Last year Pegana Press issued the fourth volume in its series reprinting, and publishing for the first time, rare stories by the classic fantasist Lord Dunsany. I’ve previously written about the first three volumes, as Dunsany’s Lost Tales.
This volume, The Men of Baldfolk and Other Fanciful Tales, is not designated as part of the “Lost Tales” series, but in many ways it represents a continuation. The book presents nine stories/essays and one poem, all by Dunsany, and as frontispiece, a color illustration by S.H. Sime. The poem, “At Sunset,” is reprinted from Dunsany’s collection Wandering Songs (1943).
Of the stories/essays, four were previously published: “Gondolas” (The Saturday Review, 26 September 1908); “Pens” (The Saturday Review, 13 March 1909); “The Cup” (Punch, 16 June 1948); and “A Taste for Strategy” (Weekend Magazine, 1 October 1955).
The five previously unpublished stories are, by date of composition, “The Book of Flowery Tales” (written 25 July 1917); “The Tale of the Men of Baldfolk” (written 14 December 1925); “The Vengeance of Thor” (written July 1929); “Absurd” (written late 1939); and “The New Look” (written late 1953).
The Sime illustration is reproduced from the original artwork at Dunsany Castle. This illustration previously appeared in The Graphic, Christmas 1926, where it illustrated the Joseph Jorkens story, “The Abulaheeb.”
|The Graphic, Christmas 1926|
Like the three volumes of “Lost Tales,” this is a miscellaneous collection, without a common theme or organizing principle. I read the book slowly, one or two tales a day, with a gap of a day or more between readings. Thus I was able to savor the stories more than if I gulped them in a single sitting. My favorite tales are “The Book of Flowery Tales,” which is most like the classic Dunsany stories written before 1920, being a struggle for mastery of the world between the Wise Men of the North and the Wise Man of the West; and the title story, “The Tale of the Men of Baldfolk,” a short tale of two wise men, one a poet, the other a man who burns the first’s man’s poetry. A sardonic decree alters their roles in an unexpected way.
Of the other tales, “The New Look” shows Satan’s view of creation, and in “The Vengeance of Thor” the weakened Norse gods have a reunion. “Absurd” tells of a ghost named Hurrip who worries about judgment. “The Cup” is a kind of moody joke-story. All of the tales are worth reading.
The presentation in book form is stunning. This volume is hardcover only, in an edition of eighty copies, with a black cloth backstrip with a label giving the title and author, and elegant boards covered in a design of flowers with a green background (see illustration at top). All in all a beautiful example of fine press work. Mike and Rita Tortorella should be commended for such beautiful and appealing work.
For further details see the publisher’s blog, and look around at their other offerings.