Sleep well, grower of turnips

This isn’t about knitting.  I usually try not to write about things that are not knitting related in some vague way, and I  know I’ve been a while without writing anything.  I’d hoped to have pictures of the seamless hybrid to show you, and I was going to show you a baby sweater and slippers and the many projects I’m hard at work on, but there’s something else that needs to be said.

Lloyd Alexander passed away on Thursday at his home in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania.   For those of you who are not familiar with him, Mr. Alexander was the author of more than 40 books, most of them children’s or young adult novels.  He wrote the much lauded Prydain Chronicles, which was where I met him, in the pages of The Book of Three.

When I was growing up, The Prydain Chronicles were my favorite books.  I read them over and over again, and I cried at the same parts and laughed at the same parts and dreamed of having adventures like Taran and Eilonwy.   I read every one of Lloyd Alexander’s books that I coud get my hands on.  Each of his books was a gift.  He wrote with humor, with gentle kindness, and with great compassion.  He opened the ways of the world to children with honesty and love.  War is never simple in Lloyd Alexander’s world.  It is senseless, even when it is just.  He gave me many gifts in this life, even though he didn’t know it.

I’m lucky, though.  When I was pregnant with Eleanor, frightened and frustrated, Sarah sent me a package.  I opened it to a treasure – Lloyd Alexander’s last Vesper Holly book, signed by the man himself.  In the midst of all my real world worries and difficulties, I settled down to read about the adventures of a girl who was brave and strong, who faced the world with dignity.  I nearly named the sprogling Vesper in gratitude.  Sarah has written a beautiful tribute to the man on her blog.

Lloyd Alexander’s books were filled with powerful women and girls.  A girl didn’t have to act like a man to be brave and strong in his world.  So often in children’s media, strong girls might as well be boys, but Mr. Alexander made his characters feminine and strong at once.  It was all right for a girl to be girlish and to wield a sword.  She could be a thief or an athlete or an Indiana Jones-esque heroine and still be powerfully, intensely female.  I cannot begin to describe what this gave to me.

I never knew the man.  I never wrote him the letter I’ve been meaning to write since childhood.  I never will now.  His books live on, though, and there are few things more gratifying than watching my two boys read and love the adventures of an assistant pig keeper.

He was a writer.  He was a writer whose voice was clear and true, and there will never be another writer like him.

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2 Responses to “Sleep well, grower of turnips”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Beautifully said, Kristen. And I’m so very glad I sent him that book to sign for you. He would have been delighted to know you contemplated Vesper as a name for Eleanor. We always said Lloyd wrote himself into that book twice – Brinnie was always the old Lloyd, but Tobias was the young Lloyd. I remember how surprised we were to open the package from him and find a final Vesper adventure, more than a decade after the last (he never told us in advance what he was working on), but I think he needed to write her that book, move her into a new phase of life, let her grow up and find love so he’d know she’d be okay after Brinnie was gone. He loved his girls, and I think he was chuffed that they were so inspirational to his young female readers. He’d have teared up to read your words.

  2. connie Says:

    What a wonderful, memory-laden tribute to Mr. Alexander. Like you, I devoured his Prydain Chronicles as a child and it, unlike some of the other tomes of fantasy I’ve gone through since, has stayed in my mind. And Eilonwy also left quite an impression on me – a fully realized fantasy character in her own right – not just a damsel in distress to be won by the hero.

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