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The King of Elfland's Daughter (1924)

by Lord Dunsany

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,313546,769 (3.75)1 / 105
It's hard to overstate just how influential The King of Elfland's Daughter has been to modern fantasy; particularly high fantasy, sword and sorcery, and high fantasy. Lyrical and dream like it takes us on a search for a fairy princess and the magic that man has always secretly craved. Masterfully written, poignant, and yet still full of exciting action and adventure. It's not simply the beauty of the language, the astute eye for character, the hint of humor, or even the spell of legendry and wonder, but Dunsany's unique combination of all of the above.-- Charles de Lint A fantasy novel in a class with the Tolkien books.--L. Sprague de Camp It could be the very best fairy story ever written.--Gahan Wilson No amount of mere description can convey more than a fraction of Lord Dunsany's pervasive charm.--H. P. Lovecraft One of the greatest writers of this century.--Arthur C. Clarke… (more)
  1. 141
    Stardust by Neil Gaiman (ghilbrae)
  2. 80
    The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle (dbigwood)
  3. 83
    Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (billiecat)
    billiecat: Clarke's descriptions of Faerie share the dreamlike qualities OF Dunsany's novel.
  4. 51
    The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories by Susanna Clarke (billiecat)
  5. 41
    Mabinogion Tetralogy by Evangeline Walton (LamontCranston)
  6. 41
    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.
  7. 10
    The Knight by Gene Wolfe (LamontCranston)
  8. 10
    The Wizard by Gene Wolfe (LamontCranston)
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» See also 105 mentions

English (50)  Spanish (1)  Finnish (1)  French (1)  All languages (53)
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
From the Department of Unpopular Opinions:

This is a beautifully-written tale of not being satisfied with what one has, but always longing for that other. It would have been a perfect short story of perhaps 50 pages. As even a very short novel, it’s just too long.

But the dreamy, emotional setting is the strongest part of the book, and will keep lovers of fantasy and/or nature writing interested. Not much characterization and not much plot, either, except for a few set pieces of exciting action. It’s written in a sort of biblical/ Norse saga style that is initially comforting but becomes a drag after a while.

But do try it. You may love it far more than I did. ( )
  Matke | May 28, 2023 |
It’s cute. It’s not like John Tolkien because there’s no danger, but it’s not unlike an Elder Scrolls game if you stay in the safe parts of town or better, make yourself invisible. It’s not a plot book, and not really a character book either, but a sort of setting book, ironically very un-Jane (‘it is not my intention to tell you about Hertfordshire’), but very feminine. It is a sort of adventure—it’s a princess adventure. It’s not the best or the worst princess adventure I’ve read, but it’s not unlike a painting of a young girl’s face, you know. Of course, you admire it more than you talk about it. But it’s nice.
  goosecap | Apr 27, 2023 |
Dig for the metaphores. Or not. Try to find the action. Or not.

Just read it for the sake of the sheer beauty and the incredible flow of the language. You will be rewarded. ( )
  Fodder | Jan 7, 2023 |
If you’re interested in character development or a fast-moving, action-packed plot, Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter will probably disappoint you. On the other hand, if you remain curious about the origins of the fantasy genre beyond Tolkien but were put off by the recurrent battles of Eddison’s Zimiamvian series, then this might be more to your taste.
Yet be forewarned: there is bloodshed here, too. In addition to numerous stags, even unicorns. When I shared this information with a fantasy fan, he gasped, “not unicorns!” But it turns out that the unicorns, because of their stuck-up ways, aren’t beloved of their fellow creatures of Elfland, so the aptly-named Orion has little difficulty recruiting a troll to help hunt them.
Orion is the offspring of an earthling, Alveric, prince of Erl, and Lirazel (to whom the book’s title refers). Alveric enters Elfland, which turns out to be just through the hedge at the edge of Erl, to get her as his bride.
The idea was not his to begin with, though. It arose when Erl’s parliament petitioned Alveric’s father, the king of Erl, to liven up Erl with some magic. Alveric’s consent comes readily enough, nor does Lirazel hesitate to take his hand and scamper earthward through the hedge. That surprised me.
This lack of resistance gave me the feeling in the book’s first part that not much was happening. But, of course, Alveric can’t just stroll through the hedge. To hack through the life-threatening ivy that clads the giant oaks beyond, he needs a sword forged from thunderbolts by a helpful witch.
When Lirazel bears their son, Orion, the same witch is deemed the only suitable nurse.
Orion’s dual heritage gradually reveals itself. At first, Erl’s parliament (twelve village elders who do their planning in the evening while imbibing generous bowls of mead) are pleased their desire has come to fruition but then regret it. So in one way, the story illustrates the old adage, be careful what you wish for. Indeed, Lord Dunsany’s portrayal for this group’s ability to get it wrong suggests that he shares fellow fantasist Eddison’s disdain for democracy. We’re overdue for a creative fantasist to imagine a well-working democracy; I think we could use it now.
The book also illustrates a second adage, the one about the grass always greener and so on. This is the aspect of the book I most enjoyed. It’s no surprise that Elfland exerts a pull on some earthlings. It is lit by neither sun nor moon but bathed in perpetual twilight by the king’s effulgence. He has mastered time so that it moves so slowly that seemingly nothing changes (a point stylistically underlined by the author’s generous repetition of descriptive details as motifs whenever he writes about Elfland). The twist is that earth also fascinates some of Elfland’s creatures. Each day is announced by a glorious dawn and seen off by a radiant sunset. Spring seems to pass in a heartbeat. To Lirazel, as well as to Lurulu, the adventurous troll, earth’s transience is part of its beauty.
Is there a way to satisfy this mutual attraction? In Erl, Lirazel had missed her homeland; but then, after she yields to her father’s magical blandishment to return, she longs for her son (and her husband, too—at least a bit). This adds a mood previously unknown in Elfland: Sadness. The only way for her father to assuage it is to risk Elfland’s future survival. ( )
1 vote HenrySt123 | Dec 10, 2022 |
think I might have read this one years ago. I'll have to check it out and see
  Luziadovalongo | Jul 14, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 50 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dunsany, LordAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
章博, 山田Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
葵, 原Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
葵, 原Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fry, MicheleNarratorsecondary 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
Wollschläger, HansÜbersetzersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wyatt, KathyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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It's hard to overstate just how influential The King of Elfland's Daughter has been to modern fantasy; particularly high fantasy, sword and sorcery, and high fantasy. Lyrical and dream like it takes us on a search for a fairy princess and the magic that man has always secretly craved. Masterfully written, poignant, and yet still full of exciting action and adventure. It's not simply the beauty of the language, the astute eye for character, the hint of humor, or even the spell of legendry and wonder, but Dunsany's unique combination of all of the above.-- Charles de Lint A fantasy novel in a class with the Tolkien books.--L. Sprague de Camp It could be the very best fairy story ever written.--Gahan Wilson No amount of mere description can convey more than a fraction of Lord Dunsany's pervasive charm.--H. P. Lovecraft One of the greatest writers of this century.--Arthur C. Clarke

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Book description
HAPPILY NEVER AFTER...HAPPILY NEVER AFTER...

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...
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