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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, Lin Carter (Introduction)

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1,566324,674 (3.74)67
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)

  1. 121
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    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (billiecat)
    billiecat: Clarke's descriptions of Faerie share the dreamlike qualities OF Dunsany's novel.
  4. 40
    Lud-in-the-mist by Hope Mirrlees (PhoenixFalls)
    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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English (31)  French (1)  All languages (32)
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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.

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 |
Written in the early 20th century, This fantasy tale is about a small town that wishes to be ruled by a magic lord.

Several leading citizens of the Vale of Erl go to their King, suggesting that a magic lord will help their town to be famous far and wide. The King sends his son, Alveric, into Elfland to bring back Lirazel, the King's daughter, as his bride. The misty border between the two lands causes those who live just to the west of Elfland to pretend that the compass direction of East, toward Elfland, does not exist.

Lirazel produces a son, Orion, but the marriage is not happy. She is unwilling, or unable, to give up her belief in praying to the stars, in favor of Alveric's religion. In his desperation to get her back, Lirazel's father sent over a powerful rune to Lirazel, which she puts in a drawer. She knows that if she reads the rune, it will immediately send her back to Elfland. After being told, again, to give up her religion, now, in frustration, Lirazel uses the rune. Alveric immediately goes after her. After traveling for several days through a vast wasteland, he is forced to realize that not only has the castle of Elfland disappeared, but the entire land of Elfland has vanished.

Alveric goes back to Erl and puts together an expedition to the far North to find some piece of Elfland that is not gone. After several years, a couple of members of the expedition return to Erl, no longer as committed to finding Elfland as they once were. Alveric shows no sign of giving up. Watching with her father, Lirazel begins to think that maybe she should go back to Alveric. Do they get back together? Do the people of Erl get their wish to be ruled by a magic lord?

This was written in a very different time, so it is not a quick read; it will take some effort on the part of the reader. But that effort will be richly rewarded, because Dunsany, one of the overall masters of the fantasy field, does a wonderful job with the language and descriptions of this story. It is lyrical and poetic and it is a joy to read. ( )
2 vote plappen | Aug 1, 2015 |
The King of Elfland's Daughter has some beautiful writing and does not take the usual fantasy route, but ultimately I only thought it was okay.

The overarching theme I got from this book is that the grass always looks greener (or in this case more twilight colored) on the other side. The event that sets the book in motion is a delegation of the common people asking their lord for a magical ruler. They imagine this distinction will bring them fame and happiness, but when they finally get their wish they come to regret it. Likewise the titular daughter yearns for the purples of Elfland when she is first brought to our world, then yearns for our world upon her return to her own. Ditto her husband, ditto a bunch of trolls. This brings the resolution into question in an interesting way as well: if the grass always appears greener when it isn't, then the King of Elfland's decision to use his final rune might have been the wrong one, as it seemingly abolishes the divide between the two worlds. Will this lead to the best of both worlds, or will it leave everyone pining for worlds that no longer exist? We don't find out, but the dark future that the King foresees doesn't suggest an easy journey.

Lord Dunsany can write well, and it was fun to read a work of fantasy that heavily influenced what followed (Lud-in-the-Mist comes to mind especially), but some flaws were that characters lacked much characterization and underwent no development, and that some of the sections of the story seemed rather pointless. Orion's infatuation for hunting, and eventually for hunting unicorns, serves to make the barriers between worlds more porous, but a lot of time was spent on it when the same could have been accomplished in far fewer pages. Other segments seemed overlong as well.

This book is loads better than most fantasy out there, so it's worth reading if you're a fan of the genre, but overall I found it pretty good instead of great. ( )
1 vote BayardUS | Dec 10, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lord Dunsanyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

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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