The Prydain Companion: A Reference Guide to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain Chronicles (ISBN: 978-1627792349) was reissued in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the five-book fantasy series for children. It is best described by Lloyd Alexander himself who, in the foreword that accompanies the book, writes:
To begin with, The Prydain Companion is accurately entitled. It is indeed a companion; a travelling companion, say, or a friendly guide who well knows the country and its inhabitants, who can lead us on a journey of exploration in which we observe strange, surprising places and people. For this, The Prydain Companion is more than a quick reference or handy glossary, though it is all of that as well. Instructive, certainly. But, like any good companion, a pleasure to be with over a long period of time.
In the same foreword, Alexander states that his favourite book is the dictionary the browsing of which he describes as “one of life’s great pleasures and entertainments”. He says that one word leads to another, putting us under a spell from which we come out richer than we were before. The same sort of enchantment Alexander hopes readers of The Prydain Companion will get as they browse through the book which attempts to list in the encyclopedic tradition everything there is to know about Prydain: the characters, places, animals, and so on. The companion includes book excerpts, biographic sketches and a pronunciation key. It is put together by children’s literature professor Michael O. Tunnell with the aid of interviews with Alexander.
Obviously designed as a reference volume, this is strictly for fans of The Chroniles of Prydain. It is 181 pages of mainly text encapsulating all there is to know about Alexander’s imaginary land. If you like pictures, you’ll be disappointed for the book contains only a handful: a map of Prydain and a couple of book covers. But be warned: when you pick up this book intending to remind yourself who Hirwas was or where Angharad was, you’ll more than likely spend hours looking at other entries that seem to randomly pop up, demanding to be read. As Alexander finds when browsing through the dictionary, one entry leads to another until you find yourself under a spell.
Some entries are just a couple of lines long, while major characters, places, objects and themes are given several pages. Eilonwy’s entry, for example, is 11 pages long. It’s fascinating to discover that Alexander’s editor, Ann Durell, suggested her name to be changed to Branwen because it would be easier to prounounce. But Alexander refused to change her name, as indeed he refused to change the names of the other characters. He explains in the foreword, “She [Ann Durell] urged me to change many; but, by then, they had become so entwined with the characters in my mind that I co uld no more change their names than I could change my own.”
The Chronicles of Prydain is a seriously underrated series and does not get the attention and hype it deserves. Which is why this companion is a must for all Prydain fans. It’s an affectionate tribute, a worthy keepsake, and a solid work of reference all rolled into one.
I’ll close with another quote from the foreword:
The Castle of Llyr is dedicated to the “Friends of the Companions”. I hope this present volume will be a companion to the friends of Prydain.
The Prydain Companion is published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers.