There be islands in the Central Sea, whose waters are bounded by no shore and where no ships come--this is the faith of their people.—The Gods of Pegāna
Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron Dunsany, was an Anglo-Irish fantasy author active in the first half of the twentieth century. He first became famous for The Gods of Pegana, a collection of supershort stories about a set of fictional gods who created the Worlds. He later wrote a great deal of fantasy, including The King of Elfland's Daughter and many many short stories. Later in life, he wrote a variety of non-fantastic fiction, including the tales of Jorkens, a clubman who tells fantastic tales but always loses the one bit of evidence that would prove the tales were true, and Smethers, a little man with a little business and a most peculiar roommate.
Dunsany also wrote many plays, which seem to be mostly forgotten, much like his other work. His works vary greatly in tone and style, which is particularly apparent in a recent collection from Penguin that spans most of his career.
Dunsany's influence on later fantasy is usually overshadowed by JRR Tolkien (who himself cited Dunsany as one of his inspirations), but he was very famous in his day. The dreamlike prose of his early work is particularly addictive and frequently imitated by those who read him. For that reason, Ursula K. Le Guin dubbed him "the First Terrible Fate That Befalleth Unwary Beginners in Fantasy".
- HP Lovecraft was a great admirer of Dunsany's early work and his Dream Cycle is clearly influenced by Pegāna and Dunsany's own Dream Land tales.
- Neil Gaiman's Stardust shows certain similarities with The King of Elfland's Daughter and echoes Dunsany's phrase 'the lands we know'.
- Tolkien's Ulmo is described in very similar terms to Dunsany's Slid, whose soul is by the sea and whose voice is in all waters and all who hear that call must wander until they at last reach the sea. In his storm-causing aspect, Slid resembles the Maia Osse; both are described as 'exulting' or 'rejoicing' when raising a storm.
- 'The Sword of Welleran was greatly admired by Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian, and may be considered one of the starting points of Sword and Sorcery fantasy. It shares this place with 'The Fortress Unvanquishable, save for Sacnoth.'
- Dunsany's influence has extended to anime series such as Haibane Renmei, Simoun, and Sora no Woto.
Dunsany saw action in the Second Boer War and World War I as a member of the Coldstream Guards and the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He was also an excellent chess player and developed Dunsany's Chess, a variant that pits a standard set of pieces against 32 pawns.
Works by Lord Dunsany with their own trope pages include:
Other works by Lord Dunsany provide examples of:
- Antiquated Linguistics
- Darkest Africa: Several Jorkens stories take place here.
- Dream Land
- Eat the Evidence
- Eternal English: In one story, a wrong turn while returning from Dream Land takes the narrator into the far future where the lions of Trafalgar Square are badly worn. And a shepherd says 'Everkike' or 'Av er kike'-- 'Have a cake' in badly devolved Cockney.
- Gods Need Prayer Badly
- This varies a bit; certainly Māna-Yood-Sushāī explicitly has no need for prayers.
- The Little Shop That Wasn't There Yesterday: His short story 'The Bureau d'Echange de Maux' features a little shop in Paris where men may exchange whatever 'evil' or burden they feel they have for twenty francs. Once a trade is made, a client will never find the Bureau again.
- Milkman Conspiracy: Vaguely implied in the short story "Why the Milkman Shudders when He Perceives the Dawn". We never find out what it is.
- The Munchausen: The usually loquacious Jorkens, though he might require a whiskey and soda to perk up the memory.
- Noble Fugitive: "The Exiles Club"
- Taken for Granite: The ending of The Gods of the Mountain
- Thunderbolt Iron
- Unbuilt Trope: Dunsany seems to do this with Sword and Sorcery and perhaps other fantasy subgenres.