A Quaint and Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore:

Discovering Dunsany


Idle Days on the River of the Lord

The book was calling to me. 

A singular energy emanated outward from the object, a palpable combination of all it was; the contents, the words themselves, the pages, the cover, the binding– the ideas contained and the form in which they are presented. It was as if the book were animate– in an age before books could be given voices instantly with the click of a mouse or a verbal command.  It was a time when a reader’s attention wasn’t being steered by live algorithms lurking within a text that glows upon a screen.  It wasn’t like the targeted emails I frequently get these days, announcing that a book deserves my attention, a continual reminder that everything I read is monitored for the purpose of trying to sell me something else.        

The book that called was tucked away on a dusty, cobweb strewn shelf, backstage in an old theater.  There were other books there as well, stored as props among other props: fake guns and knives, mallets, swords, and shields.   Most of the books were old and large, deliberately ostentatious, intended to appear magical from afar, or ponderous, or decorative, with embossed covers.  Many were falling apart, and it didn’t matter, because that was the kind of role they were supposed to play.   

The book that called hardly seemed fit to function as a prop, since it was smallest of the lot, exactly the same size as a mass-market paperback of the time, even though it was bound in indigo leatherette.  I fell under its enchantments from just from a glimpse of its binding.  On a surface patinaed with tiny cracks like an old masterpiece painting, the title and the author’s name were printed in golden letters: 

“The Book of Wonder”

Lord Dunsany

 The year was 1969.  I had just turned 16.  The book had just turned 51[1].

I had never heard of the book or the author.  Though he is academically considered one of the most important voices in Twentieth-Century Fantasy fiction, even today Lord Dunsany remains obscure. 

I started reading without bias or predisposition, with no idea whether the book was supposed to be good or bad.  I dealt with it in the absence of any context, other than itself, and the obvious symbolism of the bookcase where I found it, a proverbial literary dustbin.     

This collection of short fantasy stories then engulfed me with its intoxicating poetic language and strange dreamy imagery bordering on the abstract.  The prose was dense; anachronistic and obscure.  Half the time, I had no idea what was going on, but it didn’t matter.  I consumed the whole book in a single sitting, and it consumed me.  When I was finished, I sat in the old theater, dazed and delirious, asking myself, what just happened.

The book wrought a dizzying sense of disorientation, as if the world had changed, and I had changed.  It was kind of a religious experience.  The presentation seemed a setup, though, the yellow pages, the quasi-parables about cosmic questions, mingled with wry social satire, and attitudes shifting between awed reverence and haughty disdain, delivered in highly poetic language evocative of the King James Bible.

So, there I was, spiritually awed by this book that immediately brought to mind that familiar phrase from Poe’s “The Raven”, a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, with the word “quaint” having the meanings more common in Poe’s time, old-fashioned but still lovely, elegant, or striking, designed with great skill, and odd; all of the above, and forgotten.  A quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, one of the most quoted phrases from a cautionary poem about mistaking the trained croaking of a bird for the voice of a prophet.

It was kind of a religious experience. 

Laura Miller claimed Dunsany was an atheist[2], though Edwin Bjorkman claimed “Dunsany was as fond of spiritual as physical exercise[3]”.

In “The Sword of Welleran”, he wrote:  “It is very difficult to draw away from the face of God—it is like a warm fire, it is like dear sleep, it is like a great anthem, yet there is a stillness all about it, a stillness full of lights.” 

Oh, Lord! 

What kind of religious experience might be provoked by an atheist with a fondness for spiritual exercise?            

Laura Miller goes on.  “Ideas were an anathema to [Dunsany].  He considered himself a high priest of beauty, an advocate of art for art’s sake.”[4] 

When I was 16, I considered myself an atheist as well, and often passionately professed that my religion was Art.  I saw Art as representing the only verifiable truth because works of art were self-contained, representing their own realities, their own absolutes because they were proudly mere artifice.

Self-contained realities, existing within themselves.  That’s the best way to describe the stories in “The Book of Wonder”.    They are what they are, an irrefutable tautology that mimics the idea embodied in the True Name of the Old Testament Creator of the universe.

In his 1914 introduction to Lord Dunsany’s “Five Plays”, Edwin Bjorkman wrote:

“Observation and imagination are the basic principles of all poetry. It is impossible to conceive a poetical work from which one of them is wholly absent. Observation without imagination makes for obviousness; imagination without observation turns into nonsense. What marks the world’s greatest poetry is perhaps the presence in almost equal proportion of both these principles. But as a rule, we find one of them predominating, and from this one-sided emphasis the poetry of the period derives its character as realistic or idealistic.

The poetry of the middle nineteenth century made a fetish of observation. It came as near excluding imagination as it could without ceasing entirely to be poetry. That such exaggeration should sooner or later result in a sharp reaction was natural. The change began during the eighties and gathered full headway in the early nineties. Imagination, so long scorned, came into its rights once more, and it is rapidly becoming the dominant note in the literary production of our own day.”

This is one of the most basic human conundrums: what is the nature of reality, at the deepest level?  Is our experience of the world is based on material or idea?  You could express the question, as Bjorkman did, in terms of imagination and observation, but the conundrum remains the same.  Even when we concede reality to be a blend of both (with the appropriate proportions representing the substance and ideas of centuries of philosophical debate), as a practical matter, we still have to continually balance the conflicting principles against one another, with the center of gravity constantly shifting favoring one or the other, second by second, age after age, forever. 


He frequently collaborated with Sidney H. Sime, whose illustrations appear in this essay, producing an extraordinary synergy, and singular effects. Often Sime’s dreamlike drawings would come first, and Dunsany would construct stories to accompany them.

Dunsany was toying with something more than just poetry.  He was creating myths— magical things that have the power to transform not only individuals psychologically, but also have the ability to proliferate through an entire culture, and spread across cultural boundaries, becoming ingrained, embedding ideas, altering perceptions—even the experience of time, and transforming behavior.  Myths work much like sorcerous spells, somehow appropriate to the Fantasy genre Dunsany would transform.

Myths serve to regulate the proportion of imagination and observation in a body, be it an individual or a culture, akin to the way pharmaceuticals regulate personal chemistry, like adding more potassium or sodium, or acid or base, as required to maintain homeostasis.  But this metaphor could be an overindulgence in the pathetic fallacy, the attribution of human qualities to the concept of myth itself, though the notion of myth as medicine has all the makings of a mythic truth.

In a sense, it is more accurate to compare the way myths work to the way placebos work.  But most of the time, placebos don’t work unless the patient believes he or she is actually taking medicine.  And there the analogy starts to break down.

In 1905, when Dunsany’s first fantasy short stories were originally published, with their startling self-contained universes, the world was changing in remarkable ways.  New technologies transformed the cultural landscape with unprecedented speed. The very experience of time and space was being rapidly transformed; with telephones and telegraphs, information was moving faster, and in disembodied form; with travel by rail, motorcar, and even air, people were moving faster as well.  Even Albert Einstein picked up on it.    

There were new truths to deal with.  And new myths.

Myths are narratives that are understood as not being literally true, and therefore do not need to be demonstrably proven through sensory information, but they still represent an underlying value or ideal that is true. 

Religions are intellectual constructs that work the same way as myths, with the critical difference that the narratives are understood to be absolutely true, but they still do not need to be demonstrably proven with sensory information, and still representing a value that is true.     

The difference between Myth and Religion is often a matter of cultural perspective.  That which is a Religion in one culture is a Myth to another, and the same applies even as between cultures where various Religions might share a common name, but represent alternate, even conflicting values, taboos, and norms.

Myths can carve out a comfortable space, so the mind doesn’t have to deal with the overwhelming complexity of vast, contradictory information overloads that are the stuff of everyday experience.  Myths can also distill the onslaught of information down to an understandable narrative—like, the universe is powered by a creator who looks just like you, who constructed you as you might make a doll-like figure out of common clay.  Or yet another function of myth is to throw open the doors of perception to allow the mind to experience wonderous complexity, contradiction, and paradox.  There might be an alternate meaning to the idea of humanity being created in the image of its creator–  that the universe is structured fractally, all of its components containing the whole.  All atoms are full of the same dazzling truths, mysteries, brilliance, and darkness as the rest of the cosmos. And likewise constructed is every human being.   

Alexei Panshin wrote: “…while there is no apparent modern human science in his fantasy stories, nonetheless they are steeped in the new scientific philosophy.  More than any other imaginative fiction of their time, they are built on a firm foundation of unyielding despair.”[5]

And there’s justification for that view.  It might be more obvious in the works Dunsany inspired in two of his most famed devotees– H.P. Lovecraft, who channeled the experience of Gnostic revelation to depict a spiritual experience of science as existential terror, and Robert E. Howard, who spun Darwinism into a heroic theology, red in tooth and claw.

But “unyielding despair” didn’t come close to describing the delirium I experienced when reading “The Book of Wonder”.

Maybe I was wrong, given Dunsany’s unsubtle jabs at religion, to call my experience of reading of his work as being a religious experience.  One could more acceptably call it a mythic experience. 

The meaning of myth in this essay is like the ultimate meaning of reality itself, a simile in which the two things being compared only approximate each other, and understanding the metaphor requires a mental balancing act that tilts back and forth between understanding and nonsense.  It doesn’t matter if the stuff of the narrative really happened, because myths lie between what is and what might be, while showing the truths beyond the borders of both.

Dunsany’s homegrown myths have a hard bias for the ideal and the imagined, notwithstanding his reputed contempt for “ideas”, and his supposed preference for a world view favoring scientific materialism.  His early stories are temples to the imagination, and the stuff of the sensory, material world serves a merely decorative purpose, a glittering gate.

 Some have tagged Dunsany’s novella, “The Fortress Unvanquishable Save for Sacnoth”, as the first modern appearance of the fantasy subgenre that would become known as “sword and sorcery”, though credit for clearly distilling and mastering the form surely goes to Robert E. Howard.  Dunsany’s novella is far more preoccupied with poetry, exotic imagery, and allegory to qualify as high adventure.  Even the very title is a spoiler, draining the work of any semblance of suspense.  Still, the novella represents an unquestionable evolutionary step in the development of the subgenre, with clear self-evident links between Dunsany, Lovecraft, and Howard.

Sacnoth is a sword fashioned from an indestructible anatomical part of a clanking metallic dragon, with the blade honed by the dragon’s eye.  The titular fortress shelters a wizard who poisons the consciousness of the surrounding environs with his Hellish dreams.

The tale climaxes in a swordfight spun with poetry, surrealistic imagery, and magic.  The villainous dreaming wizard wears armor as indestructible as Sacnoth, and not even the mystic sword can pierce it.  There are only two exposed areas—one at the neck, and one at the wrist.  Whenever the hero stabs at the neck, the wizard escapes death by lifting his own head from his shoulders.  The key to his immortality is a magical separation of intellect from materiality.  The duel ends with a well-placed cut to the wrist, severing the hand that held the wizard’s head, collapsing the whole conceptual framework that gave rise to the wizard’s immortality.                

Dunsany’s first novel, “Don Rodriguez, the Chronicles of Shadow Valley” is constructed like a map, leading the reader away from the material world into the ideal, the imaginary. Episodic, quirky, driven by dream logic and fairytale conventions, it rolls forward on its internal rhythms, its poetic music, like a string of children’s stories, though built on a foundation borrowed from Miguel de Cervantes. 

The protagonist, Don Rodriguez, wanders like Don Quixote during the “Golden Age of Spain”, though the exact dates can’t be fixed with any precision, owing to the presence of magic.  This Golden Age seems to hover around the time of the Inquisition. 

Don Rodriguez inherits only two worldly gifts from his dying father—a sword and a mandolin, with directions to use the sword in war, and to use the mandolin under balconies.  The rest of the family estate, with its vast wealth and property, goes to a brother, who, being a dullard, has the greater need. 

Through gymnastics of dream logic, Don Rodriguez decides that going to war will land him a castle, and the castle, combined with the mandolin, will deliver him a bride.  So, he goes forth, following without questioning these primal paternal directives, to mate and acquire property using violence.

There are no immediately available wars, so Don Rodriguez sets out on a quest for one, a nonsense quest; war for war’s sake, accompanied by a Sancho Panzaesque servant named Morano. 

Many adventures follow, interrupted occasionally by a narrator who speaks directly to the readers, cautioning them about the unreliability of everything presented within and without the book.   The warning manifests symbolically in the form of a meal served to the hero: a plate full of stale, rotten, or rat nibbled food, except for one enticing bit of meat.  The intrusive narrator relates: “Rodriguez demanded what the meat was. ‘Unicorn’s tongue,’ said the servant, and Rodriguez set to well content, though I fear the unicorn’s tongue was only horse: it was a credulous age, as all ages are.”  Here, the hesitant narrator hedges his bets, for in that magical time, unicorn tongue it still might have been.

