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Three Hearts and Three Lions

(Operation Otherworld #2.5)

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  3,944 ratings  ·  277 reviews
The gathering forces of the Dark Powers threatened the world of man. The legions of Faery, aided by trolls, demons and the Wild Hunt itself, were poised to overthrow the realms of light.
And alone against the armies of Chaos stood one man, the knight of Three Hearts and Three Lions. Carlsen, a twentieth-century man snatched out of time to become again the legendary Holger D
Paperback, 177 pages
Published December 2003 by Gollancz (first published October 1953)
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Popular Answered Questions
Gabriel Morais Want to know where Gygax got the inspiration for D&D everything? Look here.
It was like reading a kick ass D&D adventure!…more
Want to know where Gygax got the inspiration for D&D everything? Look here.
It was like reading a kick ass D&D adventure!(less)
Sue Bursztynski This is a stand-alone or are you thinking of A Midsummer Tempest and Operation Chaos? I think Holger does appear in a scene in MST, in the Inn between…moreThis is a stand-alone or are you thinking of A Midsummer Tempest and Operation Chaos? I think Holger does appear in a scene in MST, in the Inn between the universes, but just a walk-on. You can read it stand-alone. (less)

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Average rating 3.88  · 
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 ·  3,944 ratings  ·  277 reviews

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Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
After reading Anderson’s novel The High Crusade, I remarked how I wondered if Anderson was influenced by Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Twain must have influenced Three Hearts and Three Lions as the basis of the two stories are so close (there is even a direct reference to Twain’s work).

Poul Anderson was born in America but was of Scandinavian ancestry and his mother moved the family to Denmark to live for a time prior to World War II when they all moved back to the s
Dan Schwent
Oct 15, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Holger Carlsen is transported to another Earth, where he is destined to play a part in the war between Law and Chaos. Assisting him are Hugi, a dwarf, and Alianora, a swan maiden. Can they overcome the forces of Chaos and get Holger home?

I got this from Netgalley.

Since I've been wanting to read this for several ice ages, since I first got into Dungeons and Dragons and, later, Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion craziness, it had a lot to live up to. Yeah, it was kind of a disappointment.

Three He
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
“Wave mechanics already admits the possibility of one entire cosmos coexisting with ours. It was not hard to write the equations for an infinity of such parallel worlds. By logical necessity the laws of nature would vary from one to another. Therefore, somewhere in the boundlessness of reality, anything you can imagine must actually exist!”

As in the The Broken Sword Poul Anderson likes to back up his fantasy with some science. I am not sure why but it does add to the enjoyment of the book if you
Sep 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
I was charmed from the get-go for I knew that this was a classic, more SF/F Andersonian mix, a retelling of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and that is exactly what I got.

There's plenty of old adventure that's a little less nuts than White's Arthurian adventures, with a bit more in the straight adventure arena, including a sphinx/troll Scene, clever science fixes for epic battles, swooning women, time travel, witches, Faery courts, dragons, hidden memories and unbreakable promises.
Aug2011: I've read this maybe half a dozen times in the past 40 years & still love it. In the tradition of an Arthurian legend, a modern man is dumped into a fantasy world with abilities & limits that he doesn't understand well. He winds up on a quest with some very interesting characters, faces challenges both internal & external, & winds it all up in a rather abrupt fashion. I can never quite decide if I like the ending or not as the realism of it is somewhat at odds with the tone of the rest ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
I suppose many of my friends here will wonder at the rating I've given this book. Looking at my screen name you can probably tell I like the paladin character. Reading this book I find myself wondering if possibly Gary Gygax may have been influenced in the creation of the Dungeons and Dragons Paladin by this book. Holger Carlsen is definitely a Paladin.

There is a dearth of good books about Paladins (I actually have several in various stages of completion...pray for me. I need to complete them).

This was an extremely basic fantasy novel. It felt like the author was reading the following handbook:

The Idiots Guide to Writing a Fantasy Novel

1. Choose your Hero. Preferably a male. Someone with strong, chiseled features.

2. Put your Hero in an awkward, fantastical, situation. (In Poul's case, he transported his lead character to another world riddled with a war between magical beings and non magical beings.)

3. Send your Hero on a quest. And another one. And another one. In fact, send
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-fantasy
4.5 stars.

