The King of Elfland's Daughter
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The King of Elfland's Daughter

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  3,225 ratings  ·  247 reviews
The poetic style and sweeping grandeur of The King of Elfland's Daughter has made it one of the most beloved fantasy novels of our time, a masterpiece that influenced some of the greatest contemporary fantasists. The heartbreaking story of a marriage between a mortal man and an elf princess is a masterful tapestry of the fairy tale following the "happily ever after."
Paperback, 256 pages
Published July 6th 1999 by Del Rey (first published 1924)
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. TolkienThe Two Towers by J.R.R. TolkienThe Return of the King by J.R.R. TolkienWicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
The Best Books about Elves or Faeries
31st out of 589 books — 749 voters
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank BaumAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord DunsanyThe Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian AndersenDracula by Bram Stoker
Pre-Tolkien Fantasy
3rd out of 106 books — 83 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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In fantasy, I've seen magic used in many ways: as plot device, curio, religious allegory, and the personification of morals, but rarely do I find a book where magic is truly magical. Too often, it's a convenience, a cliche, but for Dunsany, magic is pervasive, mysterious, unknowable, and lovely. He captures a sense of the 'sublime': something so unbelievably beautiful that it becomes overwhelming, even frightening.

Dunsany wrote his stories with a handmade quill in a single draft. His language is...more
Recommended for: Those who have patience and are comfortable with Victorian and poetic styles in prose, who have romantic souls, and people who enjoy reading poetry and who enjoy introspective, speculative, and exploratory literature and fanciful fantasy.

Not recommended for : Those who prefer fast-paced action and down-to-earth and gritty prose styles and label some styles "too flowery"

The name:" Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett" has a rather strange ring to it, doesn't it? I think "Lord Dunsa...more
mark monday
a tale out of time: an old myth reinvented; a new myth born. a wayward bride, a forlorn husband, their son - a pitiless hunter. a defiant old woman; a melancholy old man. trolls delight in delight; unicorns are for slaughter. question: what is Time in Elfland? answer: a fantasy! twelve men want magic. madmen shall take captive a king. borders shall be crossed and boundaries may be as fleeting as dreams. be wary of what you wish for! love shall conquer all and death shall be no more.

prose like po...more
Aug 24, 2014 Mark rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone yearning after enchantment
Recommended to Mark by: Mark Monday
Shelves: fantasy, favorites
What can i say ? Absolutely wondrous. I adored this and it is the perfect book to read when you live by yourself because its another of those that demand to be read out loud. The cat was very entertained.

It is the story of a mortal going in search of a means to bring magic to his valley at the request of his father, the Lord of Erl because the Lord's parliament of 12 men asked for magic. The boy, Alveric, seeks Elfland and, in finding it, encounters the love of his life, Lirazel the Elf Princess...more
A beautifully-written, Edwardian faerie story for adults - not that there's any "adult" content, and were it published today, it would probably be classed as YA (despite some rather unpleasant hunting). However, it only gets 3*, as a reflection of my enjoyment of it; I prefer things a little darker, even though the moral is perhaps "Be careful what you wish for".

It is essentially a tale of young love across a cultural chasm (human Alveric and elfin Lirazel), the quest of Orion (not the Greek...more
Forget that leathery old man on the beer commercials with two giant "X's," he's a nobody. The real most interesting man in the world is Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, or at least he would have been in his time. And by the way, that's Lord Dunsany to you! As the 18th Baron of Dunsany, he had the opportunity to simply relax, attend parties, and generally take life easy. But that would have been a waste, would it not? I mean, we only live once; so dammit, live like you want to live! Instead of...more

Brought to my attention by this note on the cover : "Introduction by Neil Gaiman." I've been on a good roll where Gaiman is concerned with Neverwhere and The Sandman read this year, so his glowing praise for Lord Dunsany made me put this classic fantasy forward in my queue:

"His words sing, like those of a poet who got drunk on the prose of the King James Bible, and who has still not yet become sober."

The style is the first thing that struck me about the novel, archaic yet elegant, the language...more

