[BOOKS] ⚣ The King of Elfland's Daughter Author Lord Dunsany – Dolove.info

The King of Elfland's Daughter I am a little hesitant to give this a 3, for Dunsany writes wonderfully His prose is by turns lyrical, clever, humorous, insightful, and moving However, I don t so much enjoy reading long descriptive passages with very little action or even plot Although the plot elements were solidly put into place, they then don t do much for the bulk of the book, and by halfway through I mostly stopped caring Dunsany seemed far interested in landscape and atmosphere than characters. Forget that leathery old man on the beer commercials with two giant X s, he s a nobody The real most interesting man in the world is Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, or at least he would have been in his time And by the way, that s Lord Dunsany to you As the 18th Baron of Dunsany, he had the opportunity to simply relax, attend parties, and generally take life easy But that would have been a waste, would it not I mean, we only live once so dammit, live like you want to live Instead of living life as a prolonged period of dotage, Lord Dunsany instead decided to create an impressive resum He was a lion hunter in Africa, dog trainer, was a pistol shooting champion of Ireland, and reigned as chess champion of Ireland, Scotland and Wales for a time even bothering to create his own variant of chess, which is now named after him He served in a number of wars, including WW1 and 2 He was also an animal rights activist becoming president of the RSPCA, he knew Latin and Ancient Greek, and suffered countless battle and hunting wounds But was all of this enough for the Lord of Dunsany Of course not, he had to go ahead and become one of the most talented writers in human history He wrote everything books, stories, plays he even had 5 plays simultaneously running on Broadway at one point But, as Neil Gaiman said, if he had only ever written Elfland s Daughter, it would have been enough Regardless of the impression his personal life may give, this is not a macho man book This isn t a grunting, cheering display of nonsense meant to put hair on your chest This is a thoughtful, methodical work of mastery It is poetic and beautiful, slow and meticulous, and it is a wonder to behold Apparently, Lord Dunsany composed his works with a quill pen, in a single draft One can easily imagine him scratching away at the parchment, then pausing for moment to look up and gaze upon things invisible to the rest of us Perhaps he looked out the window, while he communed with whatever force he was connected to, or perhaps all the mystery and poetry in his novel was already constructed in his mind, merely waiting for him to unleash it upon the page However it formed, The King of Elfland s Daughter is possibly the single most beautiful work of fantasy I ve ever experienced.The book could almost start with a Once Upon a time , as it is given an almost fairy tale style The novel is dreamy in feel, and moves at a slower pace than most fantasy books yet, this is to the readers benefit, as it allows a savoring of its passages and words, which only help to maximize enjoyment The novel is written in a poetic style, or perhaps the style of some ancient religious text Many of the sentences begin with a conjunction, which makes the reader feel like they are reading from the gospel of Dunsany Reciting this book aloud, even to yourself, is not discouraged This book contains the buzzwords you might expect in any fantasy novel it contains magic, princesses, elves, trolls, wisps, and knights Yet none of them manifest like the shallow caricatures we are forced to swallow in our modern day fantasy genre Every character, and every action has depth, and they all represent some larger concept, some overarching idea or conflict, that, though brought to conclusion, never resolves into mundane answers.A lot of the book revolves around the concept of magic What magic is, what it can do, and whether or not it is even desirable to have in our world Should we have magic in our lives Is magic some outside force, or is it within us I ll attempt to let Dunsany s voice speak for itself, and leave you with one of my favorite passages A witch responds to the pleas of the whose who want magic gone from the worldI would sooner give you a spell against water, that all the world should thirst, than give you a spell against the song of streams that evening hears faintly over the ridge of a hill, too dim for wakeful ears, a song threading through dreams, whereby we learn of old wars and lost loves of the Spirits of rivers I would sooner give you a spell against bread, that all the world should starve, than give you a spell against the magic of wheat that haunts the golden hollows in moonlight in July, through which in the warm short nights wander how many of whom man knows nothing I would make you spells against comfort and clothing, food, shelter, and warmth, aye and will do it, sooner than tear from these poor fields of Earth that magic that is to them an ample cloak against the chill of Space, and a gay raiment against the sneers of nothingnessThe beauty of Dunsany s book is not merely on