Lloyd Alexander

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Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Alexander.jpg
BornLloyd Chudley Alexander
(1924-01-30)January 30, 1924
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedMay 17, 2007(2007-05-17) (aged 83)
Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of Paris
GenreFantasy, children's literature
Notable worksThe Chronicles of Prydain
Westmark trilogy

Newbery Medal
1969 The High King

National Book Award
1971 The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian
1982 Westmark
Janine Denni
(m. 1946; died 2007)


Lloyd Chudley Alexander (January 30, 1924 – May 17, 2007) was an American author of more than forty books, primarily fantasy novels for children and young adults. Over his seven-decade career, Alexander wrote 48 books and his work has been translated into 20 languages.[1] His most famous work is The Chronicles of Prydain, a series of five high fantasy novels whose conclusion, The High King, was awarded the 1969 Newbery Medal for excellence in American children's literature.[2] He won U.S. National Book Awards in 1971 and 1982.[3][4]

Alexander grew up in Pennsylvania during the Great Depression. He developed a passion for reading books and writing poetry. He attended college for only one term, believing that there was nothing more college could teach him. He enlisted in the United States Army, and rose to be a staff sergeant in intelligence and counter-intelligence. He met his wife while he was stationed in France and studied French literature at the University of Paris. After returning to the United States with his new family, he struggled to make a living from writing until he published And Let the Credit Go (1955), his first autobiographical novel. His interest in Welsh mythology led to the publication of his series The Chronicles of Prydain. It was originally intended to be a trilogy, but evolved into a critically and commercially successful set of five novels with three spin-offs.

Alexander was nominated twice for the international Hans Christian Andersen Award and post-Prydain, he received the 1971 National Book Award for Children's Books for The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian and the 1982 National Book Award for Westmark. Alexander received three lifetime achievement awards before his death in 2007. The Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University contains a permanent Lloyd Alexander exhibit which showcases several items from his home office including his desk, typewriter, and manuscripts and editions of his books. A 2012 documentary chronicles his life and writings. The 1985 Disney animated film, The Black Cauldron was adapted from the first two books of the Prydain series. It was a box office failure and received mixed critical reviews. As of 2016, Disney is in early production of another adaptation of the Prydain series.

Early life and education[edit]

Alexander was born in Philadelphia on January 30, 1924 and grew up in Drexel Hill, a section of Upper Darby just west of the city.[5] His father was a stockbroker bankrupted in the Wall Street Crash of 1929.[6] His parents only read newspapers, but they did buy books "at the Salvation Army to fill up empty shelves."[7] Lloyd read Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain and myths, especially King Arthur.[8] In addition to being interested in art, Alexander wanted to become an Episcopalian priest; however, his family could not afford to send him to Divinity School.[9] Passionate about writing, Alexander believed he could preach and worship God through his writing and his art.[10] In high school, he began writing romantic poetry modeled after the work of nineteenth-century poets and writing narrative short stories; however, he failed to acquire interest from publishers.[11] His parents found him a job as a bank messenger, which inspired a satire that would become his first book published fifteen years later, And Let the Credit Go (1955).[7] He graduated at age sixteen in 1940 from Upper Darby High School, where he was inducted into the school's Wall of Fame in 1995.[12]

He attended West Chester State Teachers College for only one term because he did not find the curriculum rigorous enough.[13] After dropping out of college, Alexander worked for six months in the mailroom of the Atlantic Refining Company.[14] Alexander judged that adventure, not college, was the best school for a writer and that US Army participation in World War II was an opportunity. The army shipped him to Texas where he played cymbals in the band and served as a chaplain's assistant. He had the opportunity to study French language, politics, customs, and geography at Lafayette College through the army.[15] He was later moved to Camp Ritchie, Maryland, to receive specialized intelligence training.[16] He rose to be a staff sergeant in intelligence and counterintelligence.[17]

