In "Chu-bu and Sheemish" Lord Dunsany tells the story of rival gods who compete for the praise of their people. The older god, Chu-bu, attempts to cause an earthquake to demonstrate his power and his put Sheemish to shame. When Chu-bu learns that Sheemish has the same goal, he then concentrates on preventing Sheemish from succeeding. Both Chu-bu and Sheemish fail in their initial attempts to make an earthquake, but "to be a god and to fail to achieve a miracle is a despairing sensation; it is as though among men one should determine upon a hearty sneeze and as though no sneeze should come; it is as though one should try to swim in heavy boots or remember a name that is utterly forgotten: all these pains were Sheemish's."

The two gods continue in their efforts to outdo each other. Chu-bu succeeds in his effort to defile the head of Sheemish, but he receives the same treatment in return.

Now there were holy birds in the temple of Chu-bu, and when the third day was come and the night thereof, it was as it were revealed to the mind of Chu-bu, that there was dirt upon the head of Sheemish.

It is not with the gods as it is with men. We are angry one with another and turn from our anger again, but the wrath of the gods is enduring. Chu-bu remembered and Sheemish did not forget. They spake as we do not speak, in silence yet heard of each other, nor were their thoughts as our thoughts. We should not judge them merely by human standards. All night long they spake and all night said these words only: "Dirty Chu-bu," "Dirty Sheemish." "Dirty Chu-bu," "Dirty Sheemish," all night long. Their wrath had not tired at dawn, and neither had wearied of his accusation. And gradually Chu-bu came to realize that he was nothing more than the equal of Sheemish.

The story ends with both gods inadvertently trying to cause an earthquake at the same time. As a result of their combined efforts, they succeed, however their plan backfires when the earthquake's destruction causes the city to view them as terrible gods. Chu-bu's temple fell on both of them and the people in the city refused to rebuild it. Dunsany tells the story using fantasy and light humor, but we still feel that the warning against rivalry is real.

Questions

1. The story beings by explaining that it is customary for the priests to praise Chu-bu on Tuesdays. The rest of the story takes place on various Tuesdays. Is there a reason that Dunsany chose Tuesday? Was there a reason that Tuesday was significant when this story was written?

2. The story also repeats things occurring on the third day. Is this significant? Are the third day occurrences and earthquakes symbols of Christianity?

3. How much does religion play a role in this story? Is Lord Dunsany's religion evident in his writing?

4. The story is told using humor and irony even though it has a serious meaning. Why might Dunsany have chosen to make the story funny instead of serious?

5. Dunsany ends his story "The Hoard of the Gibbelins" with "the tale is one of those that have not a happy ending." Does "Chu-bu and Sheemish" have an unhappy ending, or is the ending ironic instead?

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Victorian Web Overview Aesthetes & Decadents Lord Dunsany

Last modified 3 March 2009