The Hoard of the Gibbelins

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The Hoard of the Gibbelins is a fantasy short story by Lord Dunsany. It was first published in The Sketch in London and in The Book of Wonder in 1912. It was also reprinted in the anthology The Spell of Seven, edited by L. Sprague de Camp.

The story, only 4.5 pages long in paperback, tells of the exploits of Alderic, Knight of the Order of the City, to seek and purloin the fabled hoard of precious gems rumoured to be held in the castle of the Gibbelins. These strange creatures live in a land chained to the Earth across the river ocean and they have a built a tower at the narrowest point to attract humans, on whom they feed.

Alderic, acting on conflicting advice, captures a dragon and rides upon it to the riverbank. He swims the river, spends the night breaking into the supposed treasure-cellar with a mighty pickaxe, and finds the gems. But the Gibbelins immediately find, capture, and kill him; Dunsany ends the story quite abruptly at this point, saying "the tale is one of those that have not a happy ending."

The opening paragraph of the story gives a good indication of both tone and tenor of Dunsany's style at the time of writing:

The Gibbelins eat, as is well known, nothing less good than man. Their evil tower is joined to Terra Cognita, to the lands we know, by a bridge. Their hoard is beyond reason; avarice has no use for it; they have a separate cellar for emeralds and a separate cellar for sapphires; they have filled a hole with gold and dig it up when they need it. And the only use that is known for their ridiculous wealth is to attract to their larder a continual supply of food. In times of famine they have even been known to scatter rubies abroad, a little trail of them to some city of Man, and sure enough their larders would soon be full again.