Alexander was stationed in Wales and England briefly and then was assigned to the 7th army in eastern France where he translated radio messages for six months.[18] His next assignment was for the Paris office of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) where he worked as a translator and an interpreter until the end of 1945.[18] After the war, Alexander attended the University of Paris where he studied French literature and was fascinated by the poetry of Paul Éluard. Alexander managed to arrange a visit with Éluard and showed him his English translations of his work. Éluard immediately named Alexander his sole English translator.[18] In Paris, he met Janine Denni who had a young daughter named Madeleine. Alexander and Denni were married on January 8, 1946, and soon moved to Philadelphia.[19] The three moved into the attic of his parents home where Alexander spent twelve hours a day translating Éluard's work and writing his own works.[20]

Writing career[edit]

For about fifteen years in Philadelphia, Alexander wrote primarily fiction, non-fiction, and translations for adults. Desperate for a job, Alexander worked as a potter's apprentice for his sister Florence. At the end of 1948, Alexander started writing advertising copy and he began to receive more royalties for his translations, leading him to purchase a house for his family in Kellytown. However, he lost his job after three months, requiring his wife to take up employment in a textile mill to make ends meet. Alexander continued to write diligently, though no publishers bought his work for seven years.[21] Alexander's breakthrough came with his novel And Let the Credit Go (1955), his first autobiographical work which he focused on his experience as a bank messenger in his adolescence.[22] He wrote his second novel My Five Tigers (1956) about his cats, continuing the trend of writing about subjects familiar to him.[23] He found work as a copyeditor and a cartoonist where he finished his last four adult publications. He wrote two semi-autobiographical novels: Janine is French (1959) and My Love Affair with Music (1960). Alexander co-authored Park Avenue Vet (1960) with Louis Camuti, who specialized in treating cats. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals subsequently commissioned their history, which Alexander wrote as Fifty Years in the Doghouse (1964) .[23] During that time he wrote two non-fiction books for children, biographies for August Bondi and Aaron Lopez commissioned by the Jewish Publication Society, the former of which won the National Jewish Book Award in 1959.[24][25][26] Alexander's subsequent novel was his first of the fantasy genre: Time Cat (1963). He later called it "the most creative and liberating experience of my life".[8] The novel imagines a cat who can visit its other lives in different time periods, which Alexander researched extensively.[27]

Almost forty years old, he then specialized in children's fantasy, the genre of his best-known works. His wartime tenure in Wales introduced him to castles and scenery that would inspire settings for many of his books.[8] Alexander was particularly fascinated with Welsh mythology, especially the Mabinogion. The plot for The Book of Three is based on a fragment from the Myvyrian Archaiology. Alexander signed a book deal with Henry Holt and Company for a trilogy called The Sons of Llyr.[28][7] Alexander resisted simplifying the Welsh names, stating that they gave the book a certain mood and strangeness.Template:SfnJacobs After the release of the first novel, The Book of Three (1964), the series became known as The Chronicles of Prydain. The second book of the series, The Black Cauldron, followed in 1965.[29] After beginning the third book The Castle of Llyr (1966), Alexander decided his story needed to be told in four books, not three, and he planned his fourth and final novel The High King of Prydain. During this time he also worked at the Delaware Valley Announcer as an associate editor.[29] After having a near-death experience, Alexander hastily finished The High King, concerned he would be unable to finish his saga. However, his editor Ann Durell suggested that he write a fourth book in-between The Castle of Llyr and The High King (1968); this book became Taran Wanderer (1967).[30] The five novels detail the adventures of a young man named Taran, who dreams of being a sword-bearing hero but has only the title Assistant Pig-Keeper. He progresses from youth to maturity and must finally choose whether to be High King of Prydain. Alexander also wrote two spin-off children's books from the Prydain series Coll and His White Pig (1965) and The Truthful Harp (1967).[31] Alexander won the Newbery Medal for The High King in 1969.[31]

