The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain
By Lloyd Alexander
The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain is a collection of short stories set in the world of The Chronicles of Prydain. First published in 1973, five years after the last book in the Chronicles, this collection of short stories is set before the events of the series. The original collection was composed of six stories: “The Foundling,” “The Stone,” “The True Enchanter,” “The Rascal Crow,” “The Sword,” and “The Smith, the Weaver, and the Harper,” with “Coll and His White Pig” and “The Truthful Harp” added in 1999.
“The Foundling” is set several years before the Chronicles and tells the story of the enchanter Dallben’s childhood. Raised by three hags in the Marshes of Morva, Dallben gains all wisdom after accidently tasting a potion from their cauldron. The hags send him into the world, giving him The Book of Three as a parting gift.
“The Stone” is set immediately after “The Foundling” and tells the story of a farmer’s brush with eternal youth. After encountering the aged Dallben on the road, Maibon wishes to never grow old. Later that day, he encounters Doli of the Fair Folk, who gives him a stone that will keep him from getting any older.
“The True Enchanter” is a love story, set in the Prydainian kingdom of Llyr a little more than a decade before the Chronicles. Princess Angharad of the Royal House of Llyr is required by law to marry an enchanter, but wishes instead to marry for love.
“The Rascal Crow” is set an unknown length of time before the series. It tells the story of Kadwyr the crow’s disdain of the other animals’ skills and how his pride and overconfidence nearly cost him his life.
“The Sword,” set in Prydain’s ancient history, is a tale of the great sword Dyrnwyn and the king who misused it, losing his nobility and eventually his life.
“The Smith, the Weaver, and the Harper,” also set in Prydain’s ancient history, tells the story of Arawn, Lord of Death, and his quest to rid Prydain of magical instruments which possess the knowledge of their craftsman.
“Coll and His White Pig,” first published as a picture book in 1965, is set a decade or two before the Chronicles. It tells the story of Arawn’s theft of the pig Hen Wen and Coll’s daring rescue of her.
“The Truthful Harp,” first published as a picture book in 1967, is set an unknown number of years before the Chronicles, but likely not more than a decade or two. It tells the story of Fflewddur Flam’s quest to be a bard and the harp given him to tame his habit of embellishing the facts.
Since all of these stories are set before The Chronicles of Prydain I always read them first, but I believe The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain should be read last by a first-time reader. Most of the characters and events in these stories are referred to in the series, and this background gives a deeper meaning to the stories.
I think The Foundling is probably my favorite of the bunch. Dallben’s quest for knowledge shows that while the world is filled with pain and suffering, there is always hope. I would definitely recommend this collection to fans of Prydain, but it will likely have little meaning to anyone else.
This review originally appeared 2 March 2013 on fantasyreviewer.com