An ongoing graphic adaptation of The Book of Three
February 2, 2024 3:45 AM   Subscribe

"This is my graphic adaptation of the first book in The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of children's books by Lloyd Alexander, an award-winning American author. The Book of Three was first published in 1964. This series of five books is a coming-of-age tale using the classic monomyth framework, a high fantasy written for children but often beloved by adults, who remain the most ardent fans. My adaptation is a labor of love. It is unauthorized, and the original books are still under copyright. My only profit in its creation is the joy and satisfaction of making this world come to life in a visual format, and connecting with other fans of the series."
posted by cupcakeninja (22 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Excited to dig into this later! I read these books so very many times growing up and this is an amazing gift this morning. Still holding out hope that this gets adapted into a premium TV series at some point by a gifted writers room that gets it.
posted by bfranklin at 5:02 AM on February 2 [5 favorites]

The Prydain series was my absolute favorite growing up - I went as Taran from the cover of The Castle of Llyr for Halloween in 4th grade (a costume absolutely nobody else recognized). It's lovely to see them getting some wonderful treatment like this from someone else who clearly loves them deeply as well.
posted by Zargon X at 5:28 AM on February 2 [5 favorites]

I know it's not the same, but this led me down a path of rediscovering "the three detectives", which I fell in love with when I snuck them from my big brother's room. I had really progressive parents, but at that time it meant Harriet the Spy and Nancy Drew (girl "power" ish characters). Also, the series has apparently had a 2nd life in Germany.
posted by atomicstone at 5:40 AM on February 2 [2 favorites]

atomicstone, yes! I feel like the internet has given them a second life, in the form of folks who read them connecting with others who did, too, and there's even a teeny-tiny amount of scholarship about them. Their 2nd life in Germany is interesting, up to and including the inspiration (maybe? I have yet to see an explicitly made link, though the name would seem to be a dead giveaway) for a recent small-screen adaptation, or "inspired by" similar series.
posted by cupcakeninja at 5:57 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Wait, are "The Three Detectives" the same as "The Three Investigators", the children's detective stories that inexplicably featured Alfred Hitchcock for no apparent reason? (It is now my headcanon that this is the Book of Three referred to in the title. "Whatcha reading, Dalben?" [slams book wildly] "uh, A BOOK OF MYSTERIES THAT YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR")

This is really nicely illustrated, and the Prydain books, in particular Taran Wanderer, are worth revisiting.
posted by phooky at 6:29 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]

no one ever gets Gurgi right
posted by logicpunk at 6:40 AM on February 2 [7 favorites]

I am really enjoying this, thank you so much for posting! The illustrations are beautiful, and the artist's interpretations of the characters so expressive. And of course now I'd like to re-read the books as well - it's been a long time.
posted by beryllium at 6:42 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Oooh this one should have been on that 50 best fantasy list.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 6:47 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]

Is there some way to navigate this illustrated version other than page at a time or hacking URLs to guess? I'd love to skip to, say, seeing Gurgi's introduction. The art's good enough I'd enjoy reading this as a proper ebook, for that matter, but I assume given the unlicensed nature of it that will be difficult.

I loved these books as a kid, they're as imaginative as Tolkien but way more fun. I re-read the first book recently and was surprised at how well it held up. I particularly appreciated what a strong character Eilonwy was. She's not the main character but she has plenty of agency and personality, a rare young woman character for fantasy of that era. Particularly interesting when considering Le Guin's comments about how she felt she failed as a feminist writing the Earthsea books.

Gurgi is also a fascinating character. His absolute strangeness, his craven incompetence that hides real heroism and capability. It's nice to see a demi-human be a hero instead of a villain like Gollum. I think as a kid I connected him to Chewbacca. The fan wiki has some alternate Gurgi illustrations including one Wookie.
posted by Nelson at 6:51 AM on February 2

I always had a vision of Gurgi in my head as a kid that was more sort of a mini-sasquatch. Very human looking, but just particularly hairy. Somewhere along the line, though, I saw the Disney version and that sort of supplanted it for no good reason.
posted by Zargon X at 6:57 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Nelson: Is there some way to navigate this illustrated version other than page at a time or hacking URLs to guess?