After much questing, Don Rodriguez finds himself a war.  He has no idea why the war is being fought, but he sides with the soldiers who liked his music, favoring them over the ones who preferred to prepare for battle.

The music-loving soldiers win, despite their lack of preparation; an apparent victory for the Arts.

Don Rodriguez defeats one of the enemy soldiers, takes him prisoner, and then demands a castle as ransom for his life.  The dazed prisoner accepts the ultimatum; a choice that really wasn’t one. 

As they trek across Spain, the prisoner regales his captors with vivid descriptions of a rose-pink castle.  Morano, ever the voice of common sense, distrusts these accounts.

When they reach the place where the castle is supposed to lie, it turns out to not be there.  The prisoner blames a neighbor, who despite appearing ordinary, is allegedly a magician.

Notwithstanding the incredibility of the tale, Don Rodriguez accepts it, just as he accepts the absent castle as ransom for the captive’s life.

Off he rides again, his travels not yet over.

Don Rodriguez does end up with a castle—this one as magically raised as his previous castle has been magically vanished.  The magical castle is a gift from the King of Shadow Valley, given for no obvious reason other than dream and fairytale logic.

The final resolution turns the vexing philosophical problem of observation vs imagination, or materialism vs idealism, into a “conundrum” of the word’s other meaning—a question asked for amusement with a pun as its answer.  The phrase “castle in Spain” had a popular meaning at the time the novel was written, essentially an imaginary, unobtainable goal, akin to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or a Will o’ Wist.


For one who reputed to be an atheist, Dunsany nonetheless presents as one preoccupied with religion and all of religion’s attendant cosmic questions.

You might think of the human brain as being hardwired to accept a religion, or religions, the same way it is hard wired for language.  The religions or languages work like operating systems, with whole functions and world views imbedded in the code. 

A brain that rejects traditional religions might settle for loading Science into the slot reserved for Religion.  Or Art.  Or an economic system, like a Communist State or the “invisible hand” of a Capitalist market.  Or another human being, like a cult leader.  Or a group that has formed in the name of a god it purports to worship, though it is only worshipping itself.  Or the Self, itself, in isolation.

Dunsany’s self-contained universes seem born of the religious impulse, a search for something to load into the hardwire receptacle where religion should be.

Dunsany wrote: “And then one day imagination came to the rescue and I made unto myself gods, and having made gods I had to make people to worship them and cities for them to live in and kings to rule over them, and there had to be names for the kings and the cities and great plausible names for the huge rivers that I saw sweeping down through kingdoms by night.”[6]  

Panshin tells us: “Everywhere in Dunsany there is a seeking after gods.  But the gods that are found are invariably cruel, or trivial, or false.”[7]

But cruel, trivial, or false doesn’t adequately describe the gods in one of Dunsany’s most noteworthy fantasy stories, “Idle Days on the Yann”.  The seeking after gods takes the form of a hallucinogenic travelogue on a spiritual journey down a river of imagination.  And the gods we encounter are more gentle than cruel, and not trivial for being gentle, nor trivial for occupying the lower rungs of a celestial hierarchy. 

Aboard the ship on the river Yann, the sailors “prayed, not all together, but five or six at a time. Side by side there kneeled down together five or six, for there only prayed at the same time men of different faiths, so that no god should hear two men praying to him at once.”  Meanwhile, the captain “worshipped gods that were the least and humblest, who seldom sent the famine or the thunder, and were easily appeased with little battles.”  

The closest thing to drama or conflict in this story is a bargaining session at one of the ports of call.  The captain and a merchant both invoke their gods while haggling over price, and claiming deep offense over the impious offers and counter-offers being exchanged.  The captain may have had a lesser god, but he ended up walking away with the better end of the bargain. 

The story is especially noteworthy because W.B. Yeats wrote, “Had I read ‘Idle Days on the Yann’ when a boy I had perhaps been changed for better or worse, and looked to that first reading as the creation of my world”[8]

But Yeats hadn’t read the story as a boy, and the effect it might have had at the time it actually didn’t happen is purely imaginary, like traveling down the Yann. 

In Dunsany’s 1909 play, “The Glittering Gate,” the souls of dead thieves gather around the locked gate to the hereafter. They are surrounded by a promising bounty of beer bottles, but all prove to be empty.  Nonetheless, the gathered souls persist in continually opening more bottles.  Hope springs eternal, even when beer doesn’t.  One of thieves resolves to pick the gate’s lock.  He succeeds.  The glittering gate swings open to reveal a star-studded sky as empty as the beer bottles.  Mocking laughter rumbles offstage, like Jovial thunder. 

One might argue these souls confronting “The Glittering Gate” were criminals in any event, and burglary is not a proper path to Heaven, and the absurdities are part of a well-deserved punishment.  Could that have been the author’s intent?  Maybe if you have a legalistic view of the rules of Heaven working much like the British criminal justice system, coupled with the belief the Lord is on your side.               

“The Glittering Gate” seems fairly forward-looking in its absurdist sensibilities, though Godot would not arrive until close to half a century later, and not even then. 

There is much in Dunsany’s writing that now seems prophetic, and the suggestion of future sight is sure to inspire religiosity—but I’m getting ahead of myself. 

There is an even more pointed attack on religion in Dunsany’s first novel, “Don Rodriguez: Chronicles of Shadow Valley”:        

“The wars are over, and the just cause has won.”

“The Saints be praised!” said a woman. “But will there be no more fighting?”

“Never again,” said the horseman, “for men are sick of gunpowder.”

“The Saints be thanked,” she said.

“Say not that,” said the horseman, “for Satan invented gunpowder.”

And she was silent; but, had none been there, she had secretly thanked Satan.”

The thanks given to Satan here are said but not said.

I can’t say with any certainty that Dunsany was actually an atheist.  His literary output has been variously reported as including no less than forty books, and as many as one hundred and twenty, and I have no intention of trying to comb through all of them trying to find what the Lord actually intended. 

I would argue that in the works I’ve read, there is a distinct religion infused in Dunsany’s mythologies, with a deep sense of spirituality permeating throughout, radiating past the blithe witticisms, the mockery, and despair.  There’s a clue in this clever bauble in “Don Rodriguez” about the great chain of being: “Habit guides us all at times, even kings are the slaves of it (though in their presence it takes the prouder name of precedent).”