Alexander's novel The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian (1970) was rejected after its first submission, and Alexander rewrote it three times before it was published.[32] It won the National Book Award in 1971.[33] He published two picture books: The King's Fountain (1971) for which he collaborated with the author Ezra Jack Keats, and The Four Donkeys (1972). He wrote the novel The Cat Who Wished to be a Man in 1973.[33] The same year Alexander published The Foundling: And Other Tales of Prydain, a companion book to the Prydain series.[33] After the success of Prydain, Alexander was chosen to be author-in-residence at Temple University from 1970 to 1974.[34] He once described it as being educational for him and as "rather like being a visiting uncle, who has a marvelous time with his nephews and nieces, then goes off leaving the parents to cope with attacks of whooping cough, mending socks and blackmailing the kids to straighten up the mess in their rooms."[35] Alexander wrote The Wizard in the Tree while suffering from depression and published it in 1975. The character Arbican was based on Alexander and his personal struggles.[36] In 1977 Alexander published The Town Cats, which received more favorable critical reception than The Wizard in the Tree.[36] His next book The First Two Lives of Lukas-Kasha, set in a fantasy world based on 15th century Persia, was published in 1978.[37] It won the Silver Slate Pencil Award in Holland and the Austrian Book Award in Austria.[37]

Alexander's other fiction series are Westmark (1981 to 1984) and Vesper Holly (1987 to 1990 and 2005). Westmark features a former printer's apprentice involved in rebellion and civil war in a fictional European kingdom around 1800. Vesper Holly is a wealthy and brilliant Philadelphia orphan who has adventures in various fictional countries during the 1870s.[a] There was some controversy about The Fortune-Tellers (1992), a picture book illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Some felt that the story was European in origin and therefore inappropriate for its African setting.[38] Alexander's last novel, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, was published in August 2007.[39] According to Dictionary of Literary Biography, Alexander's books had "the special depth and insight provided by characters who not only act, but think, feel and struggle with the same kinds of problems that confuse and trouble people in the twentieth century."[7] Alexander helped create the children's literary magazine Cricket.[40] Alexander has indicated that he modeled the bard character Fflewddur Fflam in The Chronicles of Prydain partly after himself: "Rumor has is that we have very similar personalities. I will neither confirm nor deny that".[41] Alexander died on May 17, 2007, of cancer,[42][43][44][45] a few weeks after the death of his wife of sixty-one years.[25] He is buried at Arlington Cemetery in Drexel Hill.[46]

Awards and honors[edit]

He first garnered significant critical acclaim with his The Chronicles of Prydain series. The second volume (The Black Cauldron) was a runner-up for the 1966 Newbery Medal; the fourth (Taran Wanderer) was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year; the fifth and concluding volume (The High King) won the 1969 Newbery.[47] The Newbery Medal from the American Library Association annually recognizes one book as the "most distinguished contribution to American literature for children".[2] For his contribution as a children's writer, Alexander was U.S. nominee in 1996 and again in 2008 for the biennial, international Hans Christian Andersen Award, the highest recognition available to creators of children's books.[48][49] Many of Alexander's later books were praised. The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian won the 1971 National Book Award in category Children's Books[3] and in 1982 Westmark also won a National Book Award.[4][b] The Fortune-Tellers, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, won the 1992 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award in the Picture Book category.[50] Alexander was included in the 1972 third volume of the HW Wilson reference series, Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators[40]—early in his career as a children's writer, but after Prydain was complete.[51] He received at least three lifetime achievement awards. In 1991 the Free Library of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Center for the Book awarded him the Pennbook Lifetime Achievement Award.[52] In 2001 he received the inaugural Parents' Choice Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.[53] In 2003 Alexander received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.[54]

On January 28, 2010 an exhibit opened at the Harold B. Lee Library on the campus of Brigham Young University, displaying several items from Alexander's home office, which he referred to as "the Box." Items include manuscripts, editions of all his books, his violin, typewriter, and desk.[55] On October 19, 2012 a documentary chronicling the life and writings of Alexander was released.[56] The film is titled "Lloyd Alexander".[57] On September 23, 2014 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the series, Henry Holt published a special "50th Anniversary Edition" of The Book of Three.[58]


