Fifty-One Tales

I have heard a lot about Lord Dunsany and how he was a major influence on the fantasy writers who came after him. And while I’ve have Fifty-One Tales on my Nook for quite some time, I had not really delved into this little book until this week. I don’t know why.

51agssrwdalThese tales are wonderful. As the title says, there are fifty-one stories in the collection. Most of them are two or three pages long, and while it doesn’t seem like such big stories could be told so briefly, Dunsany’s spare language and his use of archetypes as characters (i.e, Love, Death, the Poet) allows for a literary shorthand that would not have been possible if he had made up human characters. The spare language, too, adds to the stories, forcing the reader to figure out what, exactly, is being said rather than having the meaning spelled out to them.

And like any good story, they are relevant to any time period. ‘The Demagogue and the Demi-Monde’ and ‘The Giant Poppy’ are two tales that spring to mind, in light of the recent change of power here in the US.

I also finished the Irish epic, The Táin, as translated by Ciaran Carson. While this newer translation lacks the lyricism of the Standish O’Grady version I read in college, Carson’s work brings back a lot of the humor and earthiness that was lacking in O’Grady’s late Victorian era version. I mean, Queen Medb offers ‘the friendship of her thighs’ to Dáire Mac Fiachna as part of a bargain to obtain the Brown Bull of Cúailnge so that her wordly possessions will outstrip those of her husband, King Ailill.

You won’t find that in The Odyssey.

My current reads include:

  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolfe
  • Rejected Princesses by Jason Porath- yup, still working my way through that one, a          few stories at a time
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien. January 20th, Inauguration Day, felt like a good time to start this one, seeing as how the story is about a few small people who join the fight against evil and make the biggest difference.


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