Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three is another oldie I haven’t revisited since I was a child. Now that I’m a bit older, I can spot the host of fantasy tropes from a mile away, but Alexander blends high fantasy and humor with skilled storytelling. His characters are surprisingly sassy. Here’s the who’s who:
Dallben, the wise, bearded mentor
Appearing only at the beginning and the end of the story, he mostly goes “hmmm” and drops ominous hints, followed by “I can’t tell you because you wouldn’t understand,” but he’s also full of sage advice. He also sums up Taran’s entire quest in this sassy quote:
We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself. This is one of those cases. I could tell you why, but at the moment it would only be more confusing. If you grow up with any kind of sense–which you sometimes make me doubt–you will very likely reach your own conclusions. They will probably be wrong. However, since they will be yours, you will feel a little more satisfied with them
Taran, the eager, orphaned, wannabe hero who longs for adventure and accidentally finds himself on one
By turns impulsive, brave, determined, loyal, and prone to acts of stupidity, young Taran is Caer Dallben’s resident Assistant Pig-Keeper. He idolizes actual hero Gwydion, one of the Sons of Don, and gets put in his place by everyone he meets. Taran is too sincere to be sassy.
I accused you falsely. My shame is as deep as my sorrow.
Prince Gwydion, of the House of Don
A true and honest hero, Gwydion seeks information only Dallben’s oracular pig possesses. His noble white stead is named Melyngar. He can talk to animals.
Your promises reek of Annuvin! I scorn them. It is no secret what you are.”
Eilonwy, the only female character
She’s also a princess from the House of Llyr. Stuck living with her evil aunt Achren while Taran’s imprisoned there, she rescues the both of them and grabs a legendary sword from an undisturbed barrow beneath the castle. Rather chatty and fond of connecting current situations with other real life situations, though Eilonwy has limited life experience, she’s stubborn and knows her own mind. She’s also sassy and awesome.
I can’t stand people who say “I told you so.” That’s worse than somebody coming up and eating your dinner before you have a chance to sit down.
Fflewddur Flam, a bard of questionable talent
Besides having the best name in the book, Fflewddur gave up being the king of a very minor realm to be a bard. When he bombed his bard exams, Taliesin gave him in a semi-sentient harp whose strings snap at very specific times. Everything Flam says is awesome, but as a result, he goes through quite a few harp strings.
Oh, they won’t attack us. Not now, at any rate. They can be infuriatingly patient if they know someone’s wounded. For them, it’s just a matter of waiting.
Gurgi, the original Jar Jar Binks and Dobby
I can’t decide whether he’s endearing or annoying. How I feel about Gurgi flip-flops from page to page. We need to settle this by poll.