the surface, and the depth does not simply stop at the words The story itself cuts to the most crucial parts of what it is to be human what it means to yearn for something you cannot have, to lose something you never realized you cherished, and how to draw contentment out of every drop of the world.This book is largely forgotten, and is tragically in danger of being lost to time Hopefully it sees a resurgence, for it is truly a novel to be held as an example, and be treasured for future generations. The Poetic Style And Sweeping Grandeur Of The King Of Elfland S Daughter Has Made It One Of The Most Beloved Fantasy Novels Of Our Time, A Masterpiece That Influenced Some Of The Greatest Contemporary Fantasists The Heartbreaking Story Of A Marriage Between A Mortal Man And An Elf Princess Is A Masterful Tapestry Of The Fairy Tale Following The Happily Ever After What can i say Absolutely wondrous I adored this and it is the perfect book to read when you live by yourself because its another of those that demand to be read out loud The cat was very entertained.It is the story of a mortal going in search of a means to bring magic to his valley at the request of his father, the Lord of Erl because the Lord s parliament of 12 men asked for magic The boy, Alveric, seeks Elfland and, in finding it, encounters the love of his life, Lirazel the Elf Princess The story is not so much of their returning to the world we know but is much a wonderful reflection in depth on those inane six words that end every fairy story and they lived happily ever after Well do they Here is the study of that cliche and Dunsany makes us think not only in fantasy terms of what that phrase might really entail but opens out all sorts of other questions The prejudice and inability to understand or try to see another s struggles, the ease with which we step out into strange new lands so long as others take the strain and make the sacrifices, the unpreparedness of people to take responsibility for their actions and decisions, the instinctive reaction of so many to stamp on the unknown, the strange, the different and perhaps the most sad of all the way in which age and experience can serve to close off enchantment, barricade against beauty and wonder and circumscribe the world with common sense and platitude.This book was fabulous in every sense of that word The poetry was beautiful and the imagery intense and ethereal at the same time The wandering lights of wonderful moments that sometimes astonish our fields.The grappling with the rushed movement of time for mortals which marks no time for Elfland was brilliantly communicated where chapters covering years in the rushing on of earth alternated with the turning of the head of the Elf King as he moved down his staircase in his palace that may be only told of in song The effects of the passing of time, normal and accepted by us, feared by the immortals and though she stayed but a day when she came to the fields we know, and was back in the palace beyond the twilight before our sun had set, yet Time found her whenever she came and so she wore away becomes a theme of movement and change between the two consistencies The struggle of mortal and immortal, of those things holy and of those accursed and who is to say which is which and the seemingly unbridgeable chasm between the spirit of Lirazel and Alveric lay all the distance that is between Earth and Elfland and love bridged the distance which can bridge further than that yet when for a moment on the golden bridge he would pause and let his thoughts look down at the gulf, all his mind would grow giddy and Alveric trembled What of the end, he thought And feared lest it should be stranger than the beginning On the back of my copy writers remark how all fantasy writing is indebted to this man s imagination As I read I couldn t but agree There were echoes resounding from Tolkien, Lewis, Pullman and Rowling to mention just a few The transference of time and character and imagination was wonderful His creation of the trolls and the people of the marsh, the will o the wisp, were totally believeable and real The majesty of the Unicorn and its arrogant downfall was poignant and bleak The valleyfolk of Erl, with their vacillating to and fro were frustratingly recognizable and the overriding poetic image of the tide of Elfland of the way in which it lapped and flowed and broke like a tide and ebbed from the land we know and then flowed past on either side or again how the houses held back that wonderful tide before it broke over them with a burst of unearthly foam and then magnificently Then Elfland poured over Erl.This fluidity, this wonderful liquid beauty of magic was ingenious Its inevitability, the whole Canute like message that enchantment, beauty, wonder is in the end unstoppable had a wonderful, glorious loveliness about it And little he knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man s thoughts for the wonder of later years, and tell of happenings that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark of time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages Wow, bloody wow Read it, this is spectacular Loved it, loved it, loved