The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander are classic fantasy books for kids. They are fun, if a tad bit predictable – not many plot twists here. But they make very good “teaching stories” as readers can watch the young characters growing up and learning life lessons.
The novels follow the adventures of courageous Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran, the talkative and magically-talented Princess Eilonwy, the wild yet lovable Gurgi, and the slightly-prone-to-exaggeration bard Fflewddur as they fight against the various forces of evil in the land of Prydain. My husband read these books aloud to me, and I must say, kids’ books or not, they are enjoyable :-).
My favorite part of these books are the memorable characters: such as the old enchanter Dallben who often “meditates” in a napping position, or the feisty Gurgi who is always eager for “munchings and crunchings” (for the record, half of his vocabulary ends in the suffix “-ing”). And of course, I love watching the friendship between our fearless hero and the opinionated princess. Theirs has many of the “typical” male-female dynamics: poor Taran is the “dumb guy” who simply doesn’t understand women yet, and his blunders often produce the “indignant female” reaction in Eilonwy, who, as a princess, is a master of dramatic flair.
Something I see in these stories is that memorable characters aren’t necessarily “new;” they can be based on stereotypes, and then tweaked in the direction of the author’s choosing. The elderly but wise mentor, the annoying but good-hearted sidekick, the low-born, hot-headed hero, the independent and headstrong princess, etc. (Any of those sound familiar? ;-P) There’s a reason why such characters are “classic:” we relate to them and we see them in the world all around us.
I too use “stereotypes” in my work. Jesse is our hot-blooded hero who struggles against the burden of his past and background. Emer is the “princess” type: innocent, kind, and forgiving. Even Alex functions as the classic “straight man” who reacts in such a way that makes Jesse’s antics that much funnier. Of course, starting with a stereotype is one thing. It’s taking it to the next level and developing fresh, unforgettable characters out of that stereotype that takes real skill – something I hope I am (or am someday!) able to do.
What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Until the next time, keep reading!
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I have two passions: reading and writing. You can't write good stories without first reading good stories - that's my theory, anyway. So this is where I'll share with you the depth of those passions: background on what and why I write, as well as talking about the books that I read and how they impact my writing.