bet we'd never hear the last of it if Harry Potter engaged in ritual sacrifices to gain his magical powers.

Tomorrow: Gordon Korman

Happy Birthday Mom!

Here's a couple more pep band arrangements for fun: the disco chart, Disco Dan (MP3, 850KB), and my swing arrangement of the traditional Russian tune, Dark Eyes (MP3, 922KB).

From the Billy Bob Thorton file comes this gem of sanity:
"...actor Billy Bob Thornton wants to wipe the endangered komodo dragon off the face of the earth. 'More than anything on this earth, more than any being that exists, they are the creature that represents evil,' he says. The Monster's Ball star once woke up his wife Angelina Jolie in the middle of the night and insisted they go to a hotel because he'd dreamed their house was infested with the reptiles. 'If it were up to me, I'd just go to that island and kill them all,' he tells the London Daily Telegraph. 'I would just . . . shoot those son of bitches.'"

The start of the virtual keyboard
Water beds for cows

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