it. If this book were written today, it wouldn t be a book, it would be a seven part series with each volume consisting of 800 to 1,000 pages Every character would have a first and last name and an elaborate backstory There would be extensive genealogical charts and detailed maps of every nook of its gigantic world, because, you know, world building And it would be incredibly tiresome.What the good Lord Dunsany gave us was something much wonderful, a poetic, elegiac fairy tale of 240 pages that dwells not on obsessive detail, character motivation, and micro managing world building, but nevertheless feels like a grand epic Dunsany uses description where it is needed, but, for instance, rather than describing every rampart, barbican and portcullis of a castle, he may just write a castle that can only be told of in song However, the reader can conjure an image of the castle as clear as day he allows the reader s imagination to take over and do the heavy lifting A clever legerdemain, but what else would someone expect from a magician of words There are so many great reviews out there that I don t even know what I can add to the conversation Read Keely s, Traveller s, mark monday s, and Jonathan s. A beautifully written, Edwardian faerie story for adults not that there s any adult content, and were it published today, it would probably be classed as YA despite some rather unpleasant hunting However, it only gets 3 , as a reflection of my enjoyment of it I prefer things a little darker, even though the moral is perhaps Be careful what you wish for.PLOTIt is essentially a tale of young love across a cultural chasm human Alveric and elfin Lirazel , the quest of Orion not the Greek god , and features a witch, a faerie, elves, trolls, a magical sword, runes, unicorns and many other staples of the genre LANGUAGEIt is written in a florid style, lauding the beauty and harmony of the natural world the autumn smitten garden , and suggesting the ephemeral, not quite there nature of Elfland the other side of the rampart of twilight.The poetic feel is emphasised by some recurring phrases, in particular the contrast between the fields that we know the normal, non magical world and places that may not be told of but in song Elfland Further, the word glamour is often used in its archaic sense, to mean casting enchantment over something I m less sure what to make of the two references to the King of Elfland s tower having brazen steps Then, about half way through, the magic is suddenly broken when the author addresses the reader directly with comments about real history It jarred ELFLAND HOW CAN WE KNOW IT I liked the ideas of how Elfland is occasionally but unconsciously perceivable by mortals now lost to them but for dreams, a song of such memories as lurk and hide along the edges of oblivion, now flashing from beautiful years of glimpse of some golden moment, now passing swiftly out of remembrance again, to go back to the shades of oblivion, and leaving on the mind those faintest traces of little shining feet which when dimly perceived by us are called regrets Artists of all kinds are most receptive and have had many a glimpse of that country, so that sometimes in pictures we see a glamour too wonderful for our fields it is a memory of theirs that intruded from some old glimpse Similarly, Elfland s flowers and lawns, seen only by the furthest travelling fancies of poets in deepest sleep As well as being geographically abstract, Elfland exists, to some extent, outside time time there passes V E R Y slowly in comparison with here This is understandably disconcerting for the few who travel between the two realms Coming to the fields that we know, even the shadows of houses moved as part of a vortex of restlessness QUOTATIONS So strong lay the enchantment that not only did beasts and men guess each other s meaning well, but there seemed to be an understanding even, that reached from men to trees and from trees to men a hare, who was lying in a comfortable arrangement of grass, in which he had intended to pass the time till he should have things to see to The glamour that brightens much of our lives, especially in the early years, comes from rumours that reach us from Elfland and all manner of little memories In a forest wherein it quieted the trembling of myriads of petals of roses, it stilled the pools where the great lilies towered, till they and their reflections slept on in one gorgeous dream And there below motionless fronds of dream gripped trees, on the still water dreaming of the still air, where the huge lily leaves floated green in the calm, was the troll Lurulu, sitting on a leaf Little he knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man s thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happenings that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages or carry to us, over the rolling centuries, even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills Spring is a mild benediction that blessed the very air and sought out all living things The hall that was built of moonlight, dreams, music and mirage And a dash of humour when a troll tells others about the world of men, They listened spell bound