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The King of Elfland's Daughter
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Book Discussions > Discussion of The King Of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany

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David Merrill | 62 comments Mod
I'm still not finished with the book, but I thought I should get this started. I should be done in the next couple of days.

I'll make some comments on the book so far to get things started.

Dunsany definitely has a very dreamlike quality to his writing that certainly suits the subject matter. I often felt as though I was being lulled by the nature of time in Elfland or by its horns as I was reading the book. One of my favorite parts so far has been the King's creation of the rune and the troll's delivery of it. Very entertaining. And the scene where Lirazel finally looks at it was great too.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about it later.

David Merrill | 62 comments Mod
i did a little reading about this book and discovered Bob Johnson and Pete Knight of Steeleye Span wrote and produced a whole concept album based on this book. I'm going to hae to see if I can get a hold of it, just to see what it's like.

I hadn't really thought about the lessons we can learn from this book. I think the biggest comes when Alveric tries to force his religion on Lirazel, he tries to force her to be something other than herself. The results are tragic. Lirazel gets pulled back to Elfland after looking at her father's rune and Alveric is left to search for her, but who is he really looking for? Is it the Lirazel of his dreams or the Lirazel of Elfland? It doesn't really matter because the Alveric of Erl can't get to Elfland. In the end, it's only the King of Elfland himself who can bring the two back together and then only by engulfing Erl and making it part of Elfland. Alveric and Erl are forced to accept the ways of Elfland for Alveric to regain his wife.

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Aloha | 39 comments Thanks for the summary, Dave. It.does sound like a great book. Unfortunately, I'm swamped in my reading plan for this year. I might pick up a Ballantine book in between the tomes I'm reading.

Joseph | 35 comments I last read King of Elfland's Daughter 3-4 years ago, I think, so I'm kind of fuzzy on the details. I did enjoy it, but I have to say that just as a general impression, I think I prefer Dunsany's short fiction to his novels.

mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments i read the first 50 pages last night. love it so far. especially enjoyed all the animals' (and the child's) reactions to the troll.

i thought i had read this novel many years ago, but none of it feels familiar. so maybe not.

some really lovely writing overall.

message 6: by mark (last edited Oct 01, 2012 09:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments read another 50 pages in the park today. a perfect place to read this novel.

still impressed by the charm of Dunsany's flowing prose. and the subtlety, the pointed comments here and there. like the bit around the king taking the 'witless lad' from a mother who knows that her son will accomplish more staying at home then going on some foolish quest with a foolish king. but kings will take what they want.

also really enjoyed the equally subtle, equally barbed depiction of the depressing, unnecessary finiteness of organized religion that will automatically call 'heathen' any activity that is directed towards nature and the cosmos rather than towards rituals and memorization.

message 7: by mark (last edited Oct 02, 2012 08:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments i fear i may be propping up this thread as if it were my own personal journal!

anyway, two bits of Dunsany's commentary that i thought were particularly well-done:

"He was an incongruous figure with his stave and his sack and his sword; but he followed one idea, one inspiration, one hope; and so shared something of the strangeness that all men have who do this."

"And now the four that were left were all of one mind, and under the wet coarse cloth that they hung on poles there was deep content in the evenings. For Alveric clung to his hope with all the strength of his race, that had once won Erl in old battles and held it for centuries long, and in the vacant minds of Niv and Zend this idea grew strong and big, like some rare flower that a gardener may plant by chance in a wild untended place. And Thyl sung of the hope; and all his wild fancies that roamed after song decked Alveric's quest with more and more of glamour. So all were of one mind. And greater quests whether mad or sane have prospered when this was so, and greater quests have failed when it was otherwise."

mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments also, Orion hunts and kills a unicorn. disgusting! i am no longer on your team, Orion.

although that was a rather amazing chapter. the final lines were startling.

David Merrill | 62 comments Mod
I have to admit, I was surprised by Orion hunting Unicorns and getting help from the trolls. It flies in the face of current fantasy, where unicorns are the sacred cows. But today's unicorns are seen as rare usually. In Elfland they seem pretty plentiful, like deer.

Joseph | 35 comments David wrote: "I have to admit, I was surprised by Orion hunting Unicorns and getting help from the trolls. It flies in the face of current fantasy, where unicorns are the sacred cows. But today's unicorns are se..."

Plus attitudes towards big game hunting among Dunsany's peers back in the late 19th/early 20th century were considerably more relaxed ... That's one thing I always find a little surprising about H. Rider Haggard's books -- the kind of wholesale slaughter of wildlife as his characters trek across Africa or whatever.

David Merrill | 62 comments Mod
Joseph wrote: "David wrote: "I have to admit, I was surprised by Orion hunting Unicorns and getting help from the trolls. It flies in the face of current fantasy, where unicorns are the sacred cows. But today's u..."

Yes, even in the time of Teddy Roosevelt, who was a big game hunter, large animals were just there for the challenge and proving your manhood. They were so plentiful people didn't really give it a second thought. Animals were only put here to serve man anyway according to that thinking. It's easy to forget it wasn't until the 60's and 70's when mass extinction became known and conservation became more the cultural norm. But here are still plenty of people who think the old way.

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mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments more unicorn hunting, argh! this is such a turn-off to me. i'm not even automatically against hunting, as long as the meat is used. but unicorns are basically magic horses - and who hunts horses for chrissakes.

still, the novel remains a pleasure. loved the chapter with Orion almost stepping into Elfland, but getting pulled back by his faithful hounds.

loved the part with the Freer (Friar? not familiar with the word "Freer") condemning magic and then while walking home, utters a spell against magic. ha! delicious bit of irony. Dunsany's stance on this fake binary set up the Freer is clear.

and man that whole chapter on Lurulu the troll acquainting himself with earthly ways, and earthly time, was just marvelous. it was wonderful to see how Dunsany describes the passing of earthly time in such a way that it felt as strange and magical as elfland itself.

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mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments finished it. wonderful! the chapter with the Elfland King trying to soothe his daughter had some of the most beautiful writing i've ever read. the ending, the slowly moving line as Elfland takes over Erl... entrancing. the whole novel is magically written. prose like poetry, like music.

Joseph | 35 comments mark wrote: "the whole novel is magically written. prose like poetry, like music."

That right there is what I love most about Dunsany.

David Merrill | 62 comments Mod
That's one the things I liked most about the book too. It felt like I was being entranced by Elfland through the whole book.

I told a coworker about this book. I was surprised she was interested enough to start looking for it on Since I had a spare copy I lent it to her. She's actually reading it and liking it! I work for a puzzle magazine publisher. Today she came to my office and showed me the puzzle she made from a quotation from the book. How cool is that?!

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mark monday (majestic-plural) | 13 comments really cool!

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