Being abrupt can serve its purpose. Lord Dunsany, in "The Hoard of the Gibbelins," tells the tale of the extremely wealthy, man-eating monsters, called Gibbelins, and the hero Alderic. Dunsany constructs his story with three sections. The first sets the scene and explains the background for the world that he has created. The second tells how Alderic formulates and begins to carry out his well-crafted and seemingly successful plan. But the third section, made up of only the last half of the last paragraph, explains the abrupt end that Alderic meets at the hands of the Gibbelins.
From the outset of the second section, Dunsany warns us of Alderic's quest "that its motive was sheer avarice!" Yet, as we read through the story, Dunsany paints Alderic as an intelligent figure; questioning all the advisors of those who had gone before him and failed, and rightly choosing to ignore their advice. He fashions him as heroic; vanquishing the dragon and thereby saving the area from pestilence. In fact, Lord Dunsany directly calls Alderic a knight when he explains how Alderic overcame the dragon, "And to him [the dragon] Alderic shouted, 'Hath foul dragon ever slain true knight?' And well the dragon knew that this had never been, and he hung his head and was silentÉ" Similarly, as word spread of Alderic's quest, "Éthere was great rejoicing at the rumour of Alderic's quest, for all folk knew that he was a cautious man, and they deemed he would succeed and enrich the worldÉ"
We are led to believe Alderic will succeed; we view his plan as fool proof and even to the last few lines, we anticipate, even long for, his success. But, just at the moment of his triumph, Alderic's victory is snatched away by Lord Dunsany.
He was in the emerald-cellar. There was no light in the lofty vault above him, but, diving through twenty feet of water, he felt the floor all rough with emeralds, and open coffers full of them. By a faint ray of the moon he saw that the water was green with them, and easily filling a satchel, he rose again to the surface; and there were the Gibbelins waist-deep in the water, with torches in their hands! And, without saying a word, or even smiling, they neatly hanged him on the outer wall — and the tale is one of those that have not a happy ending.
By painting Alderic in such a heroic and infallible light and by waiting until the last two lines of the story to reverse Alderic's fate, Dunsany traps us as readers in the same trap in which our hero finds himself. Though his quest is born of greed, as we read through the story we increasingly hope for Alderic's victory against the bloodthirsty Gibbelins. But, in the end, Dunsany places us right alongside his fallen hero and denies us the same satisfaction of fulfilled avarice that he had so masterfully led us to expect.
The first two questions deal with the ending of the story after Lord Dunsany sets us as readers up to expect, as our eyes view the last few lines and the imminent end of the story, Alderic's victory. Yet, he so quickly ends the story and leaves his hero in defeat. First, why does Lord Dunsany spring Alderic's reversal of fortune and the story's ending on the reader so abruptly?
Second, Lord Dunsany paints Alderic in such a promising and heroic light through out the story that we expect him to succeed. Why does Lord Dunsany have Alderic fail in the end?
Alderic fails at the end of "The Hoard of Gibbelins," as does Thangobrind in "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind The Jeweller." Lord Dunsany tells these tales to highlight how avarice leads to downfall. Therefore it is fitting for both of these characters, no matter how intelligent, skilled, or respected they are, to fail. However, why does Nuth escape at the end of "How Nuth Would Have Practised His Art Upon the Gnoles" and his avarice go unpunished? Why does Lord Dunsany end the story with "'And did they catch Nuth?'" you ask me, gentle reader. 'Oh, no, my child' (for such a question is childish). 'Nobody ever catches Nuth."?
What happened in Lord Dunsany's timeto justify his bitter commentary on avarice? Does Dunsany intend these as timeless moral exhortations of does he chiefly intend to criticize the immediate world around him?
Last modified 6 March 2009