and then, when he told of hats, there ran through the forest a wave of little yelps of laughter. Brought to my attention by this note on the cover Introduction by Neil Gaiman I ve been on a good roll where Gaiman is concerned with Neverwhere and The Sandman read this year, so his glowing praise for Lord Dunsany made me put this classic fantasy forward in my queueHis words sing, like those of a poet who got drunk on the prose of the King James Bible, and who has still not yet become sober The style is the first thing that struck me about the novel, archaic yet elegant, the language of royal courts and ancient sagas, a promise that what follows is than a simple adventure with elves, dwarves and knights riding on white chargers, aiming instead at a mythical structure that transcends time and place restrictions in order to address the fundamental issues of our identity Who we are and what we can become is defined by the dreams we chase, and what we bring to the quest is a sensibility, an open mind ready to be filled with the wonders that surround us With the exception of the King of Elfland and of Ziroonderel the Witch who it can be argued have already reached illumination , all the characters in the book have a hole in the soul that they try to fill in Magic is used in the book as the embodiment of these unfulfilled wishes, as the catchword for all that is mysterious, unknown, wild and unpredictable in life Farmers who live close to the border to Elfland turn their backs on the magic realm lest they fall under its spellFor there was a beauty in it such as is not in all our fields and it is told those farmers in youth how, if they gaze upon those wandering lights, there will remain no joy for them in the goodly fields, the fine, brown furrows or the waves of wheat, or in any things of ours but their hearts will be far from here with elfin things, yearning always for the unknown mountains and for folks not blessed by the Freer The first Dreamchasers to enter the stage are the members of the Parliament of Erl, villagers who petition their king for a little magic in their lives, something to relieve the dreariness of everyday life and hopefully something that will make their county famous the world over and give them a sense of civic pride They want a life less ordinary, but are they prepared to pay the price of inviting magic into their lives Next quester is Alveric, the prince sent by his father the King to bring back magic from Elfland His journey starts traditionally enough, fairytale style, with the forging of a magic sword, the traverse of a dangerous forest, defeat of the Elf guards and finally rescuing the princess locked in the tower His plot line really takes off in the later part of the novel, as he loses the girl when he fails to understand her magical alien nature and tries to force her to conform to the rules of civilized Earth, as they are laid down in the Freer books His is the love story angle covered in the book, a cautionary tale about taking your wife for granted and about lack of empathy Alveric gets expelled from the Garden of EdenHe awoke in the birdless dawn very cold, hearing old voices crying faintly far off, as they slowly drifted away, like dreams going back to dreamlandand then spends long years wandering in the desolation of the lands from which magic has fled Reinforcing the central theme of the novel, Alveric gathers around him a fellowship of kindred spirits, dreamchasers one and all a moontouched youth who hears voices in the night, an autistic shepherd who may be soft in the head or may be the most level headed of the whole bunch, a spurned lover, a poet, a bored villager looking for adventure, and so on What they search for becomes less important than the search itself, their refusal to accept a life without surprises or mystery.Lirazel is the Elfland princess that hears the call of the unknown from the other direction she wants to explore the wonders of Earth after being confined all her life in her father s palace, in a land that is eternal but that in its timelessness it is also stagnant She wants to discover the vistas, the sounds, the smells, the plants, the animals and the people that are as strange and as fascinating for her as the miracles of Elfland appear to the eyes of Alveric I believe this is my favorite aspect of the novel the way Dunsany paints the fields we know as seen with alien eyes, the way he sings the praise of sunsets and golden leaves flying with the autumn winds, the song of a trush or the waving fields of grain Elfland and Earth are the two sides of the same coin and magic is right here by our side, waiting only for us to open our eyes and our hearts to its glory.The wonders of Earth exert an even stronger pull on the troll Lurulu More alien than even Lirazel, the troll is a messenger of chaos, a disrupting force that thrives on mischievous pranks and finds joy in breaking routine and custom Lord Dunsany s trolls are unlike any other trolls I ve come across in my fantasy forays Instead of ugly, heavy limbed, mean and brutal minions of the Lord of Darkness, they are gay and sprightly, quick to run and jump and laugh at the smallest provocationFor