A hard one to rate; my mind says 4 but my heart says 5. First, the thing I didn't like:

The book feels very disjointed. This was throwing me off as I read it until I checked out the wiki page and saw that this was intentional, being a "pastiche of interwoven stories", though it doesn't really present itself as such anywhere. I guess I can't really fault it too much for being written in a particular style, but it was still a bit jarring to read at times. I imagine on a re-read this would
Nov 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This was first published as a novella in 1953, and later expanded into a full novel in 1961. It is among the "educational and inspirational reading" listed in the famous Appendix N of Gary Gygax's Dungeon Masters Guide, and the influence it had on Dungeons and Dragons will be obvious. Michael Moorcock also admitted that he cribbed his ideas about an epic struggle between Law and Chaos (rather than Good and Evil) from Anderson's work, so this book is, in a way, an ancestor of the Elric stories an ...more
3.5 stars rounded up. This wasn't as good as The Broken Sword, and I think Anderson recycled many of the same tropes from that other book without much variation, but it's still an enjoyable high-adventure romp, with more action than character progression (besides the lead character) in the style of the old epics. I liked that the knight quester in this story had very unusual quest companions: a dwarf and a swan-maiden, both of which speak with a Scottish accent (!) that I found hilarious instead ...more
Manuel Alfonseca
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
ENGLISH: First of all, a clarification: Poul Anderson did not invent the multiverse with this novel. In science-fiction, the space-type multiverse appears first in a 1939 short story by Clifford Simak, later expanded into the 1950 novel The cosmic engineers. The time-type multiverse dates from the short story Branches of time, by David R. Daniels (1934). In fantasy, parallel worlds appear in many earlier works, notably The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis, whose first book was published in 1950 ...more
Althea Ann
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
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
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A modern man, fighting for the underground in Denmark during World War II, is snatched into another world. He does not initially understand this fantasy world, but it seems like he really belongs there; he understands the language, and finds that he is a brave knight capable of sword-fighting, jousting, and spooking his enemies.

The story is wonderful, but the audiobook narration by Bronson Pinchot is absolutely marvelous. I am simply amazed by the narrator, as he alternates between multiple acce
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was ok
This book is often heralded as one of the forebears of the fantasy genre, though it usually eclipsed by Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, which was published little more than a year later.

There were parts of Three Hearts and Three Lions where I was genuinely interested in what was happening, and where I was excited to see what would happen next. I also enjoyed the juxtaposition between Holger's modern views and the advances of science with the pseudo-Carolingian world. Not to mention the tongue-i
Feb 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 t ...more
Karen Witzler
This was the first official "Fantasy" novel that I ever read. Recommended by Cousin Dennis. Not quite as good as it was when I was fourteen - too many battles with supernatural beasts. I soon moved on to Tolkien who has had more staying power.

A WWII Danish Resistance fighter finds himself hurled into another time and place where a similar war rages and he is the Expected One. Lots of references to Charlemagne and his Knights, Song of Roland. Originally published in 1953, I read it in 1974.
Juho Pohjalainen
Jul 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Chaos invades on two worlds at the same time, and all Law has to throw against them is a single warrior to split between those two. But Law also has the narrative on its side - underdogs always do, and it couldn't be a whole lot more of an underdog in this instance. So it wins, in the end.

This was a fun enough romp, but ultimately a fairly shallow one compared to most others of the author: a simple adventure, with little more to it. Even the prose was less effective, and the thick accents of the
Karen  ⚜Mess⚜
For such a short book it seemed to take forever to read.

Full of colorful, fantasy characters going on a typical fantasy adventure. Would have been a really good read if someone else wrote it. I did not like Poul Anderson's writing. It felt like he tried too hard to be intellectual and he had a forced sense of character that came off as fake.

I'm glad it's over. Scratch another book off my old TBR list and punch another square on my bingo card.

Aug 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Chosen for inclusion in both David Pringle's "Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels" and Cawthorn & Moorcock's "Fantasy: The 100 Best Books," "Three Hearts and Three Lions" had long been on my "must read someday" list. This compactly written epic of "hard fantasy" was first serialized in "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction" in 1953 and released in an expanded book format in 1961. Author Poul Anderson was seemingly well suited to write this tale. The son of Scandinavian parents, a stud ...more
Mary Catelli
One of the classics of the fantasy genre. It opens with the first-person narrator recounting how Holger Carlsen, a Dane, had come to America for education and worked for the same company as the narrator -- until World War II, when he went back to Denmark to work for the resistance. Except that at one point, trying to cover an escape, pinned down by Nazi forces, he suffers a head wound and wakes up to find himself in an old growth forest. With hawks. And a bear. He could believe the others, but t ...more
Dec 27, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: appendix-n
I had heard the name of this book bandied about as a Dungeons and Dragons inspiration, but was surprised to find such striking similarities to Michael Moorcock's writing: an eternal battle of Law and Chaos as metaphysical entities; the idle suggestion of a system of related universes, each a distorted reflection of the others; and a Defender figure fated to walk the worlds, who figures greatly into the Law/Chaos conflict.

