The Foundling: And Other Tales of Prydain (The Chronicles of Prydain)
by Lloyd Alexander
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. BYR Paperbacks (May 16, 2006)
Lest anyone be super impressed that I’ve managed to finish another book this week; this book is neither long, nor is it “difficult” reading in any sense of the word. This is not to say it’s not worthwhile, merely that it isn’t something I’d pick up if you’re looking for a serious intellectual challenge.
The Foundling is a collection of short stories set in the same setting as Lloyd Alexander’s more well-known and popular Chronicles of Prydain; essentially, it’s a prequel book, adding some detail to the original chronicles, or filling in a few unanswered questions. It includes the story of how Dalben was raised by Ordu, Orwen, and Orgach; how Coll saved Hen Wen from the clutches of Arawn Death Lord; how Fflewddur Fflam got a hold of that damnable harp of his in the first place; and the story of why the great sword Dyrnwyn is, in fact, black. The last is perhaps the most disturbing of all the stories, in keep with Alexander’s penchant for writing children’s stories with some seriously adult undertones.
While I enjoyed these stories, I have to confess that I was a little disappointed. I think, honestly, that my expectations were a bit to high; the depth and detail of the original Prydain chronicles is somewhat muted in many of these stories, which read more like a pseudo-Welsh version of Aesop’s Fables. Many of them have a very clear “moral” that, while never stated directly (“the moral of this story is…”), is pretty apparent from the reading. And while the stories do serve to fill n some background information, some of them, like Dalban’s, tell us very little that we didn’t already know. Coll’s story is the only one that really puts a big spin on what we learn in the original Chronicles, and I’m not sure I’m entirely satisfied with that spin. But it works well-enough, I think, in context.
Those who enjoyed the original Chronicles of Prydain should enjoy these stories as well; for readers not familiar with Alexander’s work, I would start with the original Chronicles first, which are a lot deeper and more interesting. Certainly, any child who enjoyed the Chronicles would probably enjoy these too, and might not notice some of the issues I’m finding. Worth adding to the bookshelf, if this is your thing.