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Literature / The Gods of Pegana

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A book of short stories by Lord Dunsany, published in 1905 and therefore in the public domain. Despite its relative obscurity nowadays, it had a great influence on many important fantasy authors, such as J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, H. P. Lovecraft, and Ursula K. Le Guin.

The book is basically an exercise in World Building by Dunsany - there's little plot to speak of, but many short vignettes. It chronicles a few isolated parts of the history of an invented universe, starting with its creation at the probably metaphorical hands of Māna-Yood-Sushāī and ending with the apocalypse.


The Gods of Pegāna contains examples of:

  • Creation Myth: At the start. Obviously.
  • Deity of Human Origin: Zobruk, who was but a shepherd and could not know how poorly his gifts would work.
  • Divine Delegation: Most of the interesting (or at least human-relevant) parts of creation are made by the gods that Māna-Yood-Sushāī creates before falling asleep.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The End, when even the gods shall die.
  • God of Gods: Māna-Yood-Sushāī, who falls asleep early on, after creating the gods. Gods and mortals alike take great care not to wake him up, because when he does, the world and the gods will cease to exist (but, curiously, Skarl the Drummer will survive).
  • Immortality: Yun-Ilara.
  • Odd Job Gods: Lots.
    "These be the gods of the hearth: Pitsu, who stroketh the cat; Hobit who calms the dog; and Habaniah, the lord of glowing embers; and little Zumbiboo, the lord of dust; and old Gribaun, who sits in the heart of the fire to turn the wood to ash — all these be home gods, and live not in Pegana and be lesser than Roon."
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  • Mythopoeia: One of the first.
  • Tomes of Prophecy and Fate: Trogool, the thing that is neither god nor beast, has one. The pages are black on one side for night, and white on the other for day. Each day, Trogool turns a page, and cannot turn it back. He does this until he reaches the end of the book, which simply says "Mai Doon Izahn", or "The End Forever"— and that signals the end of the world.
  • Ur-Example: The book is the ur-example for many of the tropes and themes of modern fantasy, especially the creation of an entire detailed cosmology purely for entertainment. Many reviews at the time noted how unusual this was; reading those can be jarring to modern post-Tolkien readers, for whom it's a foundation of the genre.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Yun-Ilara spent his youth cursing Mung, the god of death. In retaliation, Mung never takes him, even after everything he knows is dead and he himself is a pile of dust.
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  • World Building: See Ur-Example above.


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