Taran Wanderer (Pyrdain Chronicles)

by Lloyd Alexander

Paperback, 1969



Call number

PB Ale

Call number

PB Ale

Local notes

PB Ale




Yearling (1969), Paperback, 272 pages


The fourth book of the Prydain cycle tells of the adventures that befell Taran when he went in search of his birthright and the truth about himself.

Original publication date


Physical description

272 p.; 7.65 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member StormRaven
Of the five books that make up the Chronicles of Prydain, this one is the most oddly structured. It is also my favorite. Following the events in the Castle of Llyr, Taran decides he must find out about his true parentage. Taran sets out accompanied by Gurgi. First he seeks out the witches of the
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Marshes of Morva, but since they will only trade for information (and being poor, Taran has nothing to trade), he settles for being told of the magical Mirror of Llunet faraway in the mountains, which he is told will show his true heritage. He shelters with a famer, settles a dispute for King Smoit, rescues Doli and the fair folk from the power of the evil wizard Morda, runs afoul of the merceny Dorath, lives with Craddoc, a farmer he believes is his father, and studies the tradecrafts of smithing, weaving, and pottery with master craftsmen from the Free Commots. Taran finds the Mirror, a pool of still water in the cave, but it is destroyed by Dorath after Taran views only a glimpse, which reveals only his own reflection.

Taran in this book is a direct contrast to the Taran of The Book of Three. While Taran in The Book of Three wanted to become someone else - a hero, a warrior, someone famous and rich; the Taran in this book is looking for who he really is. Where Taran in the Book of Three jumps without thinking and fails at almost everything he tries, Taran here is wise enough to accept instruction, and consequently, ends up succeeding at almost every task he takes up. Without realizing it, Taran has grown up and become the hero he wanted to be.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Fascinating, the changes time brings! This was once my least favourite of the Prydain novels--a set of disjointed episodes with little direct bearing on the grand sweep of the series as a whole. The princess Eilonwy and Lord Gwydion don't even appear in this one, although Alexander finds ways to
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shoehorn in the other usuals, like Gurgi and Fflewddur Fflam. No, what's changed over time is perspective--and change and growth in perspective are what this book's all about, and so I guess it's no wonder kids (or me, as a kid) miss(ed) that. The parts of this that seemed uninspired before now seem canny--the duelling lords, Goryon-the-Valiant-who's-actually-a-coward and Gast-the-Openhanded-who's not that either, who were such hamhanded caricatures that the smart eight-year-old got all offended and fastidious--well, they're meant to be that, of course, with a wink, and the adult sees that Taran's coming of age consists in the reversal of relations between him and his fantasy land. Before he was a junior Quixote, frequently making an ass of himself because the real rules of fairyland were a carnivalized, tricksy version of the epic heroes-are-rewarded-in-this-best-of-all-possible-worlds that he thought he existed in. Not that Alexander's Neil Gaiman, a caster of masques--his Faerie is very much in the traditional mould. But Taran was the callow youth who saw it as more rulebound and reliable than it was, and when he tried to inhabit those forms by aping the epic hero, he was a c*ck. Now, he understands that things fall apart and rules are slippery, and that you navigate Faerie the exactly the same as you navigate the wonderworld of the Real (what ultimately makes all fairystories compelling)--with a dialogic sense and a reflexivity, with a trust in yourself that doesn't depend on being given "the answer" by the Mirror of Llunet, but on remaining at home within the evershifting boundaries and changes of the subject.

