The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany

dunsanyEdward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany (1878 – 1957) published his work under the name of Lord Dunsany. He was an Irish writer most well-known for his ventures into the world of fantasy.

I love the way he introduces and ends the book with a dramatic flair in the spirit of all mythical beings and creative fantasy story telling.

‘Come with me, ladies and gentlemen who are in any wise weary of London: come with me: and those that tire at all of the world we know: for we have new worlds here’

I have picked the last story from The Book of Wonder, it is a short story called The Wonderful Window. A tale about a magic window or is it perhaps just the fantastic imagination of a very creative and lonely man.

Mr Sladden had the reputation of being the silliest man in business with a strong sense of romanticism, so it isn’t a surprise when his eye falls upon an unusual object.

The old man in the Oriental-looking robe was being moved on by the police, and it was this that attracted to him and the parcel under his arm the attention of Mr. Sladden

Mr Sladden was intrigued by the parcel, what kind of fantastical object could it possibly contain?

Merely the fact that the dirty piece of paper that wrapped the old man’s parcel was covered with Arabic writing was enough to give Mr. Sladden the ideas of romance, It was a little window in old wood with small panes set in lead; it was not much more than a foot in breadth and was under two feet long.

Mr Sladden had never seen a window being sold in the street before and was curious as to how much the window would cost.

“Its price is all you possess,” said the old man.”I gave all that I possessed for it in the streets of Baghdad.””Did you possess much?” said Mr. Sladden.”I had all that I wanted,” he said, “except this window.””It must be a good window,” said the young man.”It is a magical window,” said the old one.

The two of them decided on a price, which just happened to be all the cash Mr Sladden had. However when he went home to get it Mr Sladden decided he no longer needed a window, especially not that window, but he didn’t know how to tell the old man.

‘The stranger demanded privacy when he fitted up the window, so Mr. Sladden remained outside the door at the top of a little flight of creaky stairs. He heard no sound windowof hammering.’

The old man came back downstairs and announced he was finished. The two  of them then parted ways.

Now in place of his wardrobe was the window
Mr. Sladden rubbed his eyes, then rubbed the window, and still he saw a sky of blazing blue, and far, far down beneath him, so that no sound came up from it or smoke of chimneys, a mediaeval city set with towers; brown roofs and cobbled streets, and then white walls and buttresses, and beyond them bright green fields and tiny streams.

So, suddenly a darkened dingy room with no light becomes an entry into a new world. A pane of glass that leads to a mysterious Narnia. A place to retreat to when he comes home in the evening. To say goodbye to in the morning. A place that captures his imagination completely and utterly.

One morning late in August, just before he went to Business, Mr. Sladden saw a company of pikemen running down the cobbled road towards the gateway of the mediaeval city—Golden Dragon City he used to call it alone in his own mind

Then one day he noticed more activity than usual, as he peered through the glass he saw a battle of epic proportions.

The crowd was pouring towards him, towards the precipitous wall from which he looked; men with a white flag covered with golden dragons were moving backwards slowly, men with another flag were pressing them, a flag on which there was one huge red bear.

His town was being attacked. His Golden Dragon City had become the a town under siege, and it didn’t look as if things were going well for them. Mr Sladden was enraged at the thought his little golden dragons were losing, so he decided he would join the fight.

‘Just as the glass broke he saw a banner covered with golden dragons fluttering still, and then as he drew back to hurl the poker there came to him the scent of mysterious spices, and there was nothing there, not even the daylight, for behind the fragments of the wonderful window was nothing but that small cupboard in which he kept his tea-things.’

As time passed and Mr Sladden, now a reputable business owner himself, looked for and never found another window like his. He also never found any mention of his Golden Dragon City in either books nor tales. And so ends the tale of the magical window. The opening  of a world into his imagination, a parallel world or even a glimpse into the past. No matter what it was it kept Mr Sladden alive and possibly his loneliness at bay.

I take farewell of my readers. But it may be we shall even meet again, for it is still to be told how the gnomes robbed the fairies, and of the vengeance that the fairies took, and how even the gods themselves were troubled thereby in their sleep;

Or maybe there are just things, which you or I cannot explain…

To read Tales of Wonder, The Sword of Welleran and other stories, Time and the Gods, Fifty-One Tales, or The Book of Wonder by Lord Dunsany  at Feedbooks. Five Plays, Tales of War, A Dreamer’s Tales or The Book of Wonder at the Internet Archive. Alternatively you can listen to The Book of Wonder , Chu-Bu and Sheemish, Fame and the Poet, In Zaccarath , The Bad Old Woman in Black or A Legend of the Dawn by Lord Dunsany at Librivox.

Or read Japanese Fairy Tales, Olcott’s Book of Elves and Fairies, Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books, From Grimms to Grimm, The Outsider, Perchance to Dream, Tales of Time and Space or The Other Gods right here on the blog.

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