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Literature / The King of Elfland's Daughter

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The King of Elfland's Daughter is a fantasy novel written by Lord Dunsany. The hero Alveric sets off into Elfland to claim the title daughter, Lirazel, for his bride. He does get her away with him, but things do not go well from there.

This was made into a rock opera in the 1970s by former Steeleye Span members Bob Johnson and Peter Knight. It features Mary Hopkin in the title role, and Christopher Lee as the King; he also provides narration.

Tropes appearing in this novel:

  • Antiquated Linguistics: As with the majority of the author's fantasy works, the prose is thick with flowery language.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: The witch Ziroonderel helps Alveric on his quest because he didn't recoil in terror when she showed him her true form.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The parliament of men of Erl wanting to have a "magic lord".
  • BFS / Cool Sword: The book features both a subversion and a straight example. Alveric's father's sword is pretty huge (and pretty sharp, as noted by Alveric later on), but it's rendered useless against the enchanted trees and the magic weapons of Elfland. His magical black sword is much shorter but utterly useful against said weapons and enchanted trees. It proves so useful indeed that it's the main reason Alveric could not find Elfland for long years after the beginning of his quest to find it once again. The king of Elfland is well aware of its power, and uses his magic to render any attempt to find or enter Elfland with such a sword impossible. Alveric's father's sword is eventually used by his son Orion when hunting for the unicorn and it proves capable of parrying the unicorn's deathly horn.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Lord of Erl and the King of Elfland are only ever referred to as such.
  • The Fair Folk: The eponymous princess never quite understands the ways and laws of life in the lands we know. They also feature in several other works.
  • Fantastic Religious Weirdness: The various ways the Church has adapted or failed to adapt to its interactions with various mythical folk.
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Lirazel and Alveric's son, Orion.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: It's implied that the old witch Ziroonderel has feelings for Alveric, but she aids him in his pursuit of Lirazel nonetheless.
  • Meaningful Name: Alveric can be translated as "elf ruler".
  • Magic is Evil: Debated. The Freer demands that Lirazel forsake her magical, and therefor unChristian, heritage. Also, when the magic of Elfland starts seeping into the fields we know, many people are terrified. When they go to Ziroonderel for a "spell against magic," she flatly refuses, saying essentially that magic is all that makes life worth living, though the magic Ziroonderel extols might seem mundane to us. Ultimately, magic isn't evil, it's just unearthly.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: The small, mischievous kind.
  • Reality Bleed: First, trolls and other denizens of Elfland begin to intrude in Erl, then a unicorn is spotted. In the end, the King uses his third spell to expand Elfland's reality and makes Erl part of it.
  • Religion is Magic: Inverted. Religion is Anti-Magic.
  • Thunderbolt Iron: Alveric's sword.
  • Unbuilt Trope: The Prince marries the Princess of Elfland midway through the novel and it is an unmitigated disaster.
  • Unicorn: Orion grows up to be an expert hunter and even captures a unicorn, which makes the men of Erl rejoice as they believe this confirms they are finally ruled by a "magic lord" as they requested.
  • Wicked Witch: Subverted with Ziroonderel, whose heart seems to soften after she meets Alveric.