I got a little thrill today when I finally got a hardback copy of The Prydain Companion by Michael O. Tunnell -- a reference guide to Alexander's Chronicles -- in the mail. I've been waiting for it for three weeks, checking my little apartment-complex mail slot every day with hope in my dewey little eyes. I've wanted to get my hands on this handy guide book since I heard about it in the 90s (it was first published in 1989). My copy is the 2003 Holt edition, with a cover illustration that evokes the original Evaline Ness covers (though I think the piece itself is by Sasha Meret). And it's pure delight to finally own it.
After leafing through the book at length, I couldn't be more pleased. It's a medium-size, medium-weight hardcover, with a smooth, wrap-around cover and a purple and black under-cover. In length it's 281 pages, including 12 pages of appendices and an author's mini-bio, plus a "how to use this book" section and an introduction by Lloyd Alexander himself. The entries -- presented alphabetically between pp. 1 and 269 -- tend to be quite detailed, more so than I was expecting. (Note to self: Revise my front-page claim that this wiki is the "most detailed" Prydain resource guide!)
Tunnell deserves nothing but praise for his fine encyclopedia. Just as we do here on the Prydain Wiki, he presents several paragraphs of detailed information, describing each character's biography and personality, or a place's history and residents, and physical appearance. But he goes the extra mile by providing quotes, directly out of the Chronicles and/or The Foundling, to support his observations. He layers his entries with liberal slices of Alexander's original dialogue, narration and prose. This makes the book that much livelier a read.
Currently verbatim quotes are sparse on this wiki. For copyright reasons, I don't think we can get away with it. Even if we could, I for one would avoid it; two months ago when I began my expansions, I decided to leave Alexander's writing in the books. The Chronicles of Prydain are special and the magic is in the texts, not in some dry recounting of events or "he said/she said" summaries. Tunnell is a capable enough writer/editor to find the right balance; he makes the quotes work splendidly in tandem with his well-written synopses.
Tunnell further relates, when and where he knows them, the creative origins of each character, place, story or book: how Lloyd Alexander conceived them, modified them, wrote and/or re-wrote them. I'm extremely happy to have this material at hand; till now I've been limited in my understanding of Prydain's origins to the Author's Notes before each of the books, and to a single video interview and a single print interview with the late Mr. Alexander. Now with Tunnell's excellent reportage, we have access to James S. Jacobs's 1978 dissertation "Lloyd Alexander: A Critical Biography", and Marion Carr's "Classic Hero in a New Mythology" -- neither of which I knew existed until an hour ago.
I plan to weave this matter on origins into the entries on this wiki, without stepping on Tunnell's journalistic shoes, and doing my best to credit him as a source -- or Jacobs, or Carr -- where appropriate.
Before today, before I had so much as leafed through The Prydain Companion, we -- my fellow Prydain Wiki creators and I -- had already mentioned roots in Welsh legend in scattered entries (such as Prince Ellidyr). This area of interest, too, I've been wanting to expand, and here I'm in luck. Having been studying Celtic mythology and Arthurian legends since the 1990s, I happen to know a thing or two about Prydain's legendary sources that I suspect even Tunnell does not know (or did not as of 2003). His sources in this regard appear to extend to the Mabinogion and the notes of Lady Charlotte Guest, plus Graves's The White Goddess.
As it happens I have access to a great deal of the Welsh Triads which I know (through familiarity) that Alexander must have used, along with various medieval genealogies from which he undoubtedly drew names. So, as I continue to layer in details to the wiki, not only will I be using Tunnell's Companion as a... well, as a companion! -- but I'll be adding my own observations and quotes drawn from the same materials Alexander employed, which have never to my knowledge been cited, even in Tunnell's excellent source book.
... a book, I hope I have made it thoroughly clear, that I am massively happy to own. I recommend it to all Assistant Pig-Keepers, Princesses, Bards and Fuzzy What-Is-Its trying to make their way through a magical and sometimes frightening land.