So Gast and Goryon are not characters, they're a scenario, a Rabelaisian or Swiftian play of overthetopness, pointed up by the episode where Taran and Gurgi are mistaken for giants--and Taran, smoothly stepping in with a narrative resolution cribbed from King Solomon, gives them the renormative "right answer" their absurd excess seeks. But then he moves on, and all the bits that seemed just a little bit off to the child--the understanding-seeker, the pattern-finder, the narrative-synthesizer--seem appropriately ironized now. I won't do the list; but that's how I found it. And so when Taran goes through another fairy-sequence at the end, learning in heavily symbolic, conventionalized ways that life is in turn a net for catching fish, a smithy for the tempering, a loom for the weaving, clay to be moulded--what he's really learning is that humanness precedes genre, milieu, even fictionality or nonfictionality. He's learning how to see things in shades of grey--that would be the simplest way to boil all this down (the most black-and-white way, ha ha) and that when you know who you are you can wake up and handle yourself tomorrow in a Prydainish cantrev or a call centre. I remember being young and thankfully fitting the Free Commots and Taran's defense thereof into a proto-socialist narrative that does that young kid credit, but it's not what was actually going on. It's showing not only that common folk, and all the craftsman sh*t they do that the kid was bored by but the adult reflects on with the tolerance of one who has worked, are more important than the Lord Gwydions, but that what you do doesn't depend on your provenance or the story in which you find yourself. There's no epic arc or reward for Taran as he toils beside Craddoc, the good man who's kept him there with lies. There's just knowing that he did his best--confidence in his own strength and a sense of how to engage with, cover for, and in time heal and ameliorate his weaknesses. There's just himself, the only achievable constant (and that only in a very complex sense) in strange, shifting, surprising human life.
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LibraryThing member SamuelFlanders
The first half of this book is somewhat boring. But, once it hits the middle, it gets really good and interesting. However, it gets even better in the last few chapters when Taran, the main character, begins wandering around and learning a lot of different skills and ideas from different people
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that share them with him. He also, in this part of the book, is in a setting (a setting that everyone always is in) where he is learning from those older than him and being a follower, to turning around and being a leader to those younger than him. That situation is really cool to see in this book because Taran, when being the leader, is leading someone that is in the exact same position that he was in at the beginning of these chronicles. It's funny because Taran has grown up and matured so much since then and he now has the opportunity to help another go through the same process.
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LibraryThing member eilonwy_anne
This was perhaps my least favorite Prydain book growing up; now, it is my most favorite. I cannot help but identify more strongly with it every time I read it. Its message of continuing self-discovery, the way we fail ourselves but keep going, rings stronger and stronger the older I get. This is,
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for me, the book about growing up. It should never stop compelling me, because I don't plan to stop growing.
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LibraryThing member HippieLunatic
Taran Wanderer is either a book you will love most of the five or the one you will like least, it seems. As for me, the fourth of the series is perhaps my favorite.

Learning who you are is a journey that each of us must take, but few of us have the influences of such a strong cast of supporting
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characters. Yes, this is a book of characters, not of action. This is a story of development, not necessarily of battle. For those reasons, I, a mother, cherish it.
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LibraryThing member tapestry100
Possibly the best of the 5 books, Taran Wanderer tells of Taran's search for his parentage and the people that he meets on the way. It is the typical story of a boy discovering who he is through his journeys, but it feels like the most thought-through and complete novels in the series.
LibraryThing member TadAD
This is the best of Alexander's Prydain novels, in my opinion. It's less concerned with princes and wars than it is focused on Taran's growth from a boy into a man. By turns joyful and bittersweet, this was wonderful.
LibraryThing member atimco
Taran Wanderer is the fourth Chronicle of Prydain and one of the most philosophical. Here Lloyd Alexander pits his Assistant Pig-Keeper Taran against his own worst enemy: himself. As he grows older, Taran begins to think of seriously aspiring to the Princess Eilonwy's hand — but how can he, when
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he knows nothing of his parentage or birth? Hoping to find a noble lineage that would make him an eligible suitor, Taran sets out with his friends to discover what he can of the world and his place in it.

It's a quest story, really, but the object of the quest is self-knowledge rather than a magical item. Of course, there is a magical item that comes in very handy in one of his adventures along the way (Morda's finger — to which Rowling's Horcruxes bear a very direct resemblance). But what Taran is really looking for is within. This sounds like a very 21st-century, self-esteemist, humanist perspective (no thanks!), but it isn't because ultimately Taran doesn't find his fulfillment within himself. He actually faces failure after failure in his own abilities as he travels the Free Commots and seeks to master the various trades and callings of its people.

When he does find Craddoc, a humble shepherd-farmer who claims to be his father, Taran must make the hardest choice of all. Throughout the story there's a clear-cut villain in Dorath the outlaw, but on reflection I think he is really just a personification of Taran's own worst side: what he could become.

