on March 8, 2010
Fifty-One Tales is a collection of fantasy short stories by Irish writer Lord Dunsany, considered a major influence on the work of J. R. R. Tolkien, H. P. Lovecraft, Ursula K. Le Guin and others. This collection of tales was fun to read. You get many tales from The Assignation, Charon, The Death of Pan, The Worm and the Angel, Roses, The Song of the Blackbird, and The Messengers. All of these by Lord Dunsany are great little reads that can be comical or thought provoking. The are derived from mythology and truth. You get it all in these tales from ghosts to kings, angels and dreams, gods and men. Some are quite short and will take mere minutes to read, but give it a go and read them all because in the end you will be glad you did.
on September 10, 2010
Review from the Kindle freebie version:
The tales are short, some mere sketches. But what sketches! Dunsany is a master of language and imagery. The ideas are dream-like; this does not mean they are cuddly. Many have an air of melancholy and twilight, and several deal with the effects of Time which can wear down mountains and vanish the mightiest of empires.
The Kindle freebie version does not have a table of contents and I have not found a way to skip to a particular story (this might be my inexperience but I think not). However the tales read very quickly and it did not trouble me to have to go straight through the book.
on April 18, 2015
Lord Dunsany wrote fantasy before it was called fantasy. He inspired many writers and movie makers. His writings inspired J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and H.P. Lovecraft to name a few. These gentlemen went on to inspire many others. Unfortunately, Lord Dunsany has fallen out of favor somewhat. I find this to be a shame. He was a master storyteller. Luckily, his writings are finding a home in electronic form.
In this collection, the stories are short. Often, they are closer to a story sketch than what we would normally consider a full story. But Lord Dunsany manages to paint entire world's with these brief sketches. There are some reoccurring themes. Mythology, the passage of time and death, and the struggle between urban and rural settings are the focus of many of these tales.
As an author that helped shape the modern fantasy, I think any fan of the genre should at least be aware of and try Lord Dunsany. This is especially true since so many of his works can be found free or very cheaply online now.
on January 26, 2015
It is interesting to read all the other reviewers who start all their reviews, "He influenced this one or that one.", But no one mentions how he was able to gain all of this influence. Let me tell you how it happened.
He influenced other writers by being the most brilliant writer of of his time, possibly of all time. His stories were usually very short, but he could pack more irony, satire, humor, and sheer poetry in one hundred words than most of the best writers could pack into a thousand pages.
Most of the stories in this book occupy less than a single page, none of them take up two, but each story is complete in itself and leaves the reader looking at the world through different eyes. Dunsany is influential because he was brilliant. Even the rhythm of his writing is closer to poetry than prose, but is always easy to read. If you have never read Dunsany, this is a good book to start with.
It is foolish to read an author because of the authors he influenced. Many very good authors have been influenced by lesser men, but in this case, the influencer is fully or even greater than the many he influenced.
on January 3, 2015
Here are some wonderfully whimsical short tales--some of them short enough to qualify as flash fiction. I enjoy brevity when reading, because it allows one to finish a tale in its entirety rather than pausing or bookmarking. Some of my favorites were (wording may be wrong here, I don't have the copy on me right now) Charon, The Song of the Blackbirds, and The Young Man's Guest. Many of the tales concerned repetitive topics such as poets, time, and the spread of cities and industry across nature--the repetition grew a bit old after a while, but as I said, the tales are so short one can't really complain.
on March 20, 2016
A collection of short, vignette/flash fiction, these pieces are atmospheric and at times quirky. Dunsany is classic fantasy, and some of these pieces are brilliant, but most didn't resonate as the few gems in this collection did. Part of the problem is that it's difficult to read 51 very short pieces and feel the same sense of depth you would with other short story collections. These would be better read one or two at a time, to savor the stories, rather than all at once.
Years before Tolkien ever wrote about hobbits, elves and magic rings, there were a few rare fantasy writers. One of the best of these early fantasists was Lord Dunsany, an Irish aristocrat who poured out his imagination into exotic, semi-mythic stories.
He only wrote relatively few novels and novellas, but loads of short stories. And "Fifty One Tales" compiles the shortest of those stories, often meditations on death, joy, life and time. They're less like short stories than long vignettes, but they are striking.
In this collection, Dunsany writes of sunken ships, of Fame's prediction to a young poet, the ghost of a workman, Death trying to frighten the legendary hero Odysseus, a king dreams of a beautiful queen who has been dead for forty years, and a Spanish pirate whose evil deeds mean that he isn't allowed to die.
There is some dark humour in these stories as well, such as when Time comes across a man "antiquing" a wooden chair, and is a bit put out that his work is being done unnaturally. "Charon" is perhaps the most striking of these: the ferrymen of the dead is told by a dead passenger that "I am the last," and finally breaks a smile.
Not many authors could have such an impact with such short stories. Most of them are less than a page long, and sometimes they only focus on a minute or two. Despite this, Dunsany's excellent use of words paints some very, very vivid pictures.
Usually Dunsany either made up his own legends, or sort of coopted vague Eastern myths as they were to the Victorians. "Fifty Tales" isn't quite the same; Greek mythology has a strong presence here, with Odysseus, Pan, Pegasus, Charon, Homer and Helen all either appearing or being referred to.
Dunsany always had an excellent command of language, and he does a great job with "grey and watchful mountains," "glaring factories," and a world being choked by modernity. In one story, flowers cry out: "Great engines rush over the beautiful fields, their ways lie hard and terrible up and down the land," and in another a poet cries out in sorrow because "the progress of modern commerce" has made his songs unwanted.
As for the kindle edition of this one, it's pretty cleanly presented, with good formatting and a nice little non-hyperlinked table of contents.
Bittersweet and beautifully written, these fifty-one short stories leave behind the impression of a magical land that has faded away. Though not Dunsany's best work, it's still a classic.
on November 9, 2013
HP Lovecraft was inspired by Lord Dunsany and that's what led me to download this freebie. I can see the influence. But I was under the impression that Lord Dunsany was a fabulist; not quite, what you get here is, I guess, what I would call portraits and sketches.
The ones whose subject matters were of Egypt and demi-gods don't interest me. There's a retelling of Aesop's Tortoise and the Hare that I skipped because the original is fine the way it is.
However, do read The Assignation, The Raft-Builders, The Guest, The Songless Country, The Storm, A Moral Little Tale, The Return of Song, Taking up Picadilly and The Tomb of Pan. The wording is wonderful and highly literary.
Either they will provoke a laugh, surprise you or leave you with a feeling of comfort.
on August 17, 2013
Lord Dunsany is one of the grandfathers of the fantasy genre, influencing others like Tolkein and Lovecraft, and as such his works are important to anyone who is interested in the history of the genre. The stories are also just cute/interesting/surrealist enough to be worth reading on their own. While technically a Modern writer, I felt there was a distinct Romantic ethos permeating everything. I recommend this book for those who want something a little different (or something free).
on July 28, 2014
I use the short stories in this anthology to work with learners. I truly love the stories in here. I am a great fan of the Dunsany novel My Conversations With Dean Spanley. But, one of the things I love is that these stories are subtle; it requires a love of language and old-world understanding, and they are not so explanatory as to not allow you to use your imagination.