Sniffen Packets

With a name like Sniffen, it's got to smell good.

Lloyd Alexander, 1924-2007

I enjoyed the Prydain books as a child, but I didn’t love them. They didn’t feel like stories. They were confusing and muddled, more like real things than the things of fantasy. Eilonwy didn’t feel like a fictional character, but like a girl I’d known a year or so in the past—always a year or so, just long enough for memories to be muted and the events of the books remain. Looking back, that’s quite a compliment. I haven’t read the Prydain books in years, but I remember the language as challenging a ten-year-old the way Gene Wolfe challenges me now.

Time Cat, on the other hand, was wonderful. It’s a simple collection of short stories about a boy and his cat, a half-dozen history lessons in a few hundred pages. But those depictions of Leonardo, Sucat/Patrick, and the Manxmen are still the foundation of my images of them.

Lloyd Alexander passed away today, surviving his wife of 62 years by only two weeks. He served in the U.S. Army during the second World War.

Fearfully and reluctantly, he began to read once more. But now his heart lifted. These pages told not only of death, but of birth as well; how the earth turns in its own time and in its own way gives back what is given to it; how things lost may be found again; and how one day ends for another to begin. He learned that the lives of men are short and filled with pain, yet each one a priceless treasure, whether it be that of a prince or a pig-keeper. And, at the last, the book taught him that while nothing was certain, all was possible.

“At the end of knowledge, wisdom begins,” Dallben murmered. “And at the end of wisdom there is not grief, but hope.”

And as his wisdom passes from the world, Alexander leaves us with hope for his last novel, to be published this fall.1

Mr. Alexander, thank you for bringing color to the facts that need it so badly.

  1. And indeed, it was wonderful.↩︎