If somebody pinned me down and said “You have to tell us, which classic piece of literature does The Vergrinn War resemble most,” I think it would boil down to a choice between two. The clear choice I can and will tell you about now is The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. The other choice can’t be revealed until the series is complete, lest the reader spoil the surprise for themselves. Know this, after the fifth book is complete, The Chronicles of Prydain should clearly be a distant second in any analysis. For now, let’s examine the similarities.
The Chronicles of Prydain is somewhat romanticized (as opposed to bloody, dirty, gritty, disease infested) Welsh fiction that uses old Welsh origins for names with a fictional map and fictionalized characters. The Vergrinn War is somewhat romanticized pseudo-Norse fiction that uses old Norse origins for names with a fictional map and fictionalized characters.
Both series focus on a single teenaged male character who is struggling with finding his identity in the world, and both include an ensemble supporting cast which has friends, rivals, and older male role models. Both main characters go on complex journeys to accomplish specific tasks as well as to learn more about their place in the world.
While I plan on analyzing each book in The Chronicles of Prydain in greater depth and detail over the next few weeks, let’s do a book by book comparison. Until I sat down to evaluate this, I did not realize how closely the series paralleled each other (in broad outlines, not in specifics):
Book One – In The Book of Three, Taran is catapulted unexpectedly on a dangerous journey. He makes new friends and ultimately realizes that being a hero is not what he thought it was. In The Risen Spear, Amundr is sent on a mission, and sees firsthand the importance of standing up for what is right along with the cost we often have to pay.
Book Two – In The Black Cauldron, Taran is tasked by Prince Gwydion with going to the borders of Annuvin on a mission of great importance. In The Wolf Spear’s Task, Amundr accompanies the King’s advisor on a journey to discover more about their enemy.
Book Three – In The Castle of Llyr, Taran and company make a lengthy journey by boat to a faraway island. There, they must stop Queen Achren from taking over everything, and not everyone will be coming home. In The Destroyers, Amundr and his companions travel over the ocean on a mission to stop the Vergrinn advance. Some of Amundr’s companions choose to make sacrifices to ensure the victory of good.
Book Four – In Taran Wanderer, Taran travels abroad without most of his usual comrades. He is off looking for answers about his past and his future. In The Rightful Heir (in progress), Amundr is traveling without most of his usual companions on a journey to learn about the past and the future.
Book Five – In The High King, Taran and companions fight the ultimate battle of good versus evil, and Taran must make a decision that will impact him and the kingdom for years to come. In The Final Thrust (outlined), Amundr and companions fight the final advance of the vergrinn, and Amundr will make a decision that will impact him and the kingdom forever.
In all seriousness, The Chronicles of Prydain were the first fantasy series I consumed as a youngster. Around that time I attempted The Lord of the Rings and put it down for a year or so because it scared me (specifically after Gandalf has fallen into the pit and Frodo and company have fled to Lothlorien and a dark shape (which we later learn was Gollum) comes to the base of their tree and debates climbing up after them).
Maybe the parallels in my current work are an outgrowth of my appreciation for Lloyd Alexander, and maybe they are a sub-conscious reflection of the fact that all young men struggle with similar thoughts about the future. Ultimately, I appreciate the Chronicles of Prydain and I would (and do) love to hear my books compared to them by readers.