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Literature / Three Hearts and Three Lions

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Three Hearts And Three Lions is a fantasy novel by Poul Anderson published in 1961, expanded from a 1953 novella by Anderson which appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction.

During World War II, Holgar Carlsen is in Denmark, part of La Résistance. Except that at one crucial moment, he finds himself transported to a fantasy world, where the Matter of France from Chivalric Romance, Charlemagne and his paladins, is true. And that he has some sort of connection with this world that he can not remember. He has a pile of armor and a steed waiting for him.

A major influence on Dungeons & Dragons, as well as Michael Moorcock's saga of Elric of Melniboné.

Randall Garrett wrote a pun-filled Filk version of the novel, with Poul's approval.


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Tropes found in this work

  • All Trolls Are Different: Three Hearts and Three Lions is, if not the source of the regenerating troll concept, at least one of the earliest known examples.
  • And the Adventure Continues: Holger disappears again a few years after talking to The Author, implying he had found a way back to the fantasy world.
  • Chaos Is Evil: The forces of evil are called Chaos; those of good, Order.
  • Chick Magnet: Holger, to his surprise. Apparently he never got that lucky back home.
  • Chosen One: Martinus hypothesizes that Holger is this.
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  • Faeries Don't Believe in Humans Either: In the fantasy world Holger is transported to, the characters of the Matter of France are historical, but figures like Julius Caesar and Napoleon are legendary.
  • The Fair Folk: Complete with the allergy to cold iron and holy names.
  • Fire Keeps It Dead: Holger and friends are fighting a troll, which keeps regenerating until they finally figure out to burn the bits they chop off. This book is the reason it works that way in D&D.
  • Hellish Horse: An unseen Hell Horse stalks Holger shortly after he escapes from the Wild Hunt. Note that from 1941-1944 there was an art journal in occupied Denmark called The Hell-Horse [Helhesten]). Anderson's story features a Danish man who falls into a magical world after being shot by Nazis in WWII.
  • Send Me Back: Holger is suddenly switched out from the climactic battle against evil back to our Earth, where he appears in the middle of a firefight with Nazis. It's suggested that the battles are connected, and that good triumphed back in the alternate reality, but Holger would like to know for sure.
  • Unicorn: Alianora has one for a while. It finally decamps when Morgan le Fay pays the companions a visit pushing its already sorely tried sensibilities to the breaking point.

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