Three Hearts and Three Lions

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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 Allied covert operative who assists the Danish Resistance to the Nazis. After an explosion, he finds himself carried to a parallel universe, which proves to have the Matter of France as its historical past. There he finds that the evil of Faerie is encroaching on humanity. His quest finally leads him to discover that he is Ogier the Dane, sent to this universe by Morgan le Fay, and to fight the battle that drives back the evil. This also thrusts him back into our world, in which he is able to ensure that Nazis can not stop a crucial escape from occupied Europe.

At the end of the novel, he is seeking his way back in the other world, where he had fallen in love with a swan may.

Other works[edit]

Holger later appears as a minor character in Anderson's A Midsummer Tempest, still 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 original alignment system of Dungeons & Dragons, which grouped all characters and creatures into "Law" and "Chaos", was influenced by Three Hearts and Three Lions. The novel also includes a troll from which the D&D description of the monster was derived. Likewise, significant elements of the paladin class were taken from this novel.[1]

The dividing line running through the fictional Europe of the book, separating this world's version of the Holy Roman Empire to the West from the aggressive and threatening Faerie to the East, seems to be on roughly the same location as the actual Cold War dividing line between the West and East Blocs, running through the real Europe at the time of writing. The Empire and Faerie, as described in the book, are indeed engaged in a kind of Cold War, with a perpetual mutual suspicion and hostility and plenty of local conflicts, but shying away from an all-out war with each other.


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.