Habit is an actor here, animated with a spirit, gifted with certain powers, capable of pride and self-rebranding.  This commonly used poetic device has been shamed with the humiliating name “The Pathetic Fallacy”, though beneath the label, she conceals her true nature.  That phrase itself has become a curious conflation of two opposing religious attitudes.  The most prevalent modern use arises from a condemnation of human intellectual narcissism, a tendency to interpret nature as a mirror of human nature, precisely the kind of view of human dominion over nature explicitly absent in Dunsany’s mythologies.  But the phrase as originally coined by British cultural critic, John Ruskin, had a meaning closer to a mixed metaphor, an erroneous poetic description that obscures rather than reveals the qualities of the item observed.  So, the poetic device that endows Habit with the ability to guide and enslave wouldn’t technically qualify under Ruskin’s original meaning, because of its aptness, while the phrase “Nature abhors a vacuum” would, because it implies emotional decisions on the part of nature, which clearly isn’t the case, and, in any event, loathing would be inconsistent with some of the ways the universe feeds or submits to its voids.

Nearly everything in Dunsany’s mythologies is animated; not by nihilism because there is far too much beauty, far too much wonder; nor polytheism, for none of the beings presented as gods inspire worship or even believability; nor even by reliable romantic worship of nature, for it mocks backward-looking romanticism as being Quixotic.  Rather, the works of Dunsany are animated by what you might call the true nature of the Pathetic Fallacy, or the ancient belief system known as Animism.

The name Animism is a convenient tag, and the word itself represents a curious illustration in the way languages change, and religions change, and how both contain imbedded views about the nature of reality. 

The term “animism” was originally coined by Sir Edward Tyler in his 1871 book, “Primitive Religion”, and the title is a spoiler, revealing of the basically Darwinian view taken of the development of religions; that there is a hierarchy, with some, if not one, being inherently superior.  In contemporary use, the word “animism” sometimes refers to a religion in itself, and sometimes an intrinsic tendency that underlies all religions. 

An animistic view springs from the notion that spirit and matter are infused with one another, consubstantial. 

One could argue that animism is an informative way to ponder the universe, yet another way to parse idea and matter.  

Physicist John Archibald Wheeler has posited a concept that has all the trappings of a mythic truth– that all matter and energy, i.e., the entire material world, is comprised, at the ultimate subatomic level, of particles so utterly insubstantial, their only properties are being or not being, ones or zeroes, or bits—such that ideas and material are made of identical things, tersely expressed as “from bit comes it”.  Ultimately unprovable scientifically, the concept is nonetheless cloaked in the raiment of subatomic physics.  It is kind of a magical scientific theory.  Science tells us Time and space are one, matter and idea are one, infinity and the finite each contain each other, but time is still time and space is still space, and the very idea that ideas are different from matter still matters.  And we could go on discussing the finite and the infinite forever, but it wouldn’t add anything to our understanding of either, so we should finish talking about them here.

Dunsany delivers an animist icon of simultaneous being and not-being in this passage from the story “Time and the Gods”:

“In the desert beyond the valley grow myriad thorns, and all pointing towards Sardathrion. So may many that the gods have loved come to the marble city, but none can return, for other cities are no fitting home for men whose feet have touched Sardathrion’s marble streets, where even the gods have not been ashamed to come in the guise of men with Their cloaks wrapped about their faces. Therefore no city shall ever hear the songs that are sung in the marble citadel by those in whose ears have rung the voices of the gods. No report shall ever come to other lands of the music of the fall of Sardathrion’s fountains, when the waters which went heavenward return again into the lake where the gods cool Their brows sometimes in the guise of men. None may ever hear the speech of the poets of that city, to whom the gods have spoken.

It stands a city aloof. There hath been no rumour of it—I alone have dreamed of it, and I may not be sure that my dreams are true.”

The spirit of animism is evident in Dunsany’s nonfiction, as well.  Consider this passage from his World War I reportage, from “Far Off Unhappy Things” in 1916:

“On the great steps of Arras Cathedral I saw a procession, in silence, standing still.

They were in orderly and perfect lines, stirring or swaying slightly: sometimes they bent their heads, sometimes two leaned together, but for the most part they were motionless. It was the time when the fashion is just changing and some were newly all in shining yellow, while others still wore green.

I went up the steps amongst them, the only human thing, for men and women worship no more in Arras Cathedral, and the trees have come instead; little humble things, all less than four years old, in great numbers thronging the steps processionally, and growing in perfect rows just where step meets step. They have come to Arras with the wind and the rain; which enter the aisles together whenever they will, and go wherever man went; they have such a reverent air, the young limes on the three flights of steps, that you would say they did not know that Arras Cathedral was fallen on evil days, that they did not know they looked on ruin and vast disaster, but thought that these great walls open to stars and sun were the natural and fitting place for the worship of little weeds.

Behind them the shattered houses of Arras seemed to cluster about the cathedral as, one might fancy easily, hurt and frightened children, so wistful are their gaping windows and old, grey empty gables, so melancholy and puzzled. They are more like a little old people come upon trouble, gazing at their great elder companion and not knowing what to do.”

It would seem this was simply the way Dunsany saw the world.

Dunsany’s fantasy short story, “Poltarnees, Beholder of Ocean”, is a parable that assails the other aspect of the Pathetic Fallacy, the impulse driven by human vanity.

Poltarnees is a personified mountain that faces a personified sea while obscuring the view to everyone else, so that the folk of the Inner Lands have only a dim understanding of its mysteries, and they worship rumors and legends writ down in a sacred text.   “They say that all the worlds of heaven go bobbing on this river and are swept down with the stream, and that Infinity is thick and furry with forests through which the river in his course sweeps on with all the worlds of heaven.”

The King of one of the personified cities has a beautiful daughter who finds herself in the center of a classic fairytale contest to determine “who is the fairest of them all”, with the other contestants being every other personified aspect of this very animated pocket universe.  The princess ends up the clear winner when compared to the Sunlight, the Stately Flowers, and Exotic birds.  She even bests the Moon, and the Morning. 

A great hunter falls in love with the princess.  He surmises that she must be more beautiful than the Sea (a/k/a River, a/k/a Ocean, a/k/a Infinity), even though no one has ever returned from the climb up Poltarnees and whatever seductive sights might lie beyond.

The local priests condemn the hunter as a blasphemer.  He takes that as a challenge, and trots off to prove them wrong. 

After climbing the mountain and beholding the sea, the hunter finds himself unable to return to the Inner Lands. 

