• The King of Elfland’s Daughter

  • By: Lord Dunsany
  • Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
  • Length: 7 hrs and 17 mins
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (84 ratings)

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The King of Elfland’s Daughter  By  cover art

The King of Elfland’s Daughter

By: Lord Dunsany
Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
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Publisher's summary

A masterpiece of fantasy literature that shaped the high fantasy genre and influenced such authors as J. R. R. Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft

After 700 years of being ruled by man, the Parliament of Erl is ready to be ruled by a magical lord. Obeying the immemorial custom, the lord of Erl sends his son Alveric to fetch the King of Elfland’s daughter, Lirazel, to be his bride. Alveric makes his way to Elfland, where time passes at a rate far slower than the real world, wins her hand, and they return to Erl together.

Alveric and Lirazel marry and have a son, but marriage between a mortal and a fairy princess is never simple. Lirazel struggles to adapt to the customs of humans. Torn between two worlds, Lirazel must decide whether to return to her home and live forever, or remain in Erl with her husband and son, doomed to die a mortal death. Meanwhile, the King of Elfland, missing his daughter greatly and fearing her demise, must utilize his limited sources of magic in order to get her back.

The King of Elfland’s Daughter is a love story for the ages and a fairy tale in the truest sense of the word. First published in 1924, it remains one of the most beloved novels of the genre. 

©1924 Lord Dunsany (P)2020 Blackstone Publishing

What listeners say about The King of Elfland’s Daughter

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Brilliant at times, but disjointed. Great narrator

(No Spoilers) As an important early work of Fantasy, I decided to read this book as part of a challenge I made to myself to read all of the “Classics” of the genre.

THE GOOD

The prose used by the author is at times quite lovely, although some phrases are repeated often enough to be irksome, such as “the fields we know” when referencing the human world. However, overall I'd say the prose is often brilliant and beautiful, and the strongest feature of the book by far.

The story, while simplistic in nature, is heavily steeped in "soft" magic. This was something I’d not realized I’d been missing prior to reading this book. Most works in the Fantasy genre these days have scant magic, or magic so well defined they are treated more as science, with well defined abilities and limitations aka "hard magic". This book uses magic liberally and without explanation, lending it a tone somewhere between Epic Fantasy and a Fairytale.

This book shares common DNA with Lord of the Rings, despite being published some 30 years before Fellowship of the Ring. Here you’ll find elven maidens of unearthly beauty who worship the stars (or the reflections of stars in pools of water) and whose immortality and connection to the earth render them alien to normal humans.

That being said, this is no Lord of the Rings...

THE BAD

The overall plot is meandering, and at many points... just plain boring. There are long  and pointless descriptions of pigeons, unicorns, and hunting dogs. And how hunting dogs hunt unicorns. And trolls. And how trolls hunt unicorns. Then dogs and trolls team up to hunt unicorns.

So.
Much.
Hunting.

Also, something about Will-o-the-Wisps that went on way too long.

When the book is focused on the story of the actual King of Elflands daughter it was interesting, but from there the plot is a mess, jumping from character to character, with no clear focus or direction.

THE VERDICT

This was a trailblazing early work in a genre that didn’t exist at the time of its publication, and as such deserving of immense respect. Many of the tropes used here go on to become cornerstones of the genre.

That being said, this has not aged well, and lacks the narrative structure to to be a truly satisfying Fantasy novel. I am glad I read it, but would only recommend it to others that want to read it for its historical value - not for an entertaining Fantasy story.

NOTE: I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, whose deep bass tones lent a fine level of dignity to the book, which I enjoyed quite a bit. 

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4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Appreciate

I can appreciate it but I don’t really care for it for myself. The reader’s performance was fine.

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1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

fabulous fairy tale

This is a beautiful, lyrical, whimsical fairy tale. Father longing for the return of his beloved daughter. Husband, searching everywhere for his wife. Son searching for mother. Humans and others longing for the land of the Elfking and once their for the violet flowers of the known lands. This deep sense of longing throughout adds to the lyrical beauty of this tale.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

I stifled a tear at the end

A wonderful book to listen to, particularly with this distinguished narrator. By an author who influenced Tolkien and many others. Not a big fan of fantasy here
, but this one casts a powerful spell and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

As strange as the book's title

I've loved the Blessing of Pan - read it more than once and I think that it is, in its simplicity and wistful lyrical beauty, quite a bit superior to this. But hey, where that book simply leans into the idea of an old world, old gods, paganism, if you will - this one goes all in. Again, not nearly as strong for me as Blessing of Pan - it has its lengths and detractors - like the joy of hunting unicorns and some such, described in detail. I gather the author was a passionate hunter - well, all of that didn't do anything for me - it also felt jarring. A lot of meandering, with the King's lifelong search, the Elf King's musings, the prince's hunting, hunting, hunting ... heck, I guess what I'm saying is - skip this one, go for The Blessing of Pan!

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Classical fantasy at its finest

Really enjoyed this story, which seems to be a progenitor to high fantasy that would come later in the twentieth century. The story started slowly, but the shifting of perspectives between "the fields we know" and Elfland brought an interesting dichotomy between the human lands and the lands of twilight. A pervading sense of yearning is captured between different characters: yearning for love, for lost love, for home, for the hunt, for so many small things, and this helps the solemn tone feel earned, rather than overwrought. The reader yearns with the characters and feels their losses and gains. Like all classic fantasy, the theme of the realms of magic receding from human knowledge stands stark, and so the entire story feels like a lamenting and a yearning for that deeper connection.

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

It left me melancholy

this was an amazing fairy tale. magic permeates the story as well as yearning and love. it felt slow at times, but the story was worth it. they wanted more magic, and they got it. I loved the innocence of the characters and the love that was born of their meeting.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

it was Ok

I listened to it but it was very difficult to pay attention to the story. it was also a bit confusing but they story was good.

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Fairytale fantasy

The King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord Dunsany (full name: Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany) written in 1924 is regarded as "formative" within the sub-genre of fairytale fantasy. When lord of Erl is told his subject wish to be ruled by a magical lord, he sends his son to find and wed the Elfland king's daughter. He does and they have a son, but soon she grows weary and returns to Elfland. Alveric spends nearly the rest of the book searching for her, while her father is using his magic to pull back the border of Elfland and keep it out of his reach. Meanwhile, his son grows up enjoying hunting (having been trained by a troll). He eventually bags a unicorn, and the people finally have their magical lord. Alveric does get reunited with his bride.

Beckford offers a simple tale told beautifully in elegant prose. All the classical fairy tale elements are present including magic swords and trees, unicorns, trolls, along with assorted practitioners of magic. Beckford is regarded as an influence on subsequent fantasy authors.

The narration is excellent with good character distinction and smooth pacing.

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

nope

it was a real struggle to finish.
it was free. thank goodness i didn't pay for i

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