Prydain series[edit]

The Chronicles of Prydain

Westmark trilogy[edit]

Vesper Holly series[edit]


Two of the first six books are historical biographies, four are autobiographical, according to the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.[51][c]


Film adaptations[edit]

In 1985, a Disney animated film, The Black Cauldron (1985) was based on the first two books. The first Disney animated film to employ computer-generated images, it was a box-office failure and received mixed critical reviews. It was not released for home video for over a decade later. As of 2016, Disney is in early production of another adaptation of the Prydain series.[60][61]


  1. ^ Holly visits five fictional countries and her last adventure is set in and around Philadelphia during the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.
  2. ^ The NBAs were revamped as "American Book Awards" from 1980 to 1986. Several categories were subdivided and Westmark won one of five for children's books, namely hardcover fiction.
  3. ^ ISFDB also classifies the first six books alone as non-fiction rather than speculative or non-genre fiction; it does not list translations. Adam Bernstein (2007) calls And Let the Credit Go "his first published novel, a satire" and that book seems to be the object of Lloyd Alexander (1999) remarks on "his first novel".


  1. ^ Crossley 2012, p. 53:05.
  2. ^ a b "Newbery Medal and Honor Books, 1922–Present". Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC). American Library Association (ALA).
      "The John Newbery Medal". ALSC. ALA. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  3. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1971". National Book Foundation (NBF). Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  4. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1982". NBF. Retrieved 2012-02-22.
  5. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 1-3.
  6. ^ Gale Literature 2007, p. 3.
  7. ^ a b c d e Bernstein, Adam (18 May 2007). "Lloyd Alexander; Fantasy and Adventure Writer". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2020.
  8. ^ a b c d Alexander, Lloyd (1999). The Foundling and Other Tales of Prydain. New York: Henry Hold and Company. p. 97. ISBN 0805061304.
  9. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 3-4.
  10. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 4.
  11. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 5.
  12. ^ "Wall of Fame". Upper Darby High School. Archived from the original on 2007-08-21. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  13. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 6-7.
  14. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 7.
  15. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 8.
  16. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 9.
  17. ^ "Alumni Wall of Fame". Upper Darby School District. February 23, 2019. Retrieved 2019-02-23.
  18. ^ a b c Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 10.
  19. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 11.
  20. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 12.
  21. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 14–15.
  22. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 16.
  23. ^ a b Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 18.
  24. ^ Sleeman, Elizabeth, ed. (2003). International Who's Who: Authors and Writers. London: Europa Publications. p. 11. ISBN 1857431790. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  25. ^ a b Rourke, Mary (May 19, 2007). "Lloyd Alexander, 83; children's author wrote 'Prydain Chronicles"". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  26. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 19.
  27. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 20.
  28. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 22-23.
  29. ^ a b Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 25.
  30. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 26-27.
  31. ^ a b Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 27.
  32. ^ Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, pp. 29-30.
  33. ^ a b c Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 30.
  34. ^ Sleeman, Elizabeth, series ed. (2003). International who's who of authors and writers 2004 (19th ed.). London: Europa Publications, Taylor & Francis Group. p. 11. ISBN 1-85743-179-0. Retrieved 2011-12-29.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  35. ^ Painter, Helen W., ed. (1971). Reaching Children and Young People Through Literature (PDF). Newark, DE: International Reading Association. p. 26. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  36. ^ a b Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 31.