among the trolls none goes in higher repute than one that is able to astound the others, or even to show them any whimsical thing, or to trick or perplex them humorously Lurulu had Earth to show, whose ways are considered, amongst those able to judge, to be fully as quaint and whimsical as the curious observer could wishLurulu Watches the Restlessness of Earth where the troll witnesses a day in the village of Erl while hidden in a pigeon loft is the one chapter in the book that I would like to quote in full, where Dunsany formal prose style soars to unprecedented heights, singing the quiet songs of country life, the magic that can be found in our own backyardPerpetual movement and perpetual change He contrasted it, in wonder, with the deep calm of his home, where the moment moved slowly than the shadows of houses here, and did not pass until all the content with which a moment is stored had been drawn from it by every creature in Elfland To the pigeons on the roof that would not come home he listened long, not trying to interpret what they were saying, yet satisfied with the case as the pigeons put it feeling that they told the story of life, and that all was well And he felt as he listened to the low talk of the pigeons that Earth must have been going on for a long time This chapter, than any others justify a comment I have seen recently, that the best way to read Lord Dunsany is not inside, hemmed in by four walls and a ceiling, but outside, in a forest glade or by a quiet river, far from the concrete jungle of modern life.Since I m counting the dreamchasers in the book, I couldn t leave out Orion the hunter who is the answer to the Parliament of Erl request for a magical ruler, the heir to both worlds Earth and Elfland Named after the brightest star of the firmament, left to find his own way in life by his absent parents, Orion will turn for wisdom and comfort to the temple of greenAnd when the uplands opened their distances to his eyes he felt that he was now upon no mere walk, but a journey And then he saw the solemn gloom of the wintry woods far off, and that filled him at once with a delighted awe To their darkness, their mystery and their shelter Oth brought him Inspired by the stories told by the realm s gamekeepers and wardens, Orion learns the language of trees and birds and lives only for the thrill of the hunt, the freedom of the chase, the pride of the well aimed arrow and the power of death over the denizens of the foerst With his pack of hounds running by his side, Orion questing after the most elusive trophy of all the unicorns who sometimes cross over from Elfland to Earth, symbols themselves of the elusive, ephemeral wonder we are all seeking from life Orion chapters may prove to a modern reader the hardest to reconcile with the general theme of wonder and whimsy that drives Lord Dunsany narrative, as they are quite graphic and insensitive to the plight of the hunted and in general come down in favour of the hunter.In the context of the period when the book was written, and given the known passion of the author for the sport, their importance to the story becomes less surprising or anachronic Even today, I m not sure a character like Lord Dunsany would side with the tree huggers or the fox hunting protesters Blood sports were an essential part of his heritage and upbringing.My review so far has been mostly about the characters and their urges I ve been vague about the plot not only in order to avoid spoilers, but because I believe the novel is not action driven The jumps in point of view and in the timeline concur in the overall feeling that the book is an extended metaphor on the search for wonder, for life to be something than the day to day domestic chores or the strictures of a 9 to 5 job, for something unexpected and extraordinary to bring a sparkle and shine to reality I don t think the author set out deliberately to confront the naturalists like Zola or the strict Victorian moralists like Thomas Hardy, but here with his Elfland tales he presents himself as a forerunner of the magical realism currents and of the current increased interest in the supernatural and the fanciful The two sides of the debate are set down by the Freer and the witch I ll close my remarks with their two speeches and let the next readers to decide where they stand in relation to magic The FreerAnd curst be trolls, elves, goblins and fairies upon Earth, and hypogriffs and Pegasus in the air, and all the tribes of the mer folk under the sea Our holy rites forbid them And curst be all doubts, all singular dreams, all fancies And from magic may all true folk be turned away AmenZiroonderelOvermuch she said Overmuch magic As though magic were not the spice and essence of life, its ornament and its splendor By my broom, I give you no spell against magic I would sooner give you a spell against water, that all the world should thirst, than give you a spell against the song of streams that evening hears faintly over the ridge of a hill, too dim for wakeful ears, a song threading through dreams, whereby we learn of old wars and lost loves of the Spirits of rivers I would sooner give you a spell against bread, that all the