Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The King of Elfland's Daughter

The last of the D's, The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany is a real classic.

Edward Plunkett was the eighteenth Baron Dunsany and wrote under his official title of Lord Dunsany. The nobly born author influenced a number of the early fantasists: Lovecraft and Leiber amongst them, I believe Tolkien may have also cited him as an inspiration, and these in turn influenced the next generation and gave us the great fantasy authors of today.

The King of Elfland's Daughter is quite extraordinary. There's a fairly loose and basic plot. The folk of Erl in the fields we know decide that they want a magical ruler and to that end send their Prince Alveric into Elfland to get someone. He returns after some years with a wife; Lirazel, the King of Elfland's Daughter. They have a son; Orion. After trying to live in Erl and understand the Freer (which seems to be the Catholic Church) Lirazel pines for her home and leaves. Unable to live without her, Alveric follows, but is unable to find the way back to Elfland and wanders lost in the wilderness for years. Without the influence of either mother or father, Orion grows up wild and lives to hunt, shockingly his prey of choice is the unicorns that sometimes stray into the fields we know from Elfland. Eventually Elfland and Erl merge and the family is reunited.

What stands out about The King of Elfland's Daughter is Dunsany's incredible imagination, his vision of Elfland, which most modern writers tend to call faery, Dunsany's ideas have been taken and used by writers since, it's been added to and altered, but it was his original vision that set the building blocks. Then there is the prose. Dunsany was a master with words and he chose them very carefully with The King of Elfland's Daughter. The prose was beautiful and lovingly written, it fitted the mood that Dunsany was trying to convey during that section of story.

It was hard to get to know the characters and the main 3 tended to fit stereotypes, there was a fourth character which was a lot of fun and that was the troll; Lurulu. Lurulu is no under the bridge type troll. He's a small, mischievous and loyal character. He's more like a pixie than a troll, he and his whimsical behaviour provided a number of the book's most amusing moments.

Neil Gaiman's Stardust which was also made into a film, seems similar in tone and theme to The King of Elfland's Daughter. Gaiman wrote the introduction to my edition of The King of Elfland's Daughter, so he may be another author influenced by Dunsany. I felt that Tad Williams The War of the Flowers shared something thematically in that the heart of it is a person from our world crossing into a very cpmpletely realised and revolutionary view of faery.


  1. This has been on my radar but I think I HAVE to read it now. I love these types of stories.

  2. I think you'd enjoy it, Bryce. That's one of the things I do enjoy about reading through this list, sure I get some duds, but I'm discovering a lot of great old classics, too.

  3. That's good that it's been worth it. What list have you been going off of? I guess I should just wait until you're done so you can read all the crap for me. :)

  4. I have this book called 100 Must-Read Fantasy Novels. It's a Bloomsbury book by Nick Rennison and Stephen E. Andrews. I'd only read about a 3rd of what they listed, so I decided to read them all and blog it.