The meaning of the parable is plain.  Learn to look past human vanity into the complexity and mystery of all, into the way things really are.  Most of the time, Dunsany’s meaning is right there, all on the surface, which glitters elaborately like the shell of a Faberge egg (anticipating David Foster Wallace, and as opposed to Dunsany’s fellow contemporary Irish mythmaker, James Joyce, who structured his myths as elaborate Easter egg hunts).

We get a glimpse of transcendent truth in Dunsany’s third novel, “The Charwoman’s Shadow”, which reveals the spirit of places, abiding in transcendent time, itself having a spirit. 

A woman breaks an enchantment and returns to her home with youth restored after decades of being absent.  She is challenged to prove her claim of residency. 

“She told them not of things that change when old men die, or when children grow and leave gardens, but she told of things that abide or alter slowly, even now when time has a harsher way with villages.  She told of yew trees, she told older graves, she told of the wandering lanes that had no purpose, with never a reason for altering the, she told of the place of the haystack in man’s fields, she told legends concerning the shapes of the hills and the lore that guided the sower.  She crooned it to them with her love of those fields vibrating through every phase, fields that had shone for her across the bleakness of unremembered years.  She told them their pedigrees; quaint names to them in faded ink on old scrolls in their houses; she knew whom their grandfathers went a-maying.” 


In the short story, “The Cave of Kai”, a forlorn king seeks out “certain days and certain hours from the past, his yesterdays with waving banners, blue skies, and cheering crowds.”  He finds these days and hours have winged off to a cave by guarded by a being known as Kai, who hordes them; possession for its own sake, in the manner of archetypal dragons who collect virgins and treasures, as Joseph Campbell tells us, though dragons have use for neither.  The forlorn king tries to bribe Kai to give back some of his glory days, offering elephants and camels laden with gold, and servants laden with gems.  But Kai is unimpressed, having turned down gods who offered whole planets. 

The king seeks solace in the songs played by a golden harp, and finds that some glimpses of the past have clung to the strings and infused themselves into the melodies that pour out.  In these, the king is inspired to once again seek glory in battle.  His inspiration proves fatal, but also immortalizing, for the harper transforms the king’s last battles into song, which escapes the claws of Kai. 

It is a fairly straight-forward parable about the power of Art to transcend the passage of time, and gather into its folds the spirits of personified abstracts, and the spirit of its creator.  The story itself has a transcendent beauty, like a song plunked from a harp strung with gold.

In “The King who Was Not,” the gods get dressed up in a vain display to pose for paintings and statuary.  The artists decide to flatter their King instead, so all the statues and paintings end up bearing the King’s face.  The gods, righteously pissed-off, decide ex post facto to erase not only the present King’s existence, but also all of his predecessors and successors.  That leaves the priests to do the business of government.  It is a parable about the mystic, paradoxical nature of God– that God exists, yet the nature of his existence is so far beyond human comprehension, he might as well not exist.  And the parable takes deft aim at the vanity of plastering a human face over the universe.

In “The Sorrow of the Search”, many gods and temples lie on the road to Knowing, and each seems greater than the last, and each one bids for a higher rank in the Great Chain of Being.  All along the road to Knowing, each one claims “The is the End”.  But the road goes on and on.   The story poses a final question: “Tell me, O prophet, who are the true gods?”  With the final answer to the final question being “Let the King command.”

And so the story ends, but not the book.  The final story, “The Journey of the King” ends with another meeting, a different King and a different prophet.  But this is a prophet who knows but does not tell.  The prophet is “The End”.  And this is a True Name, i.e., the name being consubstantial with what it actually is.  It is an essentially animistic End, an embodiment of the concept that all things have manifestation in which there is spirit and physicality; that concept and whatever body it might take are essentially the same thing, and this applies to humans, animals, objects, energy, systems, language itself, and individual words, and metaphors and myths.

The novels “Curse of the Wise Woman” and “The Blessings of Pan” form a curious duo: blessings and a curse.  Both set aside the stylistic affections of the King James Bible, though the prose is still poetic, and the novels retreat from imaginary lands, grounding themselves specifically in Ireland.  Both are preoccupied with religion.  In the latter, a whole town surrenders to the old gods—not the gods of Pagana, but pagan nonetheless.  Its minister tries to bring the power of the Church to bear to save his flock, but he ends up being seduced by the old ways, and annually sacrifices a bull. 

“The Curse of the Wise Woman” is structured as a series of episodes, rambling, very loosely connected, with little of the usual cause and effect links that push a plot forward.  It is like “Don Rodriguez”, closer to a story cycle than a novel.  Long descriptions of geography and hunting effloresce over the novel. 

Hunting is described in ritualistic terms, with the same animist spirit as the more obvious fantasies.  There is an extended remembrance of a fox hunt from a single day, the fox assuming the role of a tribal spirit animal.  Dunsany raises a traditional Irish toast: “The fox (death to him); may he live forever.” 

A spark from a horseshoe at twilight assumes the time freezing power as the harpist in “Cave of Kai”

Dunsany tells us:  “And here’s a theme a theme for the follower of almost any art, a spark in the night.  Its huge appearance, its beauty, the mystery of shapes gathered around it, and the of the darkness beyond; its brevity; and, all things being material for art, its eternity, lingering in memory and having these obscure effects through them upon later years, and handing these effects down the generations, at which point perhaps the philosophers take over.  The scientist too has a little to say about it, trying to destroy the mystery upon which the artist works, but no more able to do so than the artist is able to say the last word about it.”[9] 

We get immersed into a very specific landscape and culture, and meet a very specific individual, the narrator, who bears more than a casual resemblance to Dunsany himself, but clearly differentiated enough to qualify as fictious.  The real world then opens outward into the fantastic— a carefully tread tightrope, so that even the mystical occurrences might have rational explanations, the tightrope spanning across two worlds, and showing how myths drive behaviors and shape cultures while maintaining the sense of wonder.

A piece of the “true cross” gets treated as something ancient and mystical, but more likely to meet the test of being mythically true to its name than scientifically provable.  A character chooses to enter an Irish fairyland rather than strive for a Christian heaven, for he is certain it has become unobtainable, in large part because he has an innate preference for the fairyland, part of his nature he would not, or could not, change.

A decayed fox tail, a trophy awarded in a foxhunt, assumes the role of a holy relic, though the narrator protests when it is identified as his religion. 

“What will you think of us?” …

“My friend, I respect all men’s religions.  I have no exalted post.  To the contrary.  But I should not be even where I am if I had not shown that respect always.”

