Everybody has their first fantasy series. The one that stuck in their head. The one that became more real than the walls of their bedroom. The one whose characters became life-long friends, often quoted and remembered. And of course, two of the classic series, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia, have just been turned into fantastic movies.
I would even bet that the Harry Potter franchise is filling that role for a lot of today’s kids.
But those are not my series. Don’t mistake me, I loved Lord of the Rings and I’m looking forward to re-reading the Narnia books as soon as I have seen the movie, but they are not my gateway fantasy. The first books to really reach into me and pull something out, the first books to make me cry, not because the story was sad, but because I had lost a friend, the first books that I can remember re-reading as an adult and being just as moved by, were The Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander and The Sword of the Spirits Trilogy by John Christopher.
The Prydain Chronicles – The Book of Three, The Black Cauldron, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer, and the High King, tell the story of Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper and how he grows from a boy into a man, and about the people he encounters along the way. I was completely snared by these books. I started with the second book, from my school’s library in fifth grade. It got my attention so completely that I hounded the librarians at the public library into ordering the whole set so that I could borrow it. It was book four that made me cry though. And book five that kept me coming back to this series for years and years.
The Sword of the Spirits – The Prince in Waiting, Beyond the Burning Lands, and The Sword of the Spirits is a dark and disturbing fantasy about a post-apocalyptic England that has returned to feudal behaviours and beliefs. These books wound around my head so completely that the final line in the final volume left me shocked to my very core. I remember the hollow, numb feeling even now, twenty years later.
Both of these series are full of magic and strength. They portray failable, human protaganists that rise above their situations and change for the better, even if it is at great cost to themselves. The worlds they contain are as rich as any I’ve ever read and would be just as incredible presented on film.
These are the movies I want to see.
P.S. There is one other classic fantasy series that shaped my childhood that would be incredible to see up on the big screen – The OZ books. If they were filmed completely faithful to the books, leaving the MGM and Disney movies clearly to the side, and told the story of Dorothy and Ozma the way L. Frank Baum told it, that would be cool.