There's a table of contents for the page-by-page version, and also a scrolling version with its own table of contents.
posted by beryllium at 7:07 AM on February 2 [5 favorites]

It's impossible to get Gurgi right. I think the novels' refusal to specify too many particulars of the character's appearances is one of their strengths. There's this lovely interview with Lloyd Alexander from the 1990's (previously) in which he shows off a few dolls and models of characters from the Prydain books that fans had sent him over the years and remarks on how they've been transformed by the reader's imaginations.
posted by phooky at 7:19 AM on February 2 [9 favorites]

Oh this is lovely! I ate these up around 3rd grade or so, most of the Welsh mythology sailed over my head but so much fun. Taran is such a blockhead for so long though, like multiple books in until he's tolerable. Then later Taran Wanderer is great. I suppose I have more compassion for him as an adult than I did as a pre-adolescent.
posted by Wretch729 at 7:26 AM on February 2 [3 favorites]

I loved these as a kid. I also always wondered whether George Lucas was inspired by it. I mean - a farmboy longing for adventure has to retrieve a runaway mcguffin that carries the secret to defeating the bad guy?
posted by condour75 at 7:43 AM on February 2

I love these books (recently re-read, there's a nice omnibus edition that includes some short stories set in Prydain). One thing that always stuck with me (spoiler alert for a 60-year old book) is that while Taran spends the series searching for his heritage (is he of "noble blood" or not?), in the end blood doesn't matter. It's the nobility of spirit which counts.
posted by Ishbadiddle at 7:47 AM on February 2 [4 favorites]

I loved these books so much as a kid that I wrote Alexander a letter asking him to write more. Never heard back, sadly.

(I always imagined Gurgi as a scruffy, kid-sized muppet.)
posted by gottabefunky at 9:00 AM on February 2 [1 favorite]

I started reading these as a kid. I bought one from the book fair based on its description, back when you had to put in the order form and get the books later.

Imagine my surprise when the book I got was not in fact about Tarzan, but Taran. I won't lie: I was disappointed. But then I started reading the book.

Reader, The Chronicles of Pyrdain are really good. Best happy accident of my young life to that point.
posted by nushustu at 10:50 AM on February 2 [5 favorites]

It's been more than 40 years since I read these books, but I do recall enjoying them. This labor of graphical love is simply amazing - kudos to her.
posted by davidmsc at 11:15 AM on February 2

I have to check when I get back home, but I'm pretty sure my nearly 15-year-old son STILL has the map of Prydain stuck to the back of the door to his room. I read him the series when he was what, 2nd or 3rd grade? Then he read them himself. Time Cat was his gateway to Lloyd Alexander, and it turns out the Prydain books came out of Alexander's research into Welsh mythology when writing Time Cat. (My son very much loves cats, so he'll read nearly anything that includes cats in a favorable light!)
posted by caution live frogs at 12:10 PM on February 2 [2 favorites]

I had never met someone named Taran, as a kid, or heard the name spoken. So, the whole time I was reading those those books (again and again), I was pronouncing it "ta-RAN".

Twenty years later, I met someone named Taran ("TEAR-an"). Blew my mind.
posted by gurple at 12:24 PM on February 2 [1 favorite]

Twenty years later, I met someone named Taran ("TEAR-an"). Blew my mind.

What my friends and I did with "Eilonwy" was surely near-criminal. Though, now I think of it, I still don't know how to pronounce it.
posted by Well I never at 12:51 PM on February 2

I watched the video posted by phooky and found the top YouTube comment to be really lovely:

3 years ago (edited)
When I was around twelve I called Lloyd Alexander. I called him just to tell him what an impact his books had on me (I initially hung up the phone because I was so scared of speaking to him). I was living in South Africa at the time. He was just so gracious and humbled by this little boy calling from the other side of the globe. He spoke such kind words and encouraged me to write and use my own experiences in my stories. We ended up corresponding occasionally through mail. He typed all of his letters on that exact type writer and I still keep those letters. There are have been many writers but few have such authenticity and kindness and insight into people both young and old, that I feel so lucky to know his work and to have shared just a few words with him. A year does not go by where I do not think of this wonderful human being.

posted by imabanana at 3:48 AM on February 3 [4 favorites]

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