Book Discussion Series: The Book of Three

***JUST SO YOU KNOW*** All of the posts in our book discussion series contain questions and reviews that could possibly reveal parts of the plot you may rather discover by reading the book.  Proceed with caution!***

The Book Discussion Series enhances the reading experience by providing a list of interpretive questions compiled by librarians of the Cleveland Heights University Heights Public Library.

The Book of Three

Lloyd Alexander has written a lot of children’s fiction over the years, and perhaps his best known saga is The Chronicles of Prydain which begins with this book.  It’s a story set in a world that is medieval and fantastic, where knights and magic both exist.  The hero is a boy who begins so low that he is not even fit to be a pig farmer – he’s the assistant pig farmer.  The Chronicles are the story of how Taran goes from this pitiful station to fulfill his destiny as something much greater.  The cast of characters is wonderful and makes the story feel very full and lively.  The language and descriptions create a world that is easy to beleive and hard to leave.

This gem ranked #82 on a recent poll of 100 best Children’s Novels where pollmistress Elizabeth Bird had this to say “To the uninitiated, Alexander’s best-known series looks like a rough copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s.  It would be an unfair characterization.  For one thing, Alexander had a sense of humor.  For another, one of the things I always loved about this series was the hero’s capacity to learn and grow.  Cause when you first meet dorky Taran in this book, you have a pretty hard time believing he’s going to turn into the man in The High King later on down the road.”  This book really is captivating, but also very discussable. There are plenty of ways to see how fantasy adventures like this series are not necessarily escapes from reality, but actually very entertaining but astute reflections of young lives.

Reserve a copy, then use these questions!

Discussion Questions:

  • How would you describe Taran at the beginning of the book?  How would you describe him at the end of the book?  Does Taran learn anything from his experiences?  Why or why not?  How does Taran’s quest change during the course of the book?
  • What do you think Dallben means when he says, “We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself”?  Do you agree with him?
  • Gwydion says, “It is not the trappings that make the prince, nor indeed the sword that makes the warrior.”  What does he mean by this?  Do you agree?  If so, what is it that makes a prince or a warrior?  What does Taran imagine makes a warrior in the beginning of the book?  How does his point of view change?
  • How would you describe Gurgi?  Is he as bad as he initially seems?  Why or why not?  Why do you think the author decided to include him in the story?  How does Gurgi change during the story?  How does Gurgi’s relationship with Taran change?
  • Most of the characters in this book are flawed in some way or another.  Which characters might be closer to being unflawed than others?  Think of the main characters and describe how they are flawed.  How do you feel about them because of this?
  • Describe Eilonwy.  What kind of person is she?  How is she of help on the quest?  What do you think of her?  How do other characters perceive her?
  • Describe Fflewddur Fflam. What kind of person is he?  How is he of help on the quest? What do you think of him? How do other characters perceive him?
  • What are the Cauldron Born?  Why are they frightening?  Why does Gwydion say that removing the memory of laughter and tears from them was one of Arawn’s cruelest acts?
  • Who are the villains in this story?  How are they connected?  What makes them so evil?
  • Who is Medwyn and how do the travelers arrive in his valley?
  • What does Taran learn from Medwyn?
  • What is the significance of the story about Gwythyr and the Lame Ant?  (starts p. 146).  Why does Medwyn tell it when he’s talking about taking Gurgi with the travelers?
  • What does Medwyn mean when he says, “It is not given to men to know the ends of their journey.” It may be that you will never return to the places dearest to you.  But can that matter if what you must do is here and now?
  • Why does Medwyn offer Taran a place in his valley?  Would he have done this for the Taran who begins the quest?  Why does Taran refuse (look at p. 144 and 151-2)?  Do you think the Taran from the beginning of the book would have refused the offer?
  • Why does the author choose to include the visit to Medwyn’s hidden valley? Why is it important to the story?
  • Who (or what) are the Fair Folk?
  • How would you describe Doli?  What do you think of him?  How is he of help on the quest?  How do the other characters perceive him?
  • Why does Taran rescue the Gwythaint from the thorn bush?  What did Taran’s fellow travelers think of his decision to do so?  Was it a wise or foolish thing to do?
  • How is the Horned King defeated?
  • What gifts were given to the companions and why are they important (p. 218)? Fflewddur Fflam: one harp string that will not break; Doli: power of invisibility; Gurgi: wallet of food that is always full; Eilonwy: a ring; Taran: to return home.
  • How does Taran’s opinion and choice of rewards show that he has changed from the beginning of the book? (p. 218-219).  Also, look on page 222, when Taran talks to Dallben of what befell him, how do we see that he has changed?
  • Why do you think the book was called The Book of Three?  What other name might be fitting for the story?
  • This is the first book of a series.  There are four other books.  Has anyone read the others?  If you haven’t, what would you imagine would happen to Taran in the future?  What would you want to have happen to him?  Did you like the book enough to look for the others?
  • The author often uses imagery (language used to appeal to the five senses).  Can you point out some examples of this in the book?  What senses does he appeal to and how does he do it?  (p. 87, p. 204-5)