Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Appendix N: The King of Elfland’s Daughter link Roundup

My latest Appendix N post is now up:

RETROSPECTIVE: The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany 

I had a devil of a time with this one. I thought I would never get through. As such, there is far more material that has been cut from it than any other post I’ve done. References to some really interesting stuff got removed, but the stuff did inspire me, so here it is:

Here are several more snippets from people that have weighed in on the Lord Dunsany’s classic work:

Fantasy Faction — “There’s a very obvious parallel here with a later work, Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, where an ordinary, if old-world village stands near the wall that divides the mundane world from the world of magic. There the similarity ends, though, because Stardust takes place almost entirely within the world of magic, whereas The King of Elfland’s Daughter, as Dunsany ‘reassures’ us, is mostly about the effect of Elfland on the fields we know.”

The SF Site — “Everyone has heard of The King of Elfland’s Daughter, lauded by people like Neil Gaiman (who provides a touching introduction to the volume), Fritz Leiber, John Clute and numerous others. Still, how many have read the tale? Woefully few. But why? Why, when Lord Dunsany has crafted a tale of princes and magical swords, beautiful maidens, unicorns and other impossible creatures, and (of course) elves galore? Isn’t this the stuff that fantasy is made of?”

The Black Gate — “The King of Elfland’s Daughter isn’t sword and sorcery, but there are things in it, such as the sword forged from lightning bolts, that will appeal to S&S readers. Dunsany blends several diverse elements in the book, creating something that doesn’t really fall into any of the subgenres in the field today. There are elements of fairy tales, quests, and tragedy in the book. In my opinion, the sum is greater than the whole of its parts. Overall, I found The King of Elfland’s Daughter highly enjoyable. This is one I heartily recommend, with the caveat that it probably won’t be a style of writing you’re used to. Also, don’t read it right before bed. Dunsany takes his time telling the stories, describing things. While the book never drags, it doesn’t race ahead with the breakneck pace of, say, Robert E. Howard.”

Kyle Marquis — “There’s nothing in the flow or content of The King of Elfland’s Daughter that resembles ‘fat fantasy’ of the normal kind. The pacing and style of the story more closely resembles “weird fiction”, from the old pulp horror tales of Lovecraft to the dream-like short stories of Gaiman to the artistic strangeness ofUnknown Armies. It’s a world where the all-powerful Plot doesn’t guide the heroes’ destinies, where affairs can be epic without the clashing of armies or the quest to overthrow the Evil Overlord, and where the strangeness of things isn’t necessarily for mankind to overcome, exploit, or even understand. It is the Other Fantasy, the hard, creative, dangerous stuff, not the pedestrian escapism that clutters up the shelves. There’s more imagination and splendor in this short book than in five-thousand pages of the latest fantasy tree-killer, and it’s time that Dunsany was remembered as an author who contributed as much as Tolkien, Howard, or any of the other big names to the existence and vibrancy of the fantasy genre.”

Dreams in the Lich House — “I’ll confess – at times I grow weary of the long shadow of Tolkien on gaming, and appreciate alternative imaginings of classic races when I encounter them. The elves of Dunsany live in a realm of faerie that’s coterminous with our world, but the borders of the realm are capable of retreating at the will of the King of Elfland. Most mortals seem ignorant about how close Elfland lies; it’s just over that nearby hill. Elfland itself is an eternal, unchanging place, where a single moment stretches for an eternity; much of the charm and vision in this story happens when creatures of the fairy realm slip into the mortal world and begin to experience Time and Change. And play tricks on people.”

Mordicai Knode on “Dunsany’s best stuff” — “It is also very, very imperialistic. I don’t even mean that it has the same sort of post-colonial tensions that a lot of the pulps we’ve read have—the sort of things that leads to creating inhuman Others out of orcs in order to act as a stand-in for indigenous peoples. I mean, old school Rule Britannia, pith helmets and khaki shorts, monocles and what have you. Stories where giving the natives quinine is like, a plot point. I would say it reminds me of Richard Burton but that is a bit on the nose, given that—let’s keep talking about Lord Dunsany’s crazy life— Lord Dunsany was in fact related to Richard Burton. Because of course he is.”

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3 responses to “Appendix N: The King of Elfland’s Daughter link Roundup

  1. Cirsova April 14, 2015 at 10:02 am

    I haven’t yet read King of Elfland’s Daughter, but it’s sometimes hard to say whether Charwoman’s Shadow is a satire, an homage or the perfection of the Gothic Novel. There’s some clear influence from Walpole and Radcliff, but he takes it in a lot of fun genre-savvy directions.

    • jeffro April 14, 2015 at 10:15 am

      It’s difficult to not just stop everything else I’m doing and go read more Dunsany. This one book is not representative of all that he did!

      • Cirsova April 14, 2015 at 10:19 am

        He’s dauntingly prolific. At least most of his earlier stuff is on Gutenberg. I just hate reading books on a computer screen. I actually print and bound my own copies of Time & The Gods and Gods of Pegana. “A pagan bible” really is one of the best descriptions of his earlier stuff. A lot of it is very terrifying in an inexplicable ‘Old Testament’ kind of way, like Eye in the Waste and Tower of the Ending of Days.

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