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Beyond The Fields We Know – Fantasy Prime

Beyond The Fields We Know – Fantasy Prime

“Beyond the Fields We Know”. That is the recurring phrase in the work of  one, Lord Dunsany.  

It is fitting that a writer who is considered to have lain the groundwork for modern fantasy, lived in a castle – Dunsany Castle – perhaps Ireland’s longest lived-in home by a single family. Dunsany’s relatives go back to the 12th Century. 

One can imagine him walking the ancient halls, walkways and gardens, allowing his imagination to go wild, as a child and to the end of his days. Most of his writing took place in a room in one of the towers.  How great is that?

I wonder if he was, in fact, a wizard…perhaps the last of the true wizards, and in his fantasy work he bequeathed to us the magic of the olden times so we may take it forward, so Tolkien could bring to life his illustrious Istari protagonist…perhaps even Ian McKellen is of this order…why not imagine it so? I think Dunsany would be pleased.

In his first book, The Gods of Pegana, Dunsany created a fictional pantheon.  Now such is commonplace with much fantasy.  The core of his work for me, however, and that which I call ‘Fantasy Prime’, is his ‘The King Of Elfland’s Daughter’.

That’s the one.

In this gorgeous fantasy work, the meaning of the phrase ‘Beyond The Fields We Know’ is quite clear.  Alveric’s story begins in the world of reality and he travels to the edge of the places we know and beyond, to Elfland, a place of wonder and magic where the laws of reality are suspended and imagination is king…quite literally, The King of Elfland’s Daughter…:)

At the edge between worlds, there is a witch named Ziroonderel. She lives in a tumbled thatch cottage and creates for Alveric his magic sword made from thunderbolts.  I love her name!

Check out this work, it can change your life..or add to it!  Dunsany’s short stories are wonderful too, such as The Charwoman’s Shadow, and many others.

Dunsany’s work has influenced me in many ways.  Of course fundamental ones like – life direction…and utilizing the imagination to create a new reality for myself…and in fun ways like…naming characters in my books!

When naming the wizard in my work of fantasy for young people, The Phantastic Zoo, I thought of Ziroonderel…and named him Zitthoona. He ushers children into his Phantastic Zoo…a place of myth and magic ‘beyond the fields they’ve known’.  In Tales Of The Ocean City, the queen Oesin is bonded to a Perianth named Zinfodel.  Zinfodel is the eldest of all Perianths.  The first series of TOC, The Vorm War, is all about transition, from the past to the future. I chose a Dunsany-style name to represent this past-to-present metaphor and to honor the master.

Read Dunsany – tell me/us what comes to your mind, how it influences you! Can you go ‘Beyond The Fields We Know’ at will? Not a bad skill to nurture.

NOTE: The tradition continues.

’Lord Dunsany’ was the 18th Baron of Dunsany. There is indeed a Baron living now, the 21st, Randall Plunkett.  The lands are all in his possession. He makes films and is an advocate for ‘rewilding’.  He has dedicated 750 acres of the estate as Ireland’s largest nature preserve.  Birds of prey have returned to the lands, as well as martin, stoat, otter and on.  Rescued wildlife are ‘re-homed’ there.  

I hear there is a meadow formed in the heart of the Dunsany preserve.  When you enter it, the world changes, you lose time and emerge transformed, you see every-day life differently, all is more colorful and your imagination creates stories out of everything you see.  They say a small thatch cottage formed at its edges, it is hard to see in broad daylight, but when you approach in twilight, and especially when thunder is near, you can make out the dimly-lit face of a wise woman who holds secrets we long to know…and remember.

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  1. Paul Groh

    “Thy quill, Dunsany, with an art divine
    Recalls the gods to each deserted shrine;
    From mystic air a novel pantheon makes,
    And with new spirits fills the meads and brakes;
    With thee we wander through primeval bow’rs,
    For thou hast brought earth’s childhood back, and ours!” — H. P. Lovecraft

    To this day you remain the only person I’ve ever had a conversation with about Lord Dunsany. I remember we had a dispute over how to pronounce his name. L. Sprague de Camp, in his book “Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Masters of Heroic Fantasy” (long out of print, but you would absolutely love it) wrote that “Dunsany” rhymes with “rainy”. I’ve always taken him at his word; de Camp generally knows about these things, and the scansion of Lovecraft’s poem above would tend to bear him out. But if you’re still accenting the first syllable of “Dunsany”, I seriously doubt whether anyone is going to stop you.

    I know of Dunsany mainly through his connection with Lovecraft, and I’m afraid I find Lovecraft’s Dunsanian stories to be among his weakest work. There’s a strong and off-putting sense of self-pity in stories like “The Quest of Iranon” and “Celephais”, in which Lovecraft yearns to be an aristocratic peer with a castle and a private income who never has to deal with the modern world or worry about earning a living. This sentiment, of course, is absent from Dunsany’s own work.

    • Christopher

      Hah! Zany it is… except in my own mind….Doooonsuhneeee… 🙂 – Thanks for the bit of Lovecraft…great glue for upcoming Lovecraftian homages…as for D, try the above mentioned work and the short stories...Charwoman...if short on time…go “Beyond The Fields We Know”…more soon.


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