The King of Elfland's Daughter
|The King of Elfland's Daughter|
dust-jacket of The King of Elfland's Daughter
|Publisher||G. P. Putnam's Sons|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
The King of Elfland's Daughter is a 1924 fantasy novel written by Lord Dunsany. Written before the genre was named, it is retroactively considered to be among the pioneering works of modern fantasy. Its importance was recognized in its later revival in paperback by Ballantine Books as the second volume of the celebrated Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in June, 1969. It has also been included in a more recent series of books reprinting the best of modern fantasy, the Fantasy Masterworks series.
The lord of Erl is told by the parliament of his people that they want to be ruled by a magic lord. Obeying the immemorial custom, the lord sends his son Alveric to fetch the King of Elfland's daughter, Lirazel, to be his bride. He makes his way to Elfland, where time passes at a rate far slower than the real world, and wins her. They return to Erl and have a son, but in the manner of fairy brides of folklore, she fits uneasily with his people. She returns to the waiting arms of her father in Elfland, and her lovesick husband goes searching for her, abandoning the kingdom of Erl and wandering in a now-hopeless quest. However, Lirazel becomes lonesome for her mortal husband and son. Seeing that she is unhappy, the King of Elfland uses a powerful magic to engulf the land of Erl. Erl is transformed into a part of Elfland, and Lirazel and her loved ones are reunited forever in an eternal, enchanted world.
During the course of the novel, the King of Elfland uses up all of the three powerful magic spells which he had been reserving for the defense of his realm.
Reviewing a 1999 edition, F&SF reviewer Charles de Lint praised the novel as superlative. "It's not simply the beauty of the language, the astute eye for character, the hint of humor, or even the spell of legendry and wonder, but Dunsany's unique combination of all of the above. Even read today, with all the fantasy novels I've read, his work remains fresh and exuberant."
Two members of Steeleye Span (Bob Johnson and Pete Knight) wrote and produced a concept album entitled The King of Elfland's Daughter, which was inspired by the book. The singing talents of Frankie Miller (as Alveric), Mary Hopkin (as Lirazel), P.P. Arnold (as the Witch), and Alexis Korner (as a troll) are featured on the album, and the voice of Christopher Lee as the narrator and the King of Elfland. The musicians included Nigel Pegrum, Herbie Flowers, Ray Cooper and Chris Spedding.
- Bleiler, Everett (1948). The Checklist of Fantastic Literature. Chicago: Shasta Publishers. p. 104.