The King of Elfland's Daughter is one of the most perfectly beautiful fantasy novels ever written. Yet, in the sea of J.R.R. Tolkien and G.R.R Martin clones it appears to be a forgotten relic. This is a shame - not only because of the sheer aesthetic delight of Lord Dunsany's writing - because many fantasy authors could learn from this novel, the value of subtlety and artful storytelling. In a sea of blatant plots and unmagical magic structures, Lord Dunsany's work is a wondrous and magical deli...more
Not going to happen. The first 70 pages are as beautiful as it gets. And then things began to drift. An endless hunt for a unicorn (which was kind of boring), and a troll meditating on the nature of time. At this point, I threw it across the room. Seriously, I felt somewhat duty bound to read this, since Lovecraft loved LD (and I like Lovecraft). Like Lovecraft, Dunsany works, IMHO, best in the shorter bites. If you like (archaic) poetic language and high fantasy, I highly recommend Eddison's Th...more
A modern reader should not come into this book expecting an an intricate and interwoven plot. The storyline is solid, but it is not greatly more complex than a fairy tale. It makes sure to take its time, and it might feel like a lull at certain places - especially if you read the book in sections like I did, taking hurried bites before rushing off elsewhere to whatever. But if you're able to suppress your expectations of omg LARGE DRAGONS and EARTH-DEVOURING ARTIFACTS and CARS WHOSE GAS TANKS WE...more
Mike (the Paladin)
At times during the reading of this book, like Alveric I felt that I must have "lost Elfland". Reading Dunsany's prose is often much like reading poetry and it took me a while to get back into the rhythm. While in many ways this is a book not to be missed, read it when nothing presses..not time, not life, not circumstances. The outside pressing in will take away from this volume as it's more an experince than a story.

For those who haven't read Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett the eighteenth Bar...more
Chance Maree

This was a pleasure. I read in the evenings and for this novel, I always looked forward to returning daily to the poetic prose and magical landscape of Elfland. The writer, you can tell, is mature and steady in his craft, beautiful minded, and simply perfect. His voice is calming and rich. Something interesting--I loved Infinite Jest too, but that novel is 180 degrees different from The King of Elfland's Daughter. Foster's voice, while clever and insightful, felt unstable, wobbly, and exploring...more
I can't really understand people disliking this book. Well, no, I can: the language is olde worlde, the phrase 'the fields we know' is used far too many times, it's more of a fairytale like story than modern fantasy, though it's sold as being one of the defining moments for the genre, and if you're looking at it from a modern point of view, the characters and their motivations are hopelessly unsatisfying.

I thought the language was beautiful, though: Dunsany struck just the right note for me, and...more
Oct 22, 2009 Miriam rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people who like lots of description
Shelves: fantasy
I am a little hesitant to give this a 3, for Dunsany writes wonderfully. His prose is by turns lyrical, clever, humorous, insightful, and moving. However, I don't so much enjoy reading long descriptive passages with very little action or even plot. Although the plot elements were solidly put into place, they then don't do much for the bulk of the book, and by halfway through I mostly stopped caring. Dunsany seemed far more interested in landscape and atmosphere than characters.
Jun 10, 2011 Werner rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers interested in pre-Tolkien fantasy
Shelves: fantasy
Aside from one of his short stories, this is (to date) my only experience with Lord Dunsany's work; but along with William Morris and George MacDonald, he was one of the three principal shapers of the English-language fantasy tradition before Tolkien. This is usually considered one of his more important works. It's set in an alternate England sharing a numinous, and permeable, border with Elfland and at times visited by stray unicorns (you have to take the premise on its own terms, not subject i...more
A wonderful poetic fairytale that is very rich and detailed. WIth his descriptive and lyrical prose and the leisurely pace of the story, Dunsany can transport you to a world of wonder.

The story starts in Erl, a medieval England like setting with the parliament of Erl petitioning their lord about their wish for a magic lord to rule them. The lord of Erl then bids his son Alveric to go to Elfland, a mythical and magical world filled with elves, unicorns, trolls and other magical creatures, and mar...more
Feb 11, 2010 Mohammed rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Fans of literary fantasy,fans of quality literary in general
Not the most original story but the writing,the wit,the beauty of the story is so great that it fills you with awe.

I still think Lord Dunsany is even stronger in short story form,he does other forms of story in his short stories like no other i have ever read.

Novel or short form, he is literary giant,stylist that must be read.
John Nestor
I had the odd good fortune at the time to not be able to purchase a copy of it. So, I went off to the local library, which had the book secreted away in it's archive, where it might have been residing for decades.

Between the prose, the soothing yellow color of the paper contained in the hardback shell, the smell, the turning of the page like those who read this very same volume before me did--it was a treasure in both process and content.

I love my Kindle, but it simply can't give me that. Nor,...more
I kind of feel like this story started to get away from Lord Dunsany. It starts beautifully, with perfect fairy tale styling. And there are, throughout, some incredibly beautiful passages. I especially loved the witch's response to being asked for a spell to banish magic. But about midway through it starts to drag, with the unicorn hunt, and it lost some of that magic for me. It's a shame, because Dunsany was a very talented writer, with a knack for descriptions. (Of which there are many, and lo...more
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS. Lots of spoilers.

I should begin this review by saying that I wanted to like this book. On paper, I should have. And I tried to have some degree of historical relativism while reading it, but honestly the whole book was so maddening I could hardly stand it. There is NO character development whatsoever -- none. Aside from this, I'll try to detail out just some of the things that I think go wrong with it:

1) The very premise of the book is flimsy and unengagi...more
'Oh, what can ail thee, Knight at arms, alone and palely wandering...'