world should starve, than give you a spell against the magic of wheat that haunts the golden hollows in moonlight in July, through which in the warm short nights wander how many of whom man knows nothing I would make you spells against comfort and clothing, food, shelter and warmth, aye and will do it, sooner than tear from these poor fields of Earth that magic that is to them an ample cloak against the chill of Space, and a gay rayment against the sneers of nothingness How does the book end, you ask Expect the unexpected, and enjoy a moment of peace after one of the wildest flight of fancy ever put to paperAnd Niv and Zend had ease at last from their wild fancies, for their wild thoughts sank to rest in the calm of Elfland and slept as hawks sleep in their trees when evening has lulled the worldAfter finishing the review I realized I said nothing about the place Lord Dunsany occupies in the speculative fiction genre New writers don t jump out fully formed and ready to run like Athena from the cracked head of Zeus They drink form the fountain of dreams of those who came before and feed the imagination of those who come after In his own wordsBricks without straw are easily made than imagination without memoriesLord Dunsany inherited than a huge estate in Ireland from his ancestors he had one of the best libraries in the country and mentioned as his sources the legends of ancient Greece, the brothers Grimm, Perrault and Andersen, Edgar Alan Poe and King James Bible Thelist of writers who acknowledge his influence and pay him homage is like a roll call of the Fantasy Hall of Fame Jack Vance, H P Lovecraft, J R R Tolkien, Gene Wolfe, Robert E Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Neil Gaiman, Benicio del Toro, Arthur C Clarke, Michael Moorcock, Ursula K le Guin, Peter S Beagle, and many Without him our imaginary landscapes would be a lot poorer, and that s reason enough for me to give him the full honours of a five star rating. The King of Elfland s Daughter is one of the most perfectly beautiful fantasy novels ever written Yet, in the sea of J.R.R Tolkien and G.R.R Martin clones it appears to be a forgotten relic This is a shame not only because of the sheer aesthetic delight of Lord Dunsany s writing because many fantasy authors could learn from this novel, the value of subtlety and artful storytelling In a sea of blatant plots and unmagical magic structures, Lord Dunsany s work is a wondrous and magical delight worth being labelled a true classic of fantasy and literature.The story begins as many do with an act of legislative parliamentWhat would you, said the Lord We would be ruled by a magic lord, they said The reader is never made truly aware of why the parliament of Erl wishes to have a magic lord in command There is the suggestion that this is desired simply so that humanity can possess something new, as all humanity is want to do There is also the suggestion that this is Lord Dunsany s way of reflecting on how humanity will always want to enslave that which it cannot grasp easily, or understand To possess a magic lord, in the world of Lord Dunsany s story, is to possess the wonders of life itself The plot then follows the Lord of Erl s son as he proceeds to enter Elfland, the world of Faery, and romance the King of Elfland s Daughter The story becomes a symbolic struggle between two men fighting over the one beautiful women to a degree the King and Alveric, the Lord s son The daughter of the King of Elfland is therefore, within the rest of the narrative tragically divided between the mundane world of men and the magical, eternal and ethereal world of the Fae This novel is, therefore, to a great extent, a tragic romance of epic proportions, situated around the concept of a world divided between the unknowable other and the mundane.Lord Dunsany makes great reference to the world of Erl and humanity as the fields we know His story is fixated greatly around this concept, and beyond being merely a beautiful work of fairytale art, is a story of borders It is a story about the borders, than anything, between the spiritual and the normal, but it is also centred around the borders between that which the reader understands and that which is incomprehensible.Beautiful, profound, eternally and sweetly blissful this is the tone of Lord Dunsany s masterwork A work equal to that of J.R.R Tolkien with his mythical history of elves, dwarves and men It is a work also equal to Mervyn Peake with his gloomy, haunting and gothic castle of oddity And it is a work that stands on its own at the same time As Elfland is connected to Earth and yet separate, with this story being about the process of Earth connecting to elfenkind, so too is Lord Dunsany s novel connected to and outside of traditional fantasy The King of Elfland s Daughter is essentially a novel with greatness and with a lovely wistfulness found in the finer touches of detail which mark all true creation It may be a novel of trolls, elves and unicorns, but it is not the novel of trolls, elves and unicorns that you have read before. Recommended for Those who have patience and are comfortable with Victorian and poetic styles in prose, who have romantic