Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (24 July 1878 25 October 1957), was an Anglo-Irish fantasy author active in the first half of the twentieth century. He first became famous for The Gods of Pegāna, 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 J. R. R. 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".
- H. P. 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 Sound of the Sky.
Dunsany saw action in The Second Boer War as a first lieutenant of the Coldstream Guards and in World War I as a captain in 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: Most prominent in his early work, absent in his Jorkens stories.
- Cessation of Existence: Dunsany, an Atheist, ponders about this trope in The Gods of Pegāna, where a prophet asks the gods about afterlife and, being given an answer that implies there is nothing for humans after death, proceeds to invent himself a heaven and a hell to preach to his followers.
- Darkest Africa: Several Jorkens stories take place here.
- Don't Fear the Reaper: The allegorical short story "On the Dry Land" tells how Love, after leading a man through "perilous marshes" for many years, finally makes ready to leave him, now that the man is old and has reached the dry and safe land. The old man however is unconsolable that Love is leaving him so that Love is moved to promise him to send "his little brother Death" to take care of him. And soon, Death comes "tall and beautiful" and with a smile lifts up the man gently and "murmuring with his low deep voice an ancient song, carried him to the morning, to the gods."
- Dream Land: Featured in the short story "Idle Days on the Yann" and its sequels, along with a few other works.
- Eat the Evidence: "The Two Bottles of Relish," where the title objects are used by a murderer who chopped down trees solely "in order to get an appetite."
- Enlightened Antagonist: In A Night at an Inn, the protagonists are four thieves who are on the run from the Hindu priests of the god Klesh, having stolen a precious ruby from the forehead of Klesh's statue.
- 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.
- Subverted by the short story Chu-Bu and Sheemish, the story of an idol that is suddenly beset by competition for sacrifices; he doesn't seem to need them in any way, but he is still incredibly irritated that the villagers are making offerings to Sheemish.
- 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: This is vaguely implied in the short story Why the Milkman Shudders when He Perceives the Dawn. We never find out what it is.
- The Münchausen: The usually loquacious Jorkens, though he might require a whiskey and soda to perk up the memory.
- Noble Fugitive: "The Exiles Club", where exiled kings and descendants of kings gather as waiters to yet greater exiles.
- Sudden Downer Ending: "The Hoard of the Gibbelins". Alderic reaches the tower cleverly and retrieves some of the treasure, but the Gibbelins catch him and summarily hang him, "and the tale is one of those that have nor a happy ending."
- Sword of Plot Advancement: The sword Sacnoth in The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth is perhaps the first version of this trope in modern literature.
- Taken for Granite: The ending of The Gods of the Mountain
- Unbuilt Trope: The Fortress Unvanquishable, Save for Sacnoth does this with Sword and Sorcery; a lot of it seems to come across as deconstructing aspects of the genre (especially the idea of the Sword of Plot Advancement, given the way people react to Sacnoth and the way that it's made clear that Sacnoth is essentially resolving the entire adventure on its own), but it actually came first. This trope is also present in his work for other fantasy subgenres.