After The Castle of Llyr, this was one of my less-loved of the Prydain stories, probably due to the lack of battles and enchantments and traditionally heroic deeds. But rereading as an adult has made me appreciate its depth a little more. The direction Alexander takes his story is so much more genuine and wholesome than the usual Disney tripe of "look within to find your destiny." Character is critical but it's outside ourselves we must look for lasting fulfillment. What a fantastic setup for the final and most moving Prydain Chronicle... recommended!
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LibraryThing member jscape2000
My memory was that this was my favorite book of the series, and the audiobook did not disappoint. Taran is at his best when he is separated from his more able companions; his weakness and inexperience made him easy for me to identify with as a kid, and as an adult I find it all the more appealing.
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While Gwydion and to a lesser extent Eilonwy are both Mary Sues, Taran comes more slowly to find his defining characteristic. Unusual in fantasy lit, Taran is repeatedly bested in battle. The part of the book I remembered most clearly was the time he spends among the common folk learning their trades. It is poignant and grounding as an introduction a side of the world rarely seen in fantasy and especially in young adult fantasy. And yet it is just fantastic enough that the young man would show quick aptitude for such diverse tasks that in my memory it shines as the best part of the series; I was surprised on this re-read to find what a short chapter of the novel it was.
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LibraryThing member aharey
The fourth book in the Chronicles of Prydain, Taran Wanderer is a departure from the previous books. Eilonwy doesn't appear in this book and there is no set adventure. Instead, we follow Taran as he tries to discover who his parents were. He has many adventures along the way, some good and some
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Although different from the other books in the series, Taran Wanderer actually sets the stage for the fifth book. I really enjoyed this book. This book is quieter than the rest of the series. Taran is the only constant as he searches the entire breadth of Prydain for his parents. Eilonwy is only present in Taran’s thoughts and Ffleweddur only appears in different scenes. Gurgi is never far from his master, but this is truly Taran’s story.
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LibraryThing member g026r
Alexander's writing has certainly improved over The Book of Three, and the obvious Tolkien-swipes have all but vanished. Unfortunately, plot-wise this one seems somewhat unsatisfying, feeling more a series of loosely connected moral vignettes than a proper tale.
LibraryThing member library_girl27
The title of this book says it all. Taran wanders. And wanders and wanders. He meets many people and trys many things and grows up. The weakest and most boring of the Prydain series, but necessary in the whole scheme of Taran and his story of discovering who he is.
LibraryThing member kraaivrouw
This is not my favorite of The Chronicles of Prydain. I think I like it less because it is so much more traditional in its form and is focused squarely on Taran. There's some lovely writing here and the story itself has some beautiful bittersweet moments, but the almost ritualistic hero's journey
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of this book leaves me a little cold.

With Eilonwy off learning to be a proper princess, Taran and Gurgi set off to discover who Taran's parents are. Along the way they meet bandits (like Robin Hood, only not very pleasant - then again, maybe Robin Hood wasn't all that pleasant, either) and farmers and craftsmen and Taran makes stops along the way learning what each of them does, trying on each kind of life like a new cloak.

There's plenty of learning to be had here and lots of character development, but not nearly as much humor and without Eilonwy I don't like the book as much. I guess she's my hero in these books.
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LibraryThing member tloeffler
The series continues. Taran and Gurgi go out on their own to seek Taran's roots. There is some adventure in this story, but not as much as in previous books. This seems to be more of a Taran-coming-of-age book, where he helps various workers, and through these experiences learns more about himself
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than any ancestry search could show him.
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LibraryThing member jasmyn9
Taran has finally admitted his feeling for the Princess Eilonwy. The problem now is that he doesn't believe that his bloodlines are worthy of her. She is a princess after all, and he is but a lowly assistant pig keeper, a orphan that does not know where he really came from. So he sets of with the
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ever faithful Gurgi as his companion in a quest to find out who he is.

We are visited by several old friends from previous books in the series and introduced to a handful of new bad guys. I have to say the bad guys are getting better - or more badder? - as the series progresses and more and more inventive plans are needed to foil their plots.

Taran learns much about himself through his journey and learns some very important lessons along the way, with one of the most important being about who he really is. I loved the sorcerer, Morda. It seems all of man's faults are wrapped up quite nicely in one little package. Fflewddur returns with Llyan, such a wonderful friend that manages to save the day at least once. Kaw, the pesky crow shows us that help comes from the least likely places. And of course the faithful Gurgi, the best friend Taran could ever have is along for the ride.

I think this will have to be my favorite so far in the series. With just one more left, The High King, I can't wait to see how everything ends.