And he turned to the old brush and crossed himself again.[10]

The religious and nationalist conflicts of Ireland go unstated.  Thematically, the work climaxes in a clash between industrial developers mining peat from local bogs and a wise woman, i.e., a witch in the local parlance. She delivers an incantation in the old tongue, and a storm follows.  The bog spreads out and swallows the machinery that had been used in mining, all of which may have coincidental. 

One encounters contradictions every step of the journey through Dunsany’s works.  At times the contradictions seem a passive/aggressive avoidance of theme.  It keeps ideas from getting in the way of serious dreaming, and it keeps out moral posturing.  It seems a very aristocratic stance, within the prerogatives of the landed nobility, as well as the loftier aims of pure Art.  And it is a hedge against popular outrage when one is attacking religion.

Dunsany’s works are surely the work of a genius, for he was a soldier, polymath, chess and pistol champion, essayist, statesmen, poet, and playwright though his works come across as more the product of intuition than deliberation.  Dunsany once said, blithely, “Genius is an infinite capacity for not taking pains.”[11]

According to W.B. Yeats, “Dunsany writes out of a careless abundance…”[12] He jotted down ‘The Glittering Gate’ in a single afternoon, but he doesn’t know how to revise his work and has very little patience.  He is splendid for a scene, then it all goes to pieces.”[13]   

There’s an irony in the magical castle of Don Rodriguez that wavers between being and vanishing; for it is a landmark in a universe where the imaginary continually interacts with the material.  In the material world, Dunsany was handed a real castle—one of the oldest homes in Ireland— at the age of 21, when he inherited the aristocratic title he took for his penname. 

That penname is just one of the ways Dunsany continually flaunts his aristocracy.  He could have easily used his real name, Edward Plunket, which is far less grandiose, particularly without the insertion of his three middle names: John Moreton Drax.  There’s also the matter of Dunsany’s elaborate sentence structure, the anachronistic words and phrases, the continual barrage of metaphor and personification that push the action into the abstract.  Gorgeous it all might be, but it gets exhausting in large doses, which might be one of the reasons that his shorter works are more admired.  His plots seem sloppy, without niceties of logical cause and effect, or conventional beginnings, middles, and ends.  The wit is sharp, but haughty.  And then there is the troubling sense of seeming indifference to a guiding moral authority, other than the intoxication of his own dreams. 

Consider this cavalier dismissal of an ultimate source for morality or meaning: “Once I found out the secret of the universe.  I know that the Creator does not take Creation seriously, for I remember that He sat in Space with all His work in front of Him and laughed.”[14]  The quote often appears outside of its context, yet Dunsany put these words in the mouth of a hashish smoker.  The disguise is a thin one, though, given that Dunsany has here inserted himself as character into this story, for the purpose of discussing his travels using imagination with one who has used drugs to visit the same places.

Perhaps the “Creation” refers to the story itself, and not the Universe, with Dunsany as the Creator; that the author and the story are the targets of the jest.  Perhaps the purpose of Dunsany’s art is to provide a plot of sod, rich in compost, to stimulate the imaginations of his readers, so they can plant and grow something imaginative for themselves, with the implicit subtext that if the readers are not so inclined, they can sod off.  Such an artistic attitude might bring an author more critical appreciation for the works and trends he inspired, seedlings implanted in the sod, rather than for the books he wrote.  Surely that has turned out to be the case for Dunsany, who is noteworthy for many appearances in footnotes.

Dunsany’s sniping at religion is also curiously self-effacing, in the way it would undo the structures and hierarchies contained in his culture’s religion, the very structure of the Great Chain of Being, a political ordering of society based upon a myth which brought Lord Dunsany his title, his very real castle, his lands and other properties. 

Alexis and Cory Panshin tell us: “Dunsany was a strange fringe writer.  He was an aristocratic debunker of aristocratic pretentions during the last happy decade that aristocratic ideals were to know.”[15]  The contradictions whirl through Dunsany’s writing, like animated yin-yang symbols. 

“Dunsany claimed that the fantastic novels and short stories he wrote simply came to him without much effort (and, he cautioned, ought not to have too much read into them).”[16] 

That didn’t stop him from complaining about his works not being given enough attention.

“Dunsany would blame his lack of critical recognition on the ‘vagaries of literary fashion’—especially the ‘frightful nonsense as the verse of T.S. Elliot.’  In an article titled {SPOILER ALERT FOR ITS FINAL CRITICAL ASSESSMENT} “Minor Mage”, Laura Miller goes on to say, “Modernism happened for a reason—and so did Dunsany’s slow drift to the margins of literary renown.”[17]

There are consequences for attacking religion and its associated social norms, and one of them being that the attack makes a work seem flighty or capricious, without moral grounding, coldly cerebral, the exercise of an aristocratic purgative to disengage from the material trials of the common man.  Most readers don’t want their notions of order disrupted.  They want a work that reinforces their notions, agrees with their ideas about morality, and emotionally rewards them by having the right side win.

While there is no mistaking the passion in Dunsany’s Preface to “Tales of Wonder”, there is also a weird message:

“Aug. 16th 1916.

I do not know where I may be when this preface is read. As I write it in August 1916, I am at Ebrington Barracks, Londonderry, recovering from a slight wound. But it does not greatly matter where I am; my dreams are here before you amongst the following pages; and writing in a day when life is cheap, dreams seem to me all the dearer, the only things that survive.

Just now the civilization of Europe seems almost to have ceased, and nothing seems to grow in her torn fields but death, yet this is only for a while and dreams will come back again and bloom as of old, all the more radiantly for this terrible ploughing, as the flowers will bloom again where the trenches are and the primroses shelter in shell-holes for many seasons, when weeping Liberty has come home to Flanders.

To some of you in America this may seem an unnecessary and wasteful quarrel, as other people’s quarrels often are; but it comes to this that though we are all killed there will be songs again, but if we were to submit and so survive there could be neither songs nor dreams, nor any joyous free things any more.

And do not regret the lives that are wasted amongst us, or the work that the dead would have done, for war is no accident that man’s care could have averted, but is as natural, though not as regular, as the tides; as well regret the things that the tide has washed away, which destroys and cleanses and crumbles, and spares the minutest shells.

And now I will write nothing further about our war, but offer you these books of dreams from Europe as one throws things of value, if only to oneself, at the last moment out of a burning house.”

Shit happens.  Keep dreaming. 

