The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Ballantine Books (242 pages, June 1969, $0.95)
Cover art by Bob Pepper
The second volume Lin Carter chose for the Adult Fantasy line was Lord Dunsany’s The King of Elfland’s Daughter. In my opinion, it is it far superior to Fletcher Pratt’s The Blue Star.
The “Lord” in the author’s byline isn’t an affectation. Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett was the 18th Baron Dunsany (1878-1957). He was a tall, lean man. His accomplishments could put most people to shame. Soldier, Member of Parliament, author, poet, playwright, chess champion, hunter, and sportsman.
Dunsany began his writing career with short fiction, set mostly in imaginary lands and much of it slight in terms of plot and character. These tales greatly influenced H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote in this vein until moving on to develop the Cthulhu mythos.
Dunsany’s later series about Jorkens concerns a man who tells tall tales in a bar for drinks. These stories were the precursors of and influences on Arthur C. Clarke’s White Hart, L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt’s Gavagan’s Bar, and Sterling E. Lanier’s Brigadier Ffellowes. A further discussion of Dunsany’s influence can be found here.
Dunsany turned to writing novels after publishing a number of short fiction collections. Among his novels, many consider The King of Elfland’s Daughter to be his finest. Lin Carter gives a brief introduction, not only discussing this particular work,but Dunsany’s work in general.
Set in the kingdom of Erl, the story opens with a parliament of craftsmen making an unusual request of the king. They want to be ruled over by a monarch who is “a magic lord.” He grants their request, but tells his son Alveric that it is not from wisdom that they make this request. And indeed, the parliament will come to deeply regret their request before the book’s final page is turned.
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