  37. ^ a b Jacobs & Tunnell 1991, p. 32.
  38. ^ Lasky, Kathryn (2003). Dana L. Fox and Kathy G. Short (ed.). Stories Matter: The Complexity of Cultural Authenticity in Children's Literature. National Council of Teachers of English. pp. 86–87. ISBN 0-8141-4744-5.
  39. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 19, 2007). "Lloyd Alexander, Author of Fantasy Novels, Is Dead at 83". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  40. ^ a b Gamble, Nikki (May 24, 2007). "Lloyd Alexander 1924–2007". Write Away. Archived from the original on 2008-11-21. Retrieved 2008-09-05.
  41. ^ "Lloyd Alexander (part 1 of 3)". Retrieved Dec 30, 2019 – via www.youtube.com.
  42. ^ Fox, Margalit (May 19, 2007). "Lloyd Alexander, Author of Fantasy Novels, Is Dead at 83". Retrieved Dec 30, 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  43. ^ Eccleshare, Julia (Jul 6, 2007). "Obituary: Lloyd Alexander". Retrieved Dec 30, 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
  44. ^ Bernstein, Adam (May 18, 2007). "Lloyd Alexander; Fantasy and Adventure Writer". Retrieved Dec 30, 2019 – via www.washingtonpost.com.
  45. ^ Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2007: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. 2008-10-07. ISBN 9780786451913.
  46. ^ "Lloyd Alexander". Arlington Cemetery. Retrieved 6 March 2020.
  47. ^ Prior, Elizabeth. "Biography of Lloyd Alexander". Archived from the original on 2007-11-11. Retrieved 2011-12-29.
  48. ^ "IBBY Announces Winners of 2008 Hans Christian Andersen Awards". International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY). Press release 31 March 2008.
      "Hans Christian Andersen Awards". IBBY. Retrieved 2013-07-23.
  49. ^ "Candidates for the Hans Christian Andersen Awards 1956–2002" Archived 2013-01-14 at Archive.today. The Hans Christian Andersen Awards, 1956–2002. IBBY. Gyldendal. 2002. Pages 110–18. Hosted by Austrian Literature Online (literature.at). Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  50. ^ "Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards: Winners and Honor Books 1967 to present". The Horn Book. Archived from the original on 2012-12-14. Retrieved 2013-07-19.
  51. ^ a b c d e f g Lloyd Alexander at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database (ISFDB). Retrieved 2011-12-27. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.
  52. ^ Hoffner, Gloria A. (November 7, 1991). "Fantasist Weaves Tales For Children". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  53. ^ "A Lifetime Achievement Award for Lloyd Alexander". Parent's Choice Foundation. Retrieved 2011-12-24.
  54. ^ "Award Winners and Nominees". World Fantasy Convention. 2010. Archived from the original on 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2011-02-04.
  55. ^ The Harold B. Lee Library to Celebrate the Opening of the Lloyd Alexander Collection (December 19, 2009). Brigham Young University. Retrieved 2010-02-27.
  56. ^ Lloyd Alexander Documentary Premieres at Harold B. Lee Library (October 15, 2012). Press Release. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  57. ^ "Lloyd Alexander" at Internet Movie Database (October 19, 2012). IMDB. Retrieved 2014-06-09.
  58. ^ Maughan, Shannon (September 30, 2014). "'The Book of Three' Marks 50 Years". Publishers Weekly. PWxyz. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  59. ^ Caust-Ellenbogen, Celia. "Philadelphia, according to Lloyd Alexander". Free Library Blog. Free Library of Philadelphia. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  60. ^ McNary, Dave (March 17, 2016). "Chronicles of Prydain Movie in the Works at Disney". Variety. Variety Media. Retrieved 4 March 2020.
  61. ^ Miller, John J. (September 15, 2010). "Taran Wanders Again". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved 4 March 2020.


  • Crossley, Jared (Director) (2012). Lloyd Alexander (Motion picture). Provo, UT: Brigham Young University.
  • Jacobs, James S.; Tunnell, Michael O. (1991). Lloyd Alexander: A Bio-Bibliography. New York: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0313265860.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • "Lloyd Alexander". Gale Literature: Contemporary Authors. Gale Literature Resource Center. 2007.

External links[edit]