Bjorkman wrote: “[Dunsany] is passionately fond of outdoor life and often spends the whole day in the saddle before sitting down at his desk to write late at night.  His work proves, however, that he is as fond of spiritual as of physical exercise…”

So, what does an atheist do for spiritual exercise when Art has been loaded into the cerebral hardware in the place where Religion is supposed to be, and the rest of the dominant culture has religiously been assured of eternal life?

Dunsany wrote, “…writers work for posterity…”[18], with an eye to the mythic immortality of canonized prose.

In “Far Off Unhappy Things”, Dunsany described Cathedral at Arras, destroyed by German shelling during World War I: 

“I walked a little with the French interpreter. We came to a little shrine in the southern aisle. It had been all paved with marble, and the marble was broken into hundreds of pieces, and someone had carefully picked up all the bits, and laid them together on the altar.  And this pathetic heap that was gathered of broken bits had drawn many to stop and gaze at it; and idly, as soldiers will, they had written their names on them: every bit had a name on it, with but a touch of irony the Frenchman said, “All that is necessary to bring your name to posterity is to write it on one of these stones.”, “No,” I said, “I will do it by describing all this.”

A fonder hope was expressed in this short piece from “51 Tales”:


Fame singing in the highways, and trifling as she sang, with sordid adventurers, passed the poet by.

And still the poet made for her little chaplets of song, to deck her forehead in the courts of Time: and still she wore instead the worthless garlands, that boisterous citizens flung to her in the ways, made out of perishable things.

And after a while whenever these garlands died the poet came to her with his chaplets of song; and still she laughed at him and wore the worthless wreaths, though they always died at evening.

And one day in his bitterness the poet rebuked her, and said to her: “Lovely Fame, even in the highways and the byways you have not foreborne to laugh and shout and jest with worthless men, and I have toiled for you and dreamed of you and you mock me and pass me by.”

And Fame turned her back on him and walked away, but in departing she looked over her shoulder and smiled at him as she had not smiled before, and, almost speaking in a whisper, said:

“I will meet you in the graveyard at the back of the Workhouse in a hundred years.”

So why read Lord Dunsany today? 

As Panshin stated, “Dunsany’s unique combination of elite artistry and mockery of the pretentions of man made him a special taste.”[19]  His characters are paper thin, archetypes, driven by folkloric motivations, often indistinguishable from the landscapes on which they trod, or the gods they worship.  The plots are just as thin, with a tendency to avoid violence, or even conflict.  Even the works that are supposed to take place in our world are cerebral, even abstract—with the most frequent conflicts involving opposition between material and idea, observation and imagination, science and magic—the maelstrom at the core of consciousness, rather than the more entertaining stuff, like hero against villain, or rebel against society.

C.S. Lewis once said, “myths are lies, and therefor worthless, even if breathed through silver.”[20] This quote comes from a famous debate with J.R.R. Tolkien, (two authors very much in the forefront of literary critical articles in which Dunsany makes a frequent footnote appearance).  The substance of the debate was the old intractable conundrum of materialism vs idealism.  Nothing less than immortality, artistic or otherwise, was at stake.        

Tolkien famously won the debate with an epic act of myth building, providing a transcendent revelation contained in a narrative, with the debate assuming a mythic status unto itself, involving as it did, two of the high masters of Twentieth Century Fantasy.  In the process, Tolkien converted Lewis to Christianity by pointing out one of the functions of myths is to navigate between the extremes of materialism and idealism, emphasizing the desirability of the latter—with the conclusion that Christianity is distinguishable from all other myths because it is a myth that really happened.  But that very distinction, of course, is what differentiates myths from religions.

Lewis, then went on to become a mythmaker himself, constructing Fantasies to subvert other myths that didn’t really happen in favor of the one that did.

The rift that would later develop between Tolkien and Lewis is itself illustrative of the way concepts behave like animate beings: the arts, the myths, and the religions they shared seemed to be a single thing, but then developed along very different lines, mutating, and finally manifesting in differences as vast and the space between Middle Earth and Narnia, until the friendship turned into open hostility, with professional rivalries adding fuel to the fire, along with further fuel from Lewis’ marriage to Joy Gresham, a divorcee, offending Tolkien’s sense of propriety, previously married to the author of “Nightmare Alley”, who had been inspired to leave her husband and convert to Christianity because she had been won over by the form it took in Lewis’ mythologies.       

Dunsany’s approach toward religion is far more subversive than any attack based on logic or science, for religions are constructed to filter out truths verified by sensory information and logic, just as science is constructed to filter out the truths that cannot.  Both species of truth are no less true, a paradox and mystery that lies in the heart of reality.

Observation and imagination are not only the basic principles of poetry, to use Bjorkman’s terms, but also all human endeavor, with all of our arts, sciences, and philosophies, and religions being tools for exploring the tensions, interplays, and contradictions that arise from testing the way the general principles work in varying combinations and proportions.

Consider the proposition that the Earth is the center of the Universe.  Now, it commonly understood that it isn’t scientifically true, though it still might be poetically true, or mythically true. 

The Church famously fought against anyone who contradicted the concept of an Earth-centric universe, most infamously in the case of Galileo, a tale that has assumed its own mythic proportions. 

It is a tale of materialism vs. idealism, or, as Bjorkman put it, observation vs. imagination, with immediate consequences for changing the world.  There were certainly political consequences.  Galileo’s position contradicted the Church’s official interpretation of certain passages of the Bible, and the challenge put into jeopardy the Church’s monopoly on correctly interpreting those particular passages, and with them, all other passages.

Along with the Great Chain of Being that supports the divine right of kings, and other aspects of aristocracy, it is another example, of the way whole systems of order can be supported by myths. 

But the funny thing about myths is that they can collapse if they try to pass off something as a material truth when there is clear sensory evidence against it, as in Galileo’s case.  It is easy enough to get around, though.  Simply reposition the matter to be a mythical truth, or a metaphorical one, something that has traction in the realm of the imagination.  The biblical passages get reinterpreted to be metaphorical rather than literal.  And it makes a deep kind of sense to view the notion of the Earth as a metaphorical center of the Universe.   A deeper truth is revealed0, though paradoxical.  Perhaps human consciousness actual plays a central role in a participatory Universe, where the act of observation plays a controlling role in shaping material realities, embodied in the scientific myth of Schrodinger’s Cat, which started as a joke, but has become culturally iconic.  And there’s no denying the resemblance between the iconic cat and “The King that was Not”, which made its first appearance/disappearance 29 years earlier.