souls, and people who enjoy reading poetry and who enjoy introspective, speculative, and exploratory literature and fanciful fantasy.Not recommended forThose who prefer fast paced action and down to earth and gritty prose styles and label some styles too flowery The name Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett has a rather strange ring to it, doesn t it I think Lord Dunsany sounds rather better, so I find it no wonder that such a poetic man as the 18th Baron of Dunsany chose simply to be known as Lord Dunsany.According to WP,The title Baron of Dunsany or, commonly, Lord Dunsany, is one of the oldest dignities in the Peerage of Ireland, one of just a handful of 13th to 15th century titles still extant, having had 21 holders to date And Edward Plunkett Born to the second oldest title created 1439 in the Irish peerage, Dunsany lived much of his life at perhaps Ireland s longest inhabited home, Dunsany Castle near Tara, worked with W.B Yeats and Lady Gregory, received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College, was chess and pistol shooting champion of Ireland, and travelled and hunted extensively He died in Dublin after an attack of appendicitis Chess and pistol shooting, eh That part sounds good to me, but not the hunting part, which brings me to one aspect of TKOED that I liked decidedly less than the rest of it in the story, unicorns are hunted simply because they are haughty creatures Somehow, that didn t quite fit into the idyllic nature of the rest of the story for me Besides, like it behooves any maiden worth her salt, I always used to love unicorns and I still do.This is not an easy piece of literature to review Written in 1924, smack bang around the time that the Bloomsbury group and people like James Joyce were churning out modernist prose, it is as if this novel was written in a magical bubble in time and space Transcending the vagaries of being grounded in time and space with its themes that touch on the eternal, it yet, in a wistful way, seems to be longing for the days of the rural idyll for the days before the modern world drove the wild magic of nature from our midst In my personal experience, although Dunsany s shorter works are as poetic and lyrical as far as use of language is concerned, I have not noticed in them quite the same metaphysical implications that this work has After reading this though, I might start searching deeply under the surface of his other works for deeper themes and implications as well.At this point, I would like to pay homage to Keeley s wonderful review of this story writes Dunsany wrote his stories with a handmade quill in a single draft His language is a precise and delicate thing a crystal skein from which he suspends his story The descriptions are constantly turning and surprising, glinting with unexpected revelations, so that the whole of his world, from the most mundane to the fantastical teems with sorcerous possibility Isn t the bolded sentence pure poetry That is exactly the way in which Dunsany writes his writing weaves a magic of its own a crystal web of such beauty, that it is almost too much to bear Some would accuse him of purpleness, but his imagery and choice of word and phrase is so fine, so delicately poignant, that I d posit that Dunsany s art is in a class of its own.Purple as the prose might be, it fits so very well with the subject matter, that in context of the story, such prose is definitely appropriate here.Quite a few themes are weaved through the story I imagine each reader will spot themes that draws their own attention For me it was mainly, I think, the theme of otherness that drew my attention the most Otherness is a theme that we find both in philosophy and in anthropology, and both senses of otherness or alterity apply here.Elfland is the symbol for otherness , and Dunsany makes it even so by subverting the essence of what one would have expected Elfland to be True, I may have expected time to stand still in Elfland, so that its denizens could live eternal life, but I would not have expected it to be the symbol for stasis, whereas the world we know is seen by the Elfin princess as a wonderful, strange, mutable and magical place.So, our world is just as magical to her, as her world is to us.I found it interesting that Dunsany managed to subvert traditional ideas of the mundaneness of our world and the wondrousness of the place you would expect Elfland to be He made Elfland a cold, static place, as opposed to our world the world we know though that exclusively refers to rural landscapes he pointedly ignores the modern urban landscape as if it does not exist.Our own world is drawn as a warm, enticing place, alive with activity, flux and wonder.Alveric, the hero from our world, and Lirazel, the king of Elfland s daughter, are then, the representation of the other for each other, and each of their worlds represent otherness for the other When reading the book, I also thought of the common theme of how, romantically speaking, Opposites attract.Another theme that is dealt with, is our tendency to feel that the grass must always be greener on the other side The strange, the new, the unconquered, always winks