So many books clearly have roots here, from Lord of the Rings to Narnia. And I even suspect Sergei Lukyanenko to have been inspired because of the way Dunsany describes the twilight border between Elfland and the human world.

In and of itself, it's wonderfully lyrical, Dunsany clearly read La Belle Dame Sans Merci and his fancy took soaring flight.
I loved his descriptions of the inert beauty and calm of Elfland, due to Time hav...more
Well this one is definitely ...... an acquired taste. If people tell you that this is the reading material of fantasy aficionados out there, I will tell you -- eerrrrmmm no, not quite. In fact, I have a feeling a lot of fantasy lovers out there will find this book droll. Plotless. Pointless.
It would, however, certainly appeal to a select demographic of fantasy enthusiasts. If you love literary fantasy books; if you enjoyed (and I mean, absolutely loved) the whole Tom Bombadil detour in Lord of...more
Favorite Quotes

And there was scent of thyme in it and sight of lilac, and the chorus of birds that sings before dawn in April, and the deep proud splendor of rhododendrons, and the litheness and laughter of streams, and miles and miles of May.

And there, with their gables lifting into the sunlight above deep hedgerows beautiful with spring. He saw the cottages of earthly men. Past them he walked while the beauty of evening grew, with songs of birds, and scents wandering from flowers, and odours t...more
It's a bit hard to decide exactly what rating I'd give this one. For the beauty of the prose and the general coolness of the imagery, and for the fairy tale feel of it, I'd give it five stars. However, the emphasis is so strong on the writing that the story itself suffers and is just not very compelling. Maybe two stars, although the ending is pretty cool. Overall, I figure a three. It's well worth a read, though, partly because of its place in the history of fantasy.
Eric Orchard
I first found this book in a social collections room at university. It was a first edition with uncut pages. A pretty magical reading experience.

A simple story but full of wonder and mystery. Definitely a different approach to fantasy, with ornate imagery and a sense of decadence and magic but with a simplicity of language, like a King James Bible. About a mortal prince who travels to Faery to bring back "magic" for his kingdom.
The King of Elfland's Daughter is considered a classic fantasy novel, and at least one essay describes it as one of the founding novels of modern fantasy. I don't know what that means, exactly, but it's clear that the type of fantasy being published today owes a lot to this novel. If nothing else, the narrative style seems to have inspired a lot of the fantasy writers who followed.

The very narrative dates this book, as it's peppered with "whither"s and "goodly"s, it has a tendency to speak to th...more
Aric Cushing
Really great book if you have the patience. Today's audiences may find it superfluous on many levels, especially in a variety of descriptions. But there are so many times in the book where Dunsany achieves true greatness. This is a fairy tale for the literary crowd, with amazing images, and a classic for the die-hard fantasy/fairy audience of today.
A scathing critique of organized religion and immigration policies.

I have a real review, but it can only be told of in song.
I can see that this book would not be universally liked, but that there would also be a big group of fans who are quite fanatical indeed.

Why some people would really like it:
Long sprawling sentences
Unconventional plot
Elfland feels like olden style magic where no one can understand it
Long sprawling descriptions

Why some people would really not like it:
Long sprawling sentences
Unconventional plot
Elfland feels like olden style magic where no one can understand it
Long sprawling descriptions

Myself, I l...more
A wafting, lyrical, prettily-written book with the ABSOLUTELY INEVITABLE introduction from everyone's favourite fantasy-wanker, Neil Gaiman. Needless to say, I have learned my lesson and didn't read that bit.

The prose is undoubtedly the major reason to recommend this book to thoughtful fantasy enthusiasts, and it is lovely, but it certainly does nothing for moving the plot forward. I would hazard a guess that this is written in the tradition of great epics, Greek tragedies, that kind of thing, w...more
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Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work in fantasy published under the name Lord Dunsany. More than eighty books of his work were published, and his oeuvre includes hundreds of short stories, as well as successful plays, novels and essays. Born to one of the oldest titles in the Irish peerage, he lived much of his life...more
More about Lord Dunsany...
Time and the Gods The Gods of Pegana The Charwoman's Shadow In the Land of Time: And Other Fantasy Tales The Book of Wonder

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“And little he knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man's thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happening that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark of time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages; or carry to us, over the rolling centuries, even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills.” 27 likes
“And at that moment a wind came out of the northwest, and entered the woods and bared the golden branches, and danced over the downs, and led a company of scarlet and golden leaves, that had dreaded this day but danced now it had come; and away with a riot of dancing and glory of colour, high in the light of the sun that had set from the sight of the fields, went wind and leaves together.” 21 likes
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