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Fisherman's son Hols is a brave boy, but when we first meet him, surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves and armed only with an axe, his chances don't look good. He is saved by the intervention of Rockor, a giant of earth and stone awakened from centuries of sleep by the noise of the fight. Hols thanks his new friend by removing a sword wedged deep into the rock of his shoulder; it is the Sword of the Sun, and Rockor predicts that it will help him to defeat the evil of Frost King Grunwald. Then Hols's father dies, but on his deathbed he tells his son how they originally came from a fishing village far to the north, and how they were the only survivors when it was destroyed by Grunwald's sorcery. He begs Hols to return to his birthplace and find out what has happened to the other villages. Armed with his axe and his new sword, and accompanied by his pet bear, Coro, Hols heads north.
He is attacked on the way by Grunwald and is almost killed falling off a cliff, but the people of a fishing village find him and care for him. They too are suffering from Grunwald's magic: a giant pike under his dominion is eating all the fish in the area and threatening the village's livelihood. Hols goes after the fish-monster alone and kills it after a titanic battle. This brings him great popularity, and some jealousy, but it further provokes Grunwald, who is determined to destroy all life in the region and sends in another, more stealthy attack. In a deserted village, Hols meets a young girl named Hilda. When he takes her back to the village, she is welcomed for her gentle nature and beautiful singing voice, but as Grunwald's dark sorcery continues to threaten the village, she is revealed as his sister.
Isao Takahata's feature debut shows fluid animation of movement, well-paced action scenes, and a charming style of character design that would become synonymous with the work of the studio he was later to found with his young colleague Hayao Miyazaki, who also assisted on this production. The film received unusually sympathetic treatment from its Western adapters, director Fred Ladd and editor Eli Haviv, who kept the tragic elements of the story intact, including the death of a loved one and the grief that follows. There is no connection with Prince Valiant, but the popularity of the comic in Europe led LNP's Italian licensees to try and piggyback the film to success, hence the alternate title.