Monday, September 13, 2010

Fifty-One Tales [Lord Dunsany]

For a book that contains 51 tales this is a remarkably slim volume at around a 100 pages. That's because this collection of Lord Dunsany's work (my first exposure to it) consists entirely of little fables, fragments of dreams or mood pieces.

Going through it one easily understands the fascination that H.P. Lovecraft had for Dunsany's writings. Sorrow over the relentless and unthinking march of modern civilization and the loss of glories past, a love of nature and rusticity, and deep affection for ancient mythology...yes, themes that were reflected in some of Lovecraft's works in what he referred to as his 'Dunsanian' phase.

Considering the brevity of the content it is but given that none of the stories carry much complexity or forceful impact, and there is a sense of "variations on a theme" traveling through several of them. Really what this collection is worth going through for is Dunsany's prose style, which has an unmistakable lilt to it - the simple yet majestic construction of sentences that ask to be read aloud and, like really fine brandy, savored on the tongue.

Consider this little example, the closure to a short called Charon:

...the boat from the slow, grey river loomed up to the coast of Dis and the little, silent shade still shivering stepped ashore, and Charon turned the boat to go wearily back to the world. Then the little shadow spoke, that had been a man.
"I am the last," he said.
No one had ever made Charon smile before, none one before had ever made him weep.
 Thanks Nivedita, for a very thoughtful gift.


  1. For a more substantial narrative, try The King Of Elfland's Daughter.

  2. Ok...but good lord, you realize how horrible that title sounds :p


Please do not post spam.