On January 30th in 1924 Lloyd Chudley Alexander was born in Pennsylvania to two parents who read newspapers… but never books. Though his family was hit hard by the Great Depression (his father was a stockbroker), his parents did have books on their shelves to fill space, and young Lloyd was all too happy to pick them up even if they would not.
And a good thing too, or he probably never would have decided to become a writer at the tender age of fifteen.
Because he thought that writers should have some adventure under their belts, he join the U.S. Army during World War II, where he first was stationed in Texas, and then in Wales and Germany as an intelligence and counterintelligence staff sergeant. Post-war, he enrolled at the University of Paris, where he met his wife.
Once he moved back to Philadelphia, he realized that becoming a writer was not the easiest job he could have set his mind to, but he plugged away at it, first churning out a great deal of non-fiction. He wrote books for seven years before finally getting one published. But it wasn’t until he came up with Time Cat—a fantasy story inspired by his own cat Solomon—in 1963 that Alexander found his literary calling as one of genre’s great children’s fantasy authors.
Alexander used his love of myth and literature to create inspiring works that included The Chronicles of Prydain, the Vesper Holly series, and the Westmark trilogy. He won the Newberry Medal, the National Book Award (twice), the World Fantasy Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Hans Christian Andersen Award. He was an Author-in-Residence at Temple University, which he enjoyed immensely, likening it to being a “visiting uncle.”
But these achievements are really just sidenotes to an incredible career powered by an imagination that thought nothing of drawing influence from any and everywhere. Alexander created worlds that children today are still discovering, and they hold their same fascination because the characters he wrote—no matter where they came from—are and remain people that anyone can relate to, in their struggles and their choices. He made fantasy a genre that anyone could grow comfortable in, could yearn for. To Prydain and beyond, for great adventures of ordinarily extraordinary folk.
This post was originally published January 30, 2013.