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The Food of Death: Fifty-One Tales

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  45 reviews
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (1878-1957) was an Anglo-Irish writer and dramatist, notable for his work in fantasy published under the name Lord Dunsany. He was a prolific writer, penning short stories, novels, plays, poetry, essays and autobiography, and publishing over sixty books, not including individual plays. The stories in his first two bo ...more
Published April 1st 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1915)
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Aha. So this is why Dunsany always gets listed with the Weird Fiction authors!

I wasn't entirely enamored with his longer fiction -- while they were good, I just didn't see where/what influenced and continues to influence so many writers I adore. I could see little bits and pieces, but it didn't fully make sense - especially for Lovecraft.

But here! Here's Lovecraft's trick of crafting entire stories that may not have a plot but set excellent moods. Here's "Charon", the precursor to Neil Gaiman's
Ea Solinas
Years before Tolkien ever wrote about hobbits, elves and magic rings, there were a few rare fantasy writers. One of the best of these early fantasists was Lord Dunsany, an Irish aristocrat who poured out his imagination into exotic, semi-mythic stories.

He only wrote relatively few novels and novellas, but loads of short stories. And "Fifty One Tales" compiles the shortest of those stories, often meditations on death, joy, life and time. They're less like short stories than long vignettes, but th
David Caldwell
Lord Dunsany wrote fantasy before it was called fantasy. He inspired many writers and movie makers. His writings inspired J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and H.P. Lovecraft to name a few. These gentlemen went on to inspire many others. Unfortunately, Lord Dunsany has fallen out of favor somewhat. I find this to be a shame. He was a master storyteller. Luckily, his writings are finding a home in electronic form.

In this collection, the stories are short. Often, they are closer to a story sketch than w
Timothy Ferguson
This is an odd little book. It has tiny stories, arguably vignettes, that mass, undeveloped, in its pages. Many are excellent, some are weak, all are finished so quickly that unless you choose to linger they seem lost in the flow of stories. He cheats a little: many of the stories are effectively the same story. There’s a bleak humour that emerges from many of the stories. Recommended for people interested in early works of the weird.

I listened to the Librivox version, but Internet Archive has i
I've read these stories before but listening to them all read straight through over the course of a couple commutes in my car, I was struck by how unified the collection really is, forming a sort of cycle that explores time, memory, death, and imagination, with an underlying theme of the struggle between man and nature, which man is, of course, certain to lose.

The read of this LibriVox edition does a great job, too. You can download this free audiobook at
Eleanor Toland
A hen decides to go south for the winter, an angel tosses an advertiser into Hell, an orange makes nefarious plans and a sphinx visits Thebes, Massachusetts.

Often witty, frequently melancholy and occasionally blood-chillingly creepy, these fifty-one very short stories are a foundational document for the modern fantasy genre. Decades before Neil Gaiman was born, Dunsany wrote about a cyclist encountering decrepit versions of Odin and Thor begging for worship by the side of the road. Many of thes
Luciana Darce
Meu primeiro contato com Lorde Dunsany foi um comentário de Neil Gaiman, que me levou até The King of Elfland’s Daughter, o terrivelmente belo (sim, é um paradoxo) conto que serviu de base para Stardust. Desde então, o nome ficou no meu radar e quando apareceu a tradução de Contos Maravilhosos, não hesitei nem por um momento antes de sair correndo atrás do volume.

Embora tenha sido publicado num único volume aqui no Brasil, Contos Maravilhosos são, na verdade, dois livros de contos de Dunsany – e
I liked this collection quite a bit. Not every story was a winner, but some were wonderful and I found myself shoving it in my friends' faces telling them to read this or that page. Each story is very short. Some were shorter than drabbles. A few left me scratching my head, but that just makes me want to recommend that more people read it so we can discuss it. (What do you think the Muses' message was? What was the Sex Problem that Man was discussing when the beggar woman knocked at the door?)

