"There's this huge number of desperate people." -- Lloyd Alexander
Lloyd Chudley Alexander (January 30, 1924 — May 17, 2007) was a widely influential American author of more than forty books, mostly fantasy novels for children and adolescents, as well as several adult books. His most famous contribution to the field of children's literature is the fantasy series The Chronicles of Prydain. The concluding book of the series, The High King, was awarded the Newbery Medal in 1969. Alexander's other books have also won multiple National Book Awards. He was also one of the creators of children's literary magazine Cricket.
"After I saved some money, I quit work and went to a local college.""After seven years of writing - and working many jobs to support my family - I finally got published.""All that writers can do is keep trying to say what is deepest in their hearts.""Eventually, I was sent to Wales and Germany, and after the war, to Paris.""I decided that adventure was the best way to learn about writing.""I loved all the world's mythologies.""If writers learn more from their books than do readers, perhaps I may have begun to learn.""It was 1943. The U.S. had already entered World War II, so I decided to join the army.""King Arthur was one of my heroes - I played with a trash can lid for a knightly shield and my uncle's cane for the sword Excalibur.""Most of my books have been written in the form of fantasy.""My concern is how we learn to be genuine human beings.""My family pleaded with me to forget literature and do something sensible, such as find some sort of useful work.""My parents were horrified when I told them I wanted to be an author.""Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain, and so many others were my dearest friends and greatest teachers.""Using the device of an imaginary world allows me in some strange way to go to the central issues - it's one of many ways to express feelings about real people, about real human relationships.""We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.""When I was discharged, I attended the University of Paris and met a beautiful Parisian girl, Janine. We soon married and eventually returned to the States."
Alexander was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1924 and grew up in the suburb of Drexel Hill. His father was a stockbroker, and their family was greatly affected by the Great Depression. According to Alexander, his parents didn't read books and only bought them from the Salvation Army "to fill up empty shelves."
Alexander graduated in 1940 from Upper Darby High School, where he was inducted into the school's Wall of Fame in 1995. He decided he wanted to be a writer at age 15, but his parents were so upset that they placed him at Haverford College just down the road from home (although he left after completing only a single term). Looking for adventure, he served during World War II in the US Army, where he rose to be a staff sergeant in intelligence and counterintelligence after he trained in Wales, which would become the setting of many of his books. Alexander then attended the University of Paris, where he met Janine Denni. They were married in 1946.
Alexander died on May 17, 2007, two weeks after the death of his wife of sixty-one years. He is buried at Arlington Cemetery Co in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. His daughter, Madeleine Khalil, died in 1990.
Alexander's most well-known novels are within the genre of children's literature, with The Chronicles of Prydain being his most famous work. The five-volume series of children's fantasy novels detail the adventures of a young man named Taran, who is awarded the honor of Assistant Pig-Keeper but dreams of being a grand hero, and his companions Princess Eilonwy, Fflewddur Fflam the wandering bard and king, a feral yet gentle creature called Gurgi, and a dwarf named Doli. The book focuses on Taran's progression from youth to maturity, with the series being loosely inspired by Welsh mythology and the Mabinogion. The first two books in this series formed the basis of the Disney animated film The Black Cauldron.
Alexander's other major fiction series are the Westmark trilogy, about a printer's apprentice involved in political intrigue in a faux-European kingdom, and the Vesper Holly series, about a wealthy and brilliant Philadelphia orphan who has adventures in various fictional 19th century countries. His picture book The Fortune Tellers (1992), illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, created something of a controversy because some felt that the story was of European origin and thus contextually inappropriate for the book's African setting.
Alexander's last novel, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio, was published in August 2007. "I have finished my life work," Alexander said about the book before he died.The Dictionary of Literary Biography said 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."
In describing the influences on his writing, Alexander once said, "Shakespeare, Dickens, Mark Twain and so many others were my dearest friends and greatest teachers. I loved all the world's mythologies: King Arthur was one of my heroes."
Alexander began to receive significant critical acclaim with the release of his Chronicles of Prydain series. The second book, The Black Cauldron, was a 1966 Newbery Honor book. The fourth book in the series, Taran Wanderer, was a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. The fifth and final book in the series, The High King won the 1969 Newbery Medal and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the American Book Award. However, Alexander's other books were praised as well. "The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian," won a 1971 National Book Award. He also won a 1982 National Book Award (at that time temporarily known as the American Book Award) for Westmark.
Among his other awards were the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for The Fortune-Tellers. In 1972 he was included in the prestigious reference series, Book of Junior Authors and Illustrators.
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.