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LibraryThing member The_Hibernator
In Taran Wanderer, Taran sets out to find out exactly who he is. It has less action than the earlier three books (or the fifth book), but it’s still fun to adventure through Prydain and let Taran develop into a man.
LibraryThing member loafhunter13
Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, who wants to be a hero, goes questing for his parentage in hope that will prove noble for the sake of Eilonwy, the princess with the red-gold hair. Accompanied by several loyal friends, Taran begins his search and is sent by three enchantresses of the Marshes of Morva
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to consult to Mirror of Llunet for the answers he is seeking. In his adventures, he learns life’s hardest lesson, to accept failure. Taran Wanderer, in a moving climax at the mirror, learns his own identity and the secret of the mirror. This book is more mature than the rest of the series and is an attempt at a coming of age tale for Taran. It as such moves slower and has more introspection or what passes for it. Taran, as a character, maintains his selfishness, whininess, and lack of empathy but under the guise of being more mature. The side characters performs their normal roles with little growth or hope for development. The message of the book is salvageable but its packaging leaves much to be desired.
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LibraryThing member TnTexas
This one was slower than the previous three as far as action and adventure go. As an adult, I still enjoyed the book quite a bit, but it's been my kids' least favorite so far.
LibraryThing member SunnySD
With Eilonwy away learning to be a lady, Taran find himself yearning for something more... something that will make him worthy of her... noble parentage. And so he goes adventuring, loyal Gurgi at his side, finding much hardship and few answers until at last he sees what was right in front of him
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all along.

Traditional questing, much toil, and plenty of lessons to be learned.
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LibraryThing member hobbitprincess
The fourth book in the Prydain series is probably my favorite so far. Taran goes on a quest to seek the truth about his parents and encounters many adventures along the way. In the last half of the book, he learns many valuable lessons, lessons that can work for young readers too. He does seek what
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he is after, but not in the way the reader would expect. This book is probably more thoughtful and deep than the other three, at least in my opinion.
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LibraryThing member humouress
Having been taken in as a foundling by the sorcerer Dallben, and now missing his childhood friend,the Princess Eilonwy, Taran sets off on a quest (with the ever faithful Gurgi in tow) to discover his heritage before he can act on his feelings for her. But will he be as satisfied if he finds he
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comes of common stock rather than noble, as he dreams?

This is book 4 of the Chronicles of Prydain. I feel the story flows more smoothly this time, with some nice details and descriptions. However, the passage of time is somewhat glossed over, such as when Taran is hard at work learning the intricacies of a craft from basics through to the finished product. This is a nicely written children's book about the magical land of Prydain.
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LibraryThing member bookwitch24
While Taran and his friends still face adventures in this book, the main adventure is that of self-discovery. This gives it a bit of a different set up from the rest of the books. When I first read it as a child, I didn't like it as much as the others, but now that I'm older I can appreciate it
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LibraryThing member -Eva-
Taran the Assistant Pig-Keeper becomes Taran the Wanderer in order to ascertain his parentage and in the process becomes close friends with the non-royal inhabitants of Prydain and manages to learn what is really of importance in life. Not as much magic as in the other books, but a bildungsroman
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that sets the stage for the final installment. Without the knowledge Taran gains in these travels, the finale would not be as powerful as it is.
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LibraryThing member Hamburgerclan
It's odd that the fourth book in a series of five should stand out as the best, but there you go. After a couple of enjoyable but unimpressive sequels to "The Book of Three", this book breaks formula and focuses on the assistant pig-keeper, Taran. He's growing up and realizes his love for a certain
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lady. This orphan lad feels unworthy to seek her hand, however, until he discovers the truth behind his parentage. So he goes off on a quest, leaving the cliches and most of the supporting cast behind. I guess I may even have to steal this one from my kids.
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LibraryThing member JenJ.
Definitely my favorite of the Prydain Chronicles so far, Taran Wanderer follows Taran and Gurgi on their journey as Taran seeks to learn the truth of his birth in hopes of being worthy of the hand of Princess Eilonwy. Told in picaresque style rather than the high fantasy style of the previous
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novels, Taran learns many things from a variety of sources before his journey is through. This whole thing just seemed to ring more true to me than the previous high-flying adventures.

Listening to Listening Library edition narrated by James Langton. Previously read for Children's Literature in Spring 2007.
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