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The King of Elfland’s Daughter

Lord Dunsany

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The people of the obscure village Erl demand to be ruled by a magic lord, so their ruler sends his son Alveric to Elfland to wed the elfin princess Lirazel. He brings her back to Erl and the couple have a son, but Lirazel has trouble integrating with human society. When a scheme by her father spirits her away and Elfland vanishes, Alveric begins a mad quest to find where Elfland went.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter is written in the pseudo-archaic prose style for which Dunsany is known. Some contemporaries thought the style did not suit a novel-length work, but contemporary Irish writer George Russell called the book “the most purely beautiful thing Lord Dunsany has written.” The book touches on a range of themes, including the longing for fantastical things lost, the perception of time, sanity and madness, the fear of the unknown, and being careful what you wish for. Large passages are also devoted to hunting; the original edition even featured an illustration of a unicorn hunt opposite the title page. Neil Gaiman wrote an introduction to the 1999 edition, and Christopher Lee was a featured vocalist on a 1977 progressive rock album based on the book.

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