Aside from the trappings, the direct Appendix N inspirational value is in t
Jon Ray
May 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This may be the only book of this author’s that I read but I enjoyed it immensely. Coming from the understanding that this in part, inspired my all-time favorite role playing game (Dungeons & Dragons), I had certain expectations, yet they were not completely met. On the surface it’s written like most modern day Fantasy, however, it is when this book was written that sets it apart from other Fantasy books for me. I also quite enjoyed the use of language in this book, often stopping to look a word ...more
May 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: anderson-poul
Hard to believe that even though this came out in 1953, no one has used its setting. The world of the old Carolingian chansons de geste is one that is not plumbed enough for "heroic fantasy", as Master Anderson liked to call it.

This is one of those that does it all - humor (lots of that), pageantry, cosmic sweep, danger, tragedy, true love, beloved characters doing supernatural things, with an author solidly grounded in what makes the natural world go even as he spins us this yarn, while though
Not since I read the great epic The Broken Sword have I read any of this author's fantasy and I was hoping to be wowed a lot more than I was.

The story was okay but had a few little quirks that detracted from my enjoyment such as the pointless Scottish accents of the protagonists two travelling companions and the boundless chauvinism that made me wince when I thought what I female reader might think reading this.

It was interesting to see how this had such a strong influence on Michael Moorcock t
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've had this book for years and I never get tired of it. I think I've read it 5-6 times and every time I take something different away. Always in my top 10!
Ben Loory
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
He rode out on the wold, and it was as if dawn rode with him.
Tom Britz
Aug 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This novel is Poul Anderson at his swash-buckling best. He is bawdy and funny and the action is fast. Holger Carlsen was an orphan who was raised in Denmark, leading a fairly normal life, until the Nazi machine stepped forward. Then while on a mission for the underground resistance Holger disappears and is "translated" into another world, one where magic, dragons, witches and trolls are all real. Holger is without memory of this land, but his body does remember and through his many adventures, h ...more
Jan 27, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fantasy
I loved the very first Poul Anderson book I read (THE HIGH CRUSADE obvs - go and read it!) and was faintly disappointed by the second.

Holger is an ordinary twentieth century Danish bloke right up until the moment he blacks out in a WWII gunfight on a lonely beach, and wakes up in a parallel medieval fantasy universe where everyone seems to have heard of him but no one can tell him who he is. Assisted by a dwarf, a girl who can turn into a swan, and a smooth-tongued knight who may or may not hav
Henry Brown
Aug 14, 2010 rated it really liked it
I didn't realize this was fantasy when I found this used book at a flea market as a teenager... but then, I didn't know much about genres. I guess I figured it was a SciFi/time travel book, like an adult version of Conetticut Yankee. I certainly had no idea it was written in the early '50s and, until tonight, had no clue it influenced Dungeons & Dragons.

I did find it fully enjoyable, engrossing, and leaving me wanting more when I finished it in record time. So much so that I bought other books b
Ted Cross
I know Poul Anderson can be a terrific writer, but this one felt phoned in to me. It was as thin a story as I've ever read, with no depth to the characters. The plot was such that it felt as if the author simply wanted to cram as many possible medieval cliches as he could into the story. The women in the story were uniformly beautiful and all fell over themselves going after the dull main character. The story was so bland that even when the author tossed in the death of one primary companion the ...more
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Pseudonym A. A. Craig, Michael Karageorge, Winston P. Sanders, P. A. Kingsley.

Poul William Anderson was an American science fiction author who began his career during one of the Golden Ages of the genre and continued to write and remain popular into the 21st century. Anderson also authored several works of fantasy, historical novels, and a prodigious number of short stories. He received numerous a

Other books in the series

Operation Otherworld (3 books)
  • Operation Chaos (Operation Otherworld, #1)
  • Operation Luna (Operation Otherworld, #2)
  • A Midsummer Tempest

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