Many fantasies have a distinct moral, or set of morals, meant to be communicated to the reader. Often it takes a reading of the entire text in order to discern the message being conveyed to the reader. In Lord Dunsany's "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller," however, he makes his moral unusually clear.
The jewel was often stolen, but it had a knack of coming back again to the lap of Hlo-hlo. Thangobrind knew this, but he was no common jeweller and hoped to outwit Hlo-hlo, perceiving not the trend of ambition and lust and that they are vanity.
Dunsany makes his point very clear, and in doing so, he implies the fate of the immoral. Thangobrind's abilities to get around quickly and unnoticed have already been described in ways meant to impress. "The jeweller had subtle methods of travelling; nobody saw him cross the plains of Zid; nobody saw him come to Mursk or Tlun." Thangobrind obviously is very skilled in his trade, and so seems to be in the right. Without expressing his moral in this one sentence, Dunsany would appear to be condoning the thief, and the end would come as a disconnected twist. By forewarning the reader, "perceiving not the trend of ambition and lust and that they are vanity" it seems the suitable that Thangobrind's end comes as punishment for his greed.
1. In John Ruskin's "King of the Golden River," he also states his moral very clearly, "the water which has been refused to the cry of the weary and dying is unholy . . . and the water which is found in the vessel of mercy is holy". Is there a different effect when a character voices the moral than when the narrator does? Does it make a difference that in "King of the Golden River," the moral does not get stated directly until the end whereas in "Distressing Tale of Thangobrind the Jeweller," Dunsany reveals the moral very early in the story?
2. Do all fantasies have morals? Does stating the moral directly take away from the fantastic element?
3. What is the effect of demonstrating the moral by having the story end unhappily? Is this more convincing than in "King of the Golden River," where the moral is fulfilled with a happy conclusion to the story?
Last modified 5 April 2004