Lord Dunsany starts the story of Thangobrind in medias res, at the point where the night woman's cough ends his streak of good luck:
When Thangobrind the jeweller heard the ominous cough, he turned at once upon that narrow way. A thief was he, of very high repute, being patronized by the lofty and elect, for he stole nothing smaller than the Moomoo's egg, and in all his life stole only four kinds of stone — the ruby, the diamond, the emerald, and the sapphire; and, as jewellers go, his honesty was great. [entire text of story]
Dunsany's narration clearly does not proceed in a chronologically linear manner. He starts with the moment of the cough, then goes back to the beginning of the story to explain the background and Thangobrind's journey. The story eventually catches up with the moment of the cough and the jeweler's subsequent doom.
Why does Dunsany choose to tell the story in this manner? To find an answer we need only look at the moral of the story, which Dunsany hints at while describing the gem: "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." The tale of Thangobrind illustrates the negative consequences of uncontrolled greed and overconfidence. The moment of the cough marks the inescapable consequence of the thief's avarice, a consequence he thought he could escape due to his skill. In the moments before the cough, Thangobrind believes he has accomplished his task. He thinks of the "screams of the Merchant Prince's daughter, whose soul was the diamond's price, and smiled and went stoutly on." By lightening the mood just before the cough, Dunsany increases the impact of Thangobrind's downfall.
Dunsany's non-linear narration further enhances the potency of the crucial moment. The strategy primarily works by letting the reader experience the event twice. Moreover, by starting at the realization of the story's moral, Dunsany foreshadows Thangobrind's eventual failure. Because of this, we keep the moral of the story in mind even during points in the story where it appears the thief has evaded his karma. We always know what end fate has in store for Thangobrind, so even though we may pity his end, we also come away with the sense that the thief gets what he deserves.
1. Dunsany tells us that "When the priests awoke out of the grip of the drug that was offered with the honey to Hlo-hlo, they rushed to a little secret room with an outlet on the stars and cast a horoscope of the thief. Something that they saw in the horoscope seemed to satisfy the priests." What does invoking the power of the stars and destiny in this way do for the story and the impact of its moral?
2. How would a reader's perception of the story change if Dunsany told the story in a chronologically linear manner?
3. If one of the story's themes is the folly of greed and pride, why does Dunsany seem to glorify many of Thangobrind's deft but overconfident actions?
4. Does the final paragraph tell us that the Merchant Prince's daughter's life continued as if Thangobrind never existed? Or did the course of events described in the story alter her future life in some way?
What does Thangobrind have in cmmon with Pip?
Last modified 12 March 2010