A collection of fables and folk tales which were all somehow spun from a single mind. Some were a little too moralizing for me (Dunsany's constantly complaining about the damage to the environment, which just makes me think, "you know, what have you got to complain about? It's 1915! Enjoy what you've got while it's there!"), but Dunsany's own writing style and the overwhelming spacey, dreamy quality of the stories (I saw one of the reviewers already used the word "pastoral," and so I promised my ...more
Nov 14, 2008 Muzzlehatch rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of early fantasy, the mythopoeic strain
Shelves: fantasy
My introduction to Lord Dunsany; probably like most people who come to him, I have some familiarity with some of his disciples - Clark Ashton Smith, HP Lovecraft, Jack Vance, etc. In fact, it's Lovecraft's "Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" that really got me interested in exploring the earlier writer. This might seem at first to be the best place to start -- very accessible, short, with the book pretty readily available in one edition or another -- but for me, it probably wasn't. Oh, I liked it qu ...more
This was a grouping of 'very' short stories, most of them 1-1.5 pages. Lord Dunsany's prose is nostalgic and refreshing to read, brings me back to school with the lit of old texts (which I being the oddball loved). This book really should have been titled Fifty-One Tales of the passage of time and the circle of life because most of the stories were primarily involving Death, Time and sometimes Beginnings. But then again doesn't that plague all humankind at various times of our lives.

Most of the
A bunch of short, wistful parables, with the best kind of foreboding and lyrical grandeur. In the themes of Man v. Time, or Civilization v. Nature, Dunsany's sympathies, like my own, lie unmistakably with the more enduring of the two.

In fact, the tome could be subtitled "An Exercise in Nihilism," and I gratefully welcome the occasional reminder of that perspective. We are not, after all, going to be around forever, and like Dunsany I refer not to you and me personally, but to us as a species. I
Justin Covey
A series of very short vignettes that focus unvaryingly on a few topics. Almost all involve some combination of mythology, a deep dissatisfaction with the modern world, and a keen feeling for the ephemeral nature of all things. All the stories are enjoyable, and Lord Dunsany's lyrical prose shines throughout, but they do become a tad repetitious. Even the real gems, Charon being a particular diamond, lose some of their effectiveness after their point has been repeated 51 times.
Tomek Piorkowski
Baron Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany, or Lord Dunsany, is considered to be one of the great fantasy writers of the Pre-Tolkein era. 51 Tales is a collection of ultra-short stories that he wrote, and most of them revolve around death, from the death of individuals to the death of civilisations. These are short, intense meditations on the transience of existence, and the answers contained in these stories are as mysterious as death itself.

Dunsany manages to create vivid, atmospheric vi
Gabriel Salter
In these stories Dunsany manages to say a lot of very profound things about life and death, progress, and philosophy, in stories which are sometimes only a paragraph long.
These stories have punch, depth, and are beautifully constructed because as a poet, Dunsany knew the importance of using the right words to get the right effect.
A facsimile of a collection originally published in 1915. I suppose these would be called "short shorts" today - there are a few that are one or two paragraphs long, and none longer than a few pages.

Most are fables or parables. Quite a few involve Death, as well as other anthropomorphized seasons and elements and such. Another major theme is Man and Technology vs. Nature. The standout for me was a twist on the Tortoise and Hare story. And there are others that clearly stand as influences on writ
Derek Davis
Definitely not Dunsany at his best. More like sweepings from his mind's floor, teeny-weeny snippets of almost-stories that toss abstract ideas around, mixed with hints of underlying meaning that isn't really there. Like many of the suggested-horror writers of his day (something terrible is about to happen of earthshaking significance, but gad, we're not certain what it could be), he's fixated on imaginary "elder" gods who have either turned nasty, retired or been knocked off by their successors. ...more
Deborah Schuff
These are not short stories, as I had thought. "Tales" is a better word for them, because many of them are only a few short paragraphs long. And yet, despite their briefness, there is a magical charm to them. I read them in one evening. It was a lovely evening.
Fify one tales is fascinating journey throughout ideas, ages and gods. Sometimes it's like youre reading Khalil gibran and sometimes, in "Charon" for example, it seems like Borges. It's something between two of them i think, and it's something really really beautiful.
Michael Ibarra
Profoundly gorgeous writing. Yes, it's overly-wordy, antiquated, and sometimes morose, but he carried such an amazing ability to put into words the deepest truths of the human heart, and what they mean as we interact with the world around us.

