Saturday, May 25, 2013

Book Spotlight: The Gods of Pegāna by Lord Dunsany

Cheers Beardies!

I hope all of you readers are well, and it's a huge pleasure and honour to be writing for The Bearded Scribe. My name is Siddharth Venkataramakrishnan, but for the sake of time and space, call me Sid! For those who skipped the Bio, I'm British, currently on a year out in France, and who'll be studying English at Oxford come October.

So, to start off, I've decided onSpotlighting a British progenitor of Speculative Fiction, Lord Dunsany...or...Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, Baron of Dunsany to his mates (one of the few people with a sillier name than myself!).

For those who don't know Dreaming Baron of Dunsany, he was a member of the Irish Revival, W.B. Yeats' editor, and holder of the second oldest hereditary title in Erin. He spent much of his time alternating between hunting and writing stories in his fabulous abode. (Life sure is hard for some people!)

Like Blake—and unlike Yeats—Dunsany decided to make up his own mythos, peopled with silly-named Gods whom have little care for the lives of men. (Unsurprisingly, Lovecraft named him as a major influence alongside Poe.) The Gods of Pegāna was his first published work and forms a compelling examination of the human character through a fantasy realm.



The Premise: 
Beginning with creation, The Gods of Pegāna tells the story of Pegāna, its people, and its gods until the end of time.  It is testament to Dunsany that, within such a short space of time, the whole story of Pegāna is told without us feeling short changed.

The Gods of Pegāna echo Classical, Norse, Egyptian, even Hindu ideas, with a sad humour in the frailty of men and gods alike. Even as Mung, god of death, puts his "mark" upon false prophets, his own destruction is inescapable. Good and evil do not even factor, simply the inexorability of wyrd (fate) as we see prophets and peasants, lords, and gods move through the stages of life into death.

Gems for Writers:
Voice. Dunsany's style in the book is characterised by a wonderful scripture-like voice, granting a sense of omnipotent neutrality and impartiality to proceedings. The feeling of scale and gravitas conjured by these images are perfect for any would-be demiurges.
“Natheless between Pegāna and the Earth flutter ten thousand thousand prayers that beat their wings against the face of Death, and never for one of them hath the hand of the Striker been stayed, nor yet have tarried the feet of the Relentless One.”  
Secrets and Concealment. The mystery and wonder of the deities are also played upon by Dunsany, who avoids specifications of appearance for most of them. The veil of mystique which surrounds Mana-Yood-Sushai, the slumbering creator god whose awakening signals the end of the world, is great enough for us to keep pondering the mysterious workings of the supreme deity. Suspense being a key to the genre, there's an excellent passage discussing, "the god Hoodrazai, who hath found the secret of MANA-YOOD-SUSHAI