Three Hearts and Three Lions

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Three Hearts and Three Lions
First edition
Author Poul Anderson
Cover artist Edward Gorey
Country United States
Language English
Genre Fantasy novel
Publisher Doubleday
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 191 pp

Three Hearts and Three Lions is a 1961 fantasy novel by Poul Anderson, expanded from a 1953 novella by Anderson which appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction.


Holger Carlsen is an American-trained Danish engineer who joins the Danish Resistance to the Nazis. After being shot in a skirmish, he finds himself carried to a parallel universe, a world where Northern European legend is real. This world is divided between the forces of Chaos inhabiting "Middle World" (which includes Faerie) and forces of Law based in the human world, which is in turn divided between the Holy Roman Empire and the Saracens. He finds the equipment and horse of a medieval knight waiting for him. The shield is emblazoned with three hearts and three lions. He finds the clothes and armour fit him perfectly, and he knows how to use the weapons and ride the horse.

Seeking to return to his own world, Holger is joined by Alianora, a swan maiden, and Hugi, a dwarf. They fall into the clutches of Duke Alfric of Faerie who attempts to imprison Holger in Elf Hill. Holger learns that Morgan Le Fay, his lover in a forgotten past life, is his ultimate adversary. They escape and, after encountering a dragon, a giant, and a werewolf, reach the town of Tarnberg, where they are joined by a mysterious Saracen called Carahue, who has been searching for Holger. Based on the advice of the wizard, Martinus Trismegistus, they set out to recover the sword, Cortana. The sword is a ruined church, guarded by a nixie, cannibal hillmen, and a troll. Once the sword is recovered, Holger discoveres he is the legendary Ogier the Dane, a champion of Law. He vanquishes the forces of Chaos and is transported back to his own world. He attempts to return, to be reunited with Alianora, with whom he has fallen in love.


The novel is a pastiche of interwoven stories. It draws on the corpus of Northern European legends, including Ogier the Dane, the Matter of France, Arthurian romance, Oberon (Duke Alfric in the novel), Germanic mythology, and traditional magic. It uses related literary sources such as Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene, William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, Robert Burns's Tam o' Shanter, and Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. It also shows influence of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit with references to Mirkwood and wargs. It has some similarity to C. S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The dividing line between the Empire in the West and threatening Faerie to the East seems to mirror the Cold War dividing line between the West and East Blocs, running through the real Europe at the time of writing.

Other works[edit]

Holger later appears as a minor character in Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, unable to return to his original home. In addition, he appears (with many other classic SF characters) in the tournament at the end of Heinlein's The Number of the Beast.


The novel influenced the role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, especially the original alignment system, which grouped all characters and creatures into "Law" and "Chaos". The game drew on the novel's depiction of the troll, which regenerated when wounded, the swanmay, and the nixie. The novel also inspired the paladin character class.[1]

The novel was also an influence on Michael Moorcock's creation of Elric of Melniboné and the Eternal Champion.


The 1953 novella is a Retro-Hugo nominee.[2]


  1. ^ DeVarque, Aardy R. "Literary Sources of D&D". Archived from the original on 20 July 2007. Retrieved 19 June 2011. 
  2. ^ "NESFA 1953 Retro-Hugo Recommendations". New England Science Fiction Association, Inc. Retrieved 2007-02-24. 


  • Tymn, Marshall B.; Kenneth J. Zahorski and Robert H. Boyer (1979). Fantasy Literature: A Core Collection and Reference Guide. New York: R.R. Bowker Co. p. 45. ISBN 0-8352-1431-1.