Lord Dunsany: The Father of Fantasy

Some authors should never be forgotten. Today the spotlight falls on one of them: Lord Dunsany, an Irishman who lived from 1878-1957.

Lord Dunsany

Dunsany Castle

A major influence on fantasy fiction, the absurdly gifted Lord Dunsany was a brilliant, inventive writer, the Irish national chess champion and an actual aristocrat. In fact, he was Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, the eighteenth Baron Dunsany. To him belonged Castle Dunsany and the 2nd oldest title in the Irish peerage. And at one point he had four of his plays being performed on Broadway at the same time!

Dunsany DemonHis work has influenced Jose Luis Borges, Arthur C. Clarke, Guillermo Del Toro, David EdToldin
gs, Neil Gaiman, Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Michael Moorcock, J.R.R. kein, and Jack Vance, among many others.

The Complete Pegāna pulls together two collections of his short stories and three later tales. Together, these lay out a complete mythos. It flows like mythology, not fantasy fiction, and may be more appealing to people who (like me) actually enjoyed Tolkein’s The Silmarillion.

My favorite part of the book is from the collection, Time and the Gods. I especially liked the tales, “Night and Morning,” “When the Gods Slept,” and “The Coming of the Sea.”

Spoiler Alert

The Coming of the Sea is a beautiful example of Dunsany’s mythos building. It tells how the world held no oceans until Slid, the new god, came striding through the stars, “And behind Slid there marched a million waves, all following Slid and tramping up the twilight.” The gods sent their servant winds, cliffs and downlands to stop this alien threat, but all were defeated. In their last extremity, the gods implored Tintaggon, the greatest of the world’s mountains, to save them, and he did.

That which Slid had conquered he still held, and there is now no longer a great green valley in the south, but all that Tintaggon had guarded against Slid he gave back to the gods. Very calm the sea lies now about Tintaggon’s feet, where he stands all black among crumbled cliffs of white, with red rocks piled about his feet. And often the sea retreats far out along the shore, and often wave by wave comes marching in with the sound of the tramping of armies, that all may still remember the great fight that surged about Tintaggon once, when he guarded the gods and the green earth against Slid.

Sometimes in their dreams the war-scarred warriors of Slid still lift their heads and cry their battle cry; then do dark clouds gather around Tintaggon’s swarthy brow and he stands out menacing, seen afar by the ships, where once he conquered Slid.

If you have a favorite, forgotten author, please let us know with a comment below.

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