Utterly superb.
Robin Edman
More story seeds than stories, so not such great reads. It's too bad, too, because the seeds are amazing, especially when they are placed in historical context. The guy was a genius, but these stories are too short.
I strongly recommend this collection to anyone looking for a quick read with bursts of brilliance. These short stories are VERY short- many only a page or two. Yet they are successful in their wit, poignancy, and surprises. A reader can dip in anywhere they like, and come up again startled, fascinated, bemused, or perplexed. This is great stuff.
Jack Wright
I really liked this collection of stories, even if I didn't understand some of them. If you know anything about Greek Mythology then you'll be okay for the most part. Some of the stories though contained allegory that I didn't understand and therefore I wasn't able to get the full meaning of the story. Other stories, for whatever reason just went over my head completely. All that aside, I enjoyed the majority of the stories as they were about a number of topics, from the end of the world, to upd ...more
D.M. Dutcher
More like flash-fiction than short stories, many of these tables are sublime little fables based around themes. Some are barely a couple of paragraphs long, but all seem to evoke specific ideas. A regret over the old pagan gods being gone, and mankind forgetting things like forest life combine with a dislike of modern life and its philosophy to make short little tales with sharp points.

Most of the fiction is too brief to savor, and it's pretty one-sided in its outlook. However, it's still excell
Xenophon Hendrix
Lord Dunsany is good when one is in the proper frame of mind. His use of language is unusual, so one must be willing to put more work into his fiction than normal. The payoff is an eloquence that sometimes acts as an incantation.

This book, available online, is a collection of short, short stories. It is a most difficult form of fiction, and to be effective the narrative must from the first word lead to a strong punchline.

Time has weakened the impact of some of these tales. Modern readers have se
The title of this kindle edition is really "Fifty-One Tales," not "Fifty-One Tales: With Linked Table of Contents," but at amazon's price I'm not complaining. It is as advertised, Fifty-One fables written by master fantasist Lord Dunsany. Each of the tales is short and impressionistic, one or two pages in length, written in Dunsany's usual high-fantasy prose style. Fifty-One Tales can provide perfect little aperatifs for that après fat novel languor, or if read from stem to stern, a tasty hot fu ...more
William Frost
Lord Dunsany is one of the grandfathers of the fantasy genre, influencing others like Tolkein and Lovecraft, and as such his works are important to anyone who is interested in the history of the genre. The stories are also just cute/interesting/surrealist enough to be worth reading on their own. While technically a Modern writer, I felt there was a distinct Romantic ethos permeating everything. I recommend this book for those who want something a little different (or something free).
I don't know why it took me so long to start reading Dunsany. After reading through this book it is exceedingly obvious how much of an influence he had on Tolkien. Probably the most obvious was the clear antipathy he showed toward modernization. In several of the stories he pitted time and progress against nature and man. Dunsany's heavy use of an ironic twist also made me think that he was an influence on Chesterton.

Very much looking forward to exploring his other works.
Leonard Woods
Overall a fun, short read. Some of the stories were pretty bland, but the few standouts are so excellent that it's worth reading. It's also an interesting exercise and quite illuminating to compare Dunsany's tales to modern fantasy tales like Lord of the Rings.
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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...
The King of Elfland's Daughter Time and the Gods The Gods of Pegana The Charwoman's Shadow In the Land of Time: And Other Fantasy Tales

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