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Three Hearts and Three Lions by Poul…

Three Hearts and Three Lions (1961)

by Poul Anderson

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Holger Danske (1)

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Originally published in 1953, this book was selected for reprint as part of the "Fantasy Masterworks" series, so I thought I would check it out.

Holger Carlsen is a Danish-American engineer, who, while involved in a daring attempt to smuggle people out of Nazi-occupied Denmark, finds himself mysteriously transported to a medieval-esque land on the border of Faerie. He awakes naked, with no memory of how he arrived in this place - but finds a knight's steed and trappings sitting next to him, ready for his use, so he sets off on a quest to find a way to get home. Soon joined by an earthy little dwarf, Hugi, and a beautiful, nubile swan-maiden, Alionora, he experiences a set of adventures (in which his knowledge of engineering repeatedly comes in handy), faces the machinations of Morgan le Fay, and gradually comes to realize that his true place may be here, in this magical land.

It's a bit cheesy in parts, and suffers from some innate sexism (it was written in the 50's), but overall, a fun, light read. ( )
1 vote AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I'd already read a small amount about Ogier the Dane, before encountering this work, and I never warmed up to it. I've got a copyright date of 1951 for this book, and its clumsy WWII tie-in was a final nail in the coffin. I'm glad this is just one of Poul Anderson's books. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Sep 12, 2013 |
This is an entertaining tale of a twentieth century man, Holger Carlsen, suddenly plunged into a magical medieval world where he gains a dwarf and a swan-may as companions and Morgan le Fay as his adversary, along the way battling werewolves, trolls, elves and giants. I do like the way Carlsen's knowledge as an engineer comes into play, as in this encounter with a dragon:

Downward the monster slanted, overhauling them with nightmare speed. Holger glanced back again and saw smoke and flame roll from the fanged mouth. For a lunatic moment he wondered about the metabolism, and what amendment to the square-cube law permitted that hulk to fly?

Similarly he deduces the curse on a purse of gold must be due to the radioactivity of transmutation. A lot of the humor comes from a modern, scientific man's struggles to make sense of the fairy tale setting. At the same time there's something old-fashioned in the sensibility of this book published in 1953. It struck me reading this that in recent decades fantasy has taken on New Age assumptions about the sources and overall benignity of magic. This is a tale where witches are sinister figures and wielding a cross and having Christian prayers on your lips can avert evil. That made it rather refreshing in some ways from the contemporary works in fantasy--like reading a story where vampires are bloodsucking fiends rather than a dream date. There are touches of Mallory speak ("hight" and "oft" and the like) but that doesn't keep it from reading fast--and it's pretty short, not much longer than 200 pages in mass paperback. I did enjoy this, although not in a way I would read it again. So fun, entertaining, but not for me a keeper. ( )
3 vote LisaMaria_C | Jul 22, 2013 |
I was already partway through The Broken Sword, which is deeply inspired by Norse sagas, when I accidentally picked this book up -- I only meant to read a couple of pages, figure out how long it might take me to read it. I ended up reading it pretty much all in one go, in less than two hours total. I found it more absorbing than The Broken Sword -- though admittedly I read Three Hearts and Three Lions when I was bright and awake, and when I started The Broken Sword it was nearly bedtime -- and though I'm more impressed, I think, with what he did with the Norse influence on The Broken Sword, I think I liked this one more. Still, I shouldn't really judge until I've finished The Broken Sword, and I just promptly looked up the titles of his other fantasy novels.

What did I love about this? I noticed how influential it seems to have been, seeing elements I've seen elsewhere (for example, going to another world and turning out to be the champion of it, and the way the two worlds impact on each other, reminded me of Stephen Lawhead's Paradise War books). I was impressed by the fact that it took the Matter of France for the backdrop: I think I've only read one other non-medieval text which drew on the stories of Charlemagne, at least in a way that I recognised. I love the Matter of Britain, but it does get used an awful lot. There was a blend of fairytale type mythology here, of course, including at least one aspect from the Matter of Britain, but that the central characters were strongly linked to the Matter of France struck me as interesting.

I quite liked the way it referenced science and literature from our world, too, e.g. when fighting the dragon, the blade made of magnesium, etc.

I suppose now it does read as something dated -- more so than his contemporary, Tolkien, given that he mentions Nazism and the like -- but I loved it all the same. ( )
2 vote shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anderson, Poulprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Giancola, DonatoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gregory, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, JeffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lundgren, CarlCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Power, Richard M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woodroffe, PatrickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The gathering forces of the Dark Powers threaten the world of man. The legions of Faery, aided by trolls, demons, and the Wild Hunt itself, are poised to overthrow the Realms of Light. Holger Carlsen, a bemused and puzzled twentieth-century man mysteriously snatched out of time, finds himself the key figure in the conflict. Arrayed against him are the dragons, giants, and elfin warriors of the armies of Chaos and the beautiful sorceress Morgan le Fay. On his side are a vague prophecy, a quarrelsome dwarf, and a beautiful woman who can turn herself into a swan, not to mention Papillon, the magnificent battle horse, and a full set of perfectly fitting armor, both of which were waiting for him when he entered the magical realm. The shield bears three hearts and three lions the only clue to Holger Carlsen's true identity. Could Carlsen really be a legendary hero, the only man who can save the world… (more)

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