Lord Dunsany's writing revolves around relationships between women and the world around them. At the start of The Book of Wonder Dunsany idolizes a woman for her worldly power. Dunsany not only speaks of this power but places this power upon her body in the form of amazing beauty:
Her beauty was as a dream, was as a song; the one dream of a lifetime dreamed on enchanted dews, the one song sung to some city by a deathless bird blown far from his native coasts by storm in Paradise. Dawn after dawn on mountains of romance or twilight after twilight could never equal her beauty; all the glow-worms had not the secret among them nor all the stars of night; poets had never sung it nor evening guessed its meaning; the morning envied it, it was hidden from lovers.
She was unwed, unwooed.
The lions came not to woo her because they feared her strength, and the gods dared not love her because they knew she must die. ["The Bride of the Manhorse"]
Commonplace does not describe this heroine. Her power isolates her from the normal world and yet provides reason for Dunsany's praise. In the stories to come however, Dunsany no longer commends a woman's power, he critiques it. A woman's magic halter has power over only mythological animals "such as the unicorn, the hippogriff, Pegasus, dragons and wyverns; but with a lion, giraffe, camel or horse, it was useless" ("How one came, as was foretold, to the city of never"). Woman's power shrinks in this statement creating an air of disapproval of the female. The idea of women changed from goddess to deceitfully beautiful. She "looked far off like a pearl" but upon introduction "she was morose and moody towards him" ("The Loot of Bombasharna"). This unromantic presentation of woman consistently found through all the other stories emphasizes a disagreeable nature within the female sex, "for who knows of madness whether it is divine or whether it be of the pit?" ("The House of the Sphynx") The fine line drawn between divinity and "the pit" emphasizes the unpredictable nature of life.
1. What purpose do relationships between a man and a woman hold in Lord Dunsany's writing?
2. The relationships between woman and animals contrast the relationship with "a lion, giraffe, camel or horse." What differentiates lions from a unicorn? How and why does Dunsany specify feminine animals? Does the classification add another aspect to the story?
3. What perspectives emerge through Lord Dunsany's use of two different methods describing women, one being praiseworthy another being critical?
4. What madness does Lord Dunsany speak of? Who personifies this madness?
Last modified 5 April 2004