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Literature / Lud-in-the-Mist

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"The book begins as a travelogue or a history, becomes a pastorale, a low comedy, a high comedy, a ghost story and a detective story. The writing is elegant, supple, effective and haunting: the author demands a great deal from her readers, which she repays many times over... a little golden miracle of a book."

Published in 1926, Lud-in-the-Mist is Hope Mirrlees's only fantasy novel. Often described as "fantasy for adults", it doesn't adhere to the stereotypes of the fantasy genre, probably because it was published before most of those tropes existed.

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The story centers around Nathaniel Chanticleer, the stodgy, middle aged mayor of the town of Lud-in-the-Mist. Lud is in the country of Dorimare, which is a Fantasy Counterpart Culture of England that borders Fairyland, though there has been no contact between the two countries for centuries. Fairy fruit is illegal and causes strange hallucinations among those who consume it. Unfortunately, someone has been smuggling fairy fruit into Lud-in-the-Mist, and Chanticleer's son Ranulph has had a taste of it.

There are many twists and turns; it's a unique narrative among fantasy, and, as the above Neil Gaiman quote would suggest, one that is difficult to predict.


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Lud-in-the-Mist provides examples of the following tropes:

  • It Was Here, I Swear!: The protagonist and his friend discover a secret room in a public building lined with mysterious tapestries and filled with (illegally smuggled) fairy fruit. By the time they return with the authorities, the room is completely empty, much to their frustration. It is implied that this is because the first time they entered the room they accidentally gave the correct password while cursing at the locked door, while the second time they didn't remember what they had said and just broke down the door instead.

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