and beckons, but once we have attained it, we have to deal with the reality of it, with aspects that we might not have foreseen when it looked all bright and inviting with the dewdrops still sparkling on it.Eventually, both Alveric and Lirazel have to struggle with and deal with the problems springing forth from the acquisition of the strange otherness that they had managed to capture and make their own.I think I should stop here though, lest I inadvertently drop a spoiler.The bottom line This is a novella imbued with a strange beauty, a beauty that goes deeper than skin deep that turns our known world upside down and looks at the concepts of time, otherness, reality and desire with a new, poetic but astute pair of spectacles.For some additional points of view on this little gem, here are links to two other reviews that I enjoyed greatly a tale out of time an old myth reinvented a new myth born a wayward bride, a forlorn husband, their son a pitiless hunter a defiant old woman a melancholy old man trolls delight in delight unicorns are for slaughter question what is Time in Elfland answer a fantasy twelve men want magic madmen shall take captive a king borders shall be crossed and boundaries may be as fleeting as dreams be wary of what you wish for love shall conquer all and death shall be no.prose like poetry, like music the novel a silvery lake stretching to shores unknown i gazed at this lake by day and its surface shone with sunlight the world and all its colors flamed bright and fierce i took a lonely boat ride by night and its surface glistened with moonlight, reflecting the beyond i stared into those starry depths and saw the infinite an entrancing sight message 5 by mark i read the first 50 pages last night love it so far especially enjoyed all the animals and the child s reactions to the troll.i thought i had read this novel many years ago, but none of it feels familiar so maybe not.some really lovely writing overall message 6 by markread another 50 pages in the park today a perfect place to read this novel.still impressed by the charm of Dunsany s flowing prose and the subtlety, the pointed comments here and there like the bit around the king taking the witless lad from a mother who knows that her son will accomplish staying at home then going on some foolish quest with a foolish king but kings will take what they want.also really enjoyed the equally subtle, equally barbed depiction of the depressing, unnecessary finiteness of organized religion that will automatically call heathen any activity that is directed towards nature and the cosmos rather than towards rituals and memorization message 7 by marki fear i may be propping up this thread as if it were my own personal journal anyway, two bits of Dunsany s commentary that i thought were particularly well doneHe was an incongruous figure with his stave and his sack and his sword but he followed one idea, one inspiration, one hope and so shared something of the strangeness that all men have who do this And now the four that were left were all of one mind, and under the wet coarse cloth that they hung on poles there was deep content in the evenings For Alveric clung to his hope with all the strength of his race, that had once won Erl in old battles and held it for centuries long, and in the vacant minds of Niv and Zend this idea grew strong and big, like some rare flower that a gardener may plant by chance in a wild untended place And Thyl sung of the hope and all his wild fancies that roamed after song decked Alveric s quest with and of glamour So all were of one mind And greater quests whether mad or sane have prospered when this was so, and greater quests have failed when it was otherwisemessage 8 by mark also, Orion hunts and kills a unicorn disgusting i am no longer on your team, Orion.although that was a rather amazing chapter the final lines were startling message 12 by mark unicorn hunting, argh this is such a turn off to me i m not even automatically against hunting, as long as the meat is used but unicorns are basically magic horses and who hunts horses for chrissakes.still, the novel remains a pleasure loved the chapter with Orion almost stepping into Elfland, but getting pulled back by his faithful hounds.loved the part with the Freer Friar not familiar with the word Freer condemning magic and then while walking home, utters a spell against magic ha delicious bit of irony Dunsany s stance on this fake binary set up by the Freer is clear.and man that whole chapter on Lurulu the troll acquainting himself with earthly ways, and earthly time, was just marvelous it was wonderful to see how Dunsany describes the passing of earthly time in such a way that it felt as strange and magical as elfland itself message 13 by markfinished it tonight wonderful the chapter with the Elfland King trying to soothe his daughter had some of the most beautiful writing i ve ever read the ending, the slowly moving line as Elfland takes over Erl entrancing the whole novel is magically written prose like poetry, like music for two far superior reviews of this splendid classic, read the ones by Mark and Keely

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