Way back in the early 1980's, when I was younger and more foolish, I belonged to the 'Word Record Club' as a 'tape' subscriber in the 'contemporary' stream!!! More often than not I was not quick enough to say 'no' to this month's selection so have a great heap of tapes I never listen to, but among them was one which had a song inspired by Lloyd Alexander's 'The Chronicles of Prydain.' I liked the song, which spoke of getting in touch with our inner child (not exactly typical1980's Word music stuff!) and for over 20 years (how sad!) I have, now and then, tried to find these books. Now, finally, thanks to Amazon and the renewed interest in stories of this type, I have managed to get hold of them.
Originally published in the early 1960's, they reflect a more innocent age of story telling and yet explore timeless themes of what it means to be 'noble', to be a 'man' (or a 'young lady'!) of growing up and so on. While the stories are utterly different from either Narnia or Harry Potter, the parallels with the latter, especially, are quite striking. The flawed hero (Harry - Taran), the feisty, slightly stroppy girl (Hermione - Eilonwy), the buffoon companion (Ron Weasley - Fflourdor Fflam), the loyal creature who wails all the time (Dobbie - Gurgi). As a genre, these stories seem to have a very clear style and expectations. I am enjoying reading the Chronicles; they are far less sophisticated than Harry Potter, and nowhere near as dark; they are not the allegories of Narnia, but contain some equally important truths.
If you have children ready for fantasy stories but not for J K Rowling's 500 page epics, then these might be a good place to start. Though after Gurgi's moanings and groanings, Dobbie may not seem so much fun!