Religions have to go through the ordeals, glories, trials of triumphs and defeats of all other animate things.  They seek to be fruitful and multiply, while resisting threats to their inner nature that come from involving new members.  Like Art, they change the experience of time with rituals, holidays, daily observances.  They preserve their visions of eternal truths, but have to fortify themselves against change, with dealing with the opposing imperative to adapt.  And if they don’t, their eternal truths are consigned to the stuff of myths.       

  Religions are more vulnerable to an attack by competing myths.  Various tenets might adapt to scientific attacks, as in the famous case of Galileo.  Religion has survived Darwin using much the same tactic.  But an attack by a competing myth… that’s literally and figuratively a different story. 

In many ways, Dunsany established a new kind of cultural attack by launching new conventions for self-contained universes, new constructs for making myths.  Imaginative myth-building proliferated in fiction in the 20th Century and began to branch off into two popular streams: Science Fiction, where the imagination is restrained by the limits of the material world; and Fantasy, where the material is restrained by the limits of the imagination. 

We see it playing out in the culture wars daily displayed on our screens. 

That’s the sod busting Dunsany did to earn his place in footnotes.

So why read Lord Dunsany today?  Isn’t that ultimately the test of artistic immortality, even though it is just another myth?    

Dunsany racked-up points critical points for having a body of work so distinctive, it earns a spot in the OED as an adjective: Dunsunian, right up there with Kafkaesque, Joycean, Tolkienesque, Shakespearian, and Ballardian.  But if the work isn’t being commonly read, the adjective will be consigned to an honored spot in the dead word pile, alongside of the dustbin of forgotten books.    

Sure, he scored literary critical points for starting or anticipating literary trends.  It’s great that in “51 Tales” he was doing short pieces that look much like Flash Fiction, and great that he got a theatrical head start on the long wait for Godot; and penned self-referential works that anticipated post-Modernism even before the ascendence of Modernism; and constructed surface heavy works that underplay plot, characterization, conflict and theme, decades before the French Nouveau Roman movement.     

He pulled off works that seem prophetic, a species of magic, in his two late science fiction novels. In “The Last Revolution”, self-replicating machines (not so much computerized robots, but more animist agents) turn against mankind. In “Pleasures of a Futurescope”, voyeurism into the future becomes a dominant form of home entertainment, anticipating reality TV, and the way contemporary journalism emotionally fires up its viewers using headlines and story tags rife with core modal verbs, not about what is actually happening, but what might happen, or could happen, or may happen– narratives about things that aren’t real, but still might yet be.

All of this is fine, and interesting, but still the stuff of being more noteworthy than vital.

So, why read Lord Dunsany today?    

These days, the cultural swing is back toward the immaterial.  There is a shrinking distance between what can be imagined and what can be achieved when working through the material world.  We have the technology to deliver vivid sensory experiences that used to be only the stuff of dreams.  We no longer have to leave our chairs to make purchases.  We don’t need to interact with human beings to obtain goods, or even to search for mates.  We have stopped looking each one another in the eye.  Our lives are being transformed into data driven transactions that take place in the ether.  The material becomes confused with the ideal.  Even our states of mind can be regulated with daily pharmaceuticals.  We are becoming less entangled with the bodily substance that encumbers our souls.  We can alter our genders as well as our noses.  Our genes are next.  Our politics are becoming religions in and of themselves—their object is less what we should do, and more conflict for conflict’s sake.  And our souls are becoming infused into the material objects and networks that lie, in both senses of the word, beyond our glowing screens.

Dunsany explored the outermost edges of the imagination, and left behind maps.  His works lead us through the sensory and the imaginary, the material and the ideal.  He provides the means to navigate between them.  Over a hundred years later, the maps and tools still work; they can still guide us to where we should be going.  At the edge of unreality, they show what is eternally real.

Dunsany has always been relevant in that way.  And suddenly his works resonate in new ways, for new reasons that are somehow the same, eternal reasons, with the surprise that the works are very old but still alive. 

In Dunsany’s writing, there is a constant questing after gods.  Some of the gods are cruel, and some are trivial, but they are everywhere, and everything is spiritually alive, plants, animals, stones, rivers, even concepts, even religions.  Behind the gods are greater gods and lesser gods, until The End.

What kind of name could I affix to the experience I had on the first reading of the “Book of Wonder”?  Poetic? Religious?  Mythic? Spiritual?

 I’m reading “The Book of Wonder” again, as I have countless times in the past, but this time, using a yellowed and battered 104-year-old Modern Library edition I managed to recently track down.  I have no way of knowing the final fate of the copy I found in the old theater half a century ago, and I have no way of knowing the chain of custody of the one I have before me, so for all I know, it is the same copy.  But the music of the stories brings back in a rush the forgotten certain hours when I read it for the first time at the age of 16.

I think of Dunsany’s words from his second novel, “The King of Elfland’s Daughter”:

“And little he knew of the things that ink may do, how it can mark a dead man’s thought for the wonder of later years, and tell of happening that are gone clean away, and be a voice for us out of the dark of time, and save many a fragile thing from the pounding of heavy ages; or carry to us, over the rolling centuries, even a song from lips long dead on forgotten hills.”  

[1] Though published under the title “The Book of Wonder”, this particular book was the 1918 Modern Library edition that included two collections of short stories, “Time and The Gods” from 1906 and “The Book of Wonder” from 1912.

[2] Miller, Laura.  Minor Magus, the Fantastical Writings of Lord Dunsany, New Yorker, December 6, 2004

[3] 1922, in the introduction to Dunsany’s “Five Plays”, Edwin Bjorkman

[4] Miller, Laura.  Minor Magus, the Fantastical Writings of Lord Dunsany, New Yorker, December 6, 2004

[5] Panshin, Page 26

[6] (quoted Amory 17). Mark Amory, Biography of Lord Dunsany (London: Collins, 1972).

[7] Panshin, P. 26

[8] W.B. Yeats, Introduction to “Collections of Writings by Lord Dunsany”

[9] Dunsany, Wise Woman, pp 65-66.

[10] Dunsany, Wise Woman, p 72.

[11] Miller, New Yorker

[12] W.B. Yeats, Introduction to “Collections of Writings by Lord Dunsany”

[13] Miller

[14] Dunsany, “The Hashish Man” in “A Dreamer’s Tales”.

[15] Panshin, p. 25

[16] Encyclopeida.com

[17] Miller

[18] Dunsany, “When the Sirens Wake” (1945)

[19] Panshin, Page 126.

[20]Humphrey Carpenter, J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography