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The king of Elfland's daughter by Lord…

The king of Elfland's daughter (original 1924; edition 1972)

by Lord Dunsany (Author), Lin Carter (Introduction)

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1,604354,530 (3.75)71
Title:The king of Elfland's daughter
Authors:Lord Dunsany (Author)
Other authors:Lin Carter (Introduction)
Info:London : Tom Stacey, 1972.
Collections:Your library, Reviewed
Tags:type: mass market paperback, genre: fantasy, age: adult, genre: high fantasy, read 2014

Work details

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany (1924)

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    PhoenixFalls: Mirrlees wrote Lud-in-the-Mist in response to Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter; they are two opposing takes on Fairyland and what it means to humanity, and both are brilliant.
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» See also 71 mentions

English (34)  French (1)  English (35)
Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
Lord Dunsany wrote true fantasy, the sort that had the ability to evoke genuine awe and inspire in the reader a desire for something beyond the trammels of the mundane and the everyday world. While his short stories are perhaps the pinnacle of his craft (and arguably the pinnacle of all fantastic fiction) this rare novel is an absolute gem, and a high watermark of fantastic fiction. Through the course of two hundred odd pages, Dunsany weaves a tale of lost love and despair, a heartfelt yearning for a world and people that once experienced seem to slip forever from our grasp yet haunt our very beings until the day we die. It's also a sobering meditation on the necessity for both magic and the mundane in our lives (and a warning never to lose touch with our humanity in the search for wonder) as well as a paean to life in all its myriad complexities.
( )
  StuartNorth | Nov 19, 2016 |
Poetical? Yes. In a class with Tolkein? Uhm, no. Admired by Neil Gaiman? Apparently, yes. Admired by me? No. This story is light on character development, light on plot, pretty much humorless, with poor parenting choices, and loads of slaughtered beasts, including a ghastly unicorn hunt which nearly made me put the book down (yep, definitely judging here - I would make a terrible anthropologist). It reminds me of the Bible. No, seriously. For the aforementioned reasons but also, I'd say 90% of the sentences and paragraphs begin with "And," as in "And then when ..." "And the next day ..." "And there was ..." followed by phrases like "thus (such and such...)" and "for (such and such)." Some examples:

"And Alveric would not speak the words ... for no man, he foolishly thought, should compromise in matters touching on heathenesse."

"And to the land thus expectant, thus watchful ..."

The young person in this story is abandoned by both of his parents and goes feral, becoming a bloodthirsty hunter of, it seems, anything that wasn't his pack of hunting dogs. He killed animals, wore animals, ate animals, and dreamed of killing more animals. Special guy.

Luckily, it's short. But really, this could be a 20 page picture book for tykes and I'd get the very same message. Come to that, I don't have a clue what the message might be. Scratch that idea. ( )
  libbromus | Apr 24, 2016 |
The parliament of Erl tell their lord that they should wish to be ruled by a magic lord, so he sends his son Alveric to wed the titular princess. The eventual reign of the grandson illustrates the saying about being careful what you wish for.

The short novel combines typical fairytale motifs - such as the supernatural bride's difficulties fitting into human society - with Dunsany's scintillating language and motifs we recognize from his earlier short stories. The narrator occasionally steps in to wonder whether a shooting star fell to provide an omen or pursuant to some natural law; or to assert that the horn of a unicorn killed by one of the characters was the very same as that which in a later age was presented by the Pope as a gift to the King of France.

While it may not appeal to all fantasy fans - it's certainly rather different than most post-Tolkienian fantasy - I liked it a lot.

Dunsany also had a bit of fun with the names here - in particular, Alveric means "Elf King"! The place-name Erl recalls the Erlking.
2 vote AndreasJ | Feb 21, 2016 |
Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter and Mirrlees's Lud-in-the-Mist present two faces of the same coin. If Mirrlees lends her prose a lyrical tone, Dunsany chooses to craft his epic poem in prose. And as well-suited to their separate tales are their varying characters and premises, both authors emphasise theme over plot.

Each novel concerns itself with choices attendant to the separate realms of faery and mankind, where these realms touch, and the attendant friction. The central motif in Mirrlees is that of an opposition between magic and reason, and a society too much driven by commercial calculus. The ending provides a compromise, without any promise of permanence. Dunsany focuses on the rule of time, an opposition between relentless change and life's underlying essence. All organic life is circumscribed in Erl: growth, decay, the entire biological and evolutionary process follow the dictates of time. Time brings change but threatens to strip society of its underlying character.

In the end, Dunsany's tale reinforces the ambiguity inherent to compromise between Faery and The Fields We Know: the King of Elfland uses the last Rune to allow Lirazel's return to Erl and reunion with her son Orion, yet any outcome remains unclear. Faery wonders are indeed come again to Erl, without it being wholly absorbed into Elfland. But the King of Elfland has foretold future "dubious years" which may overcome Elfland, and that Rune was Elfland's sole means of withstanding the power of "material things". The balance, it would seem, will soon enough be threatened once again.


Dunsany could as easily named the novel after the Erl King's Son as the Elf King's daughter, or even for Orion, the child of Alveric and Lirazel.

Presumably Dunsany alludes to the Danish ballad "Elveskud", variously translated into German and thence into Romanticism: Johann Gottfried Herder's "Erlkönigs Tochter" ("The Erl-king's Daughter") in his collection of folk songs, Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (published 1778), and Goethe's "Der Erlkoenig", part of his 1782 Singspiel Die Fischerin. There is a history of mis-translation into English, where Erlkoenig should be Alder King but is often rendered Elf King. Dunsay would appear to play with this ambiguity, with the human kingdom of Erl set against the kingdom of Elfland.

As with Cabell, I struggle to recall specifics of plot and premise, regretting my inability to bring to mind character names or major scenes. But like the tales of Poictesme, the reward is in the prose, the remove, a certain acceptance of perennial wisdom. It will be just as rewarding to read again. ( )
1 vote elenchus | Feb 7, 2016 |
Like a knight in shining armour. Dunsany says it so well that we can find him talking to us with a romantic whisper that thrills (!). ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lord Dunsanyprimary authorall editionscalculated
葵, 原翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pepper, BobCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuchart, MaxTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, DarrylCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Waterhouse, John W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, KathyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Lady Dunsany
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In their ruddy jackets of leather that reached to their knees the men of Erl appeared before their lord, the stately white-haired man in his long red room.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description

The people of the Vale of Erl wanted magic in their land. And so it was that their king sent his son, young Alveric - into the strangely enchanted meadows of Faerie to find and wed the King of Elfland's daughter.

So armed with a wondrous sword forged from thunderbolts by the witch Ziroonderel, Alveric went off to do his father's bidding. And he returned to the Vale with the beautiful Lirazel as his beloved wife.

Their love was passionate and strong, but it was no match for the magic of the King of Elfland...a magic powerful enough to whisk Lirazel away from her husband and son.

Bereft, Alveric set out on the most impossible mission any mortal ever dared...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 034543191X, Paperback)

All fantasy and horror fans owe it to themselves to read Lord Dunsany (1878-1957). The sword & sorcery genre was born in his early stories, and high fantasy was indelibly transformed by his novels. His profound influence on 20th-century fantastic fiction is visible in authors as dissimilar as Neil Gaiman, H.P. Lovecraft, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Lord Dunsany's best-known novel is The King of Elfland's Daughter (1924), wherein the men of Erl desire to be "ruled by a magic lord," and the lord's heir, Alveric, ventures into Elfland to win the king's daughter, Lirazel. Their story does not progress as a reader weaned on the diluted milk of formulaic fantasy would expect; and the novel's unique journeys and events are matched by Dunsany's rich and lyrical prose and by his contagious intoxication with the magic and marvels of both Elfland and our own world. --Cynthia Ward

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:32 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A young prince ventures into a mysterious forest in search of the land of Faerie and of a princess bride, in one of the landmarks of modern fantasy fiction.

(summary from another edition)

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