Lord Dunsany Re-Read: Time and the Gods, Part 6

time and the godsBill Ward and I are continuing our Lord Dunsany re-read with the next two stories published in the original Time and the Gods (not the omnibus). You can find a free copy of the book here and join in the discussion. Our rating system is pretty simple. One star is a standout, and two stars is truly notable. Most of Lord Dunsany’s fantasy work is already fairly remarkable, so even a “no star” story on this scale may be worth a look. This week we read “Night and Morning” and “Usury.”

fantasy boatHoward: These two were a delight. The last two, fine as they were, felt a little like drudgery. These two reminded me of why Lord Dunsany’s prose is beloved.

“Night and Morning” is a simple mythological tale executed by a genius, a discussion between the anthropomorphic depiction of Night and Morning. Short and sweet, it drips with story potentialities. Lord Dunsany tosses out scene after fascinating scene (or story sketch) with the ease of, say, Neil Gaiman. I loved it. Two stars from me for this one.

“Usury” is another look at a God, although it’s clear from the few introductory lines that it may simply be a tale that men tell (as the stories in this collection progress we seem to creep further and further from the idea that the gods are real). The story’s a fascinating and inventive way to look at how souls come to Earth and sounds very much like an explanation for life and death that some culture might have devised, except that some culture didn’t, Lord Dunsany did. It wasn’t quite as compelling as “Night and Morning,” although it was just as brilliant, so I award it one star. What was your take, Bill?

dunsany3Bill: I agree, Howard, these two were great. I also share your star ratings.

“Night and Morning” reminds me of all those things I like best about Dunsany, the language, the wonderful fantasy names, the myth and metaphor, and the infinite variety of creative invention. As you say, he tosses these great little vignettes off in a way that suggests a universe much larger than what we are necessarily seeing. I love this technique, it achieves a kind of density of the wondrous, his imagination is simply exhilarating. And the changing of allegiance from Night to Morning as the sun rises is a great extended metaphor.

“Usury” does indeed feel like it’s the idea of godhood from some other culture, but of course it’s all original to Mr. Plunkett. And another great piece of invention it is, a greedy god who hordes men’s souls, who lends out each as a gem to be polished over time — but taken back once they’ve improved in value through living. Men of course soon get the idea that their souls should be their own, but Yahn’s power over them is complete.

My kindle tells me we are now at the halfway mark in Time and the Gods, and it’s been a great collection so far!

Howard: Join us next week for a look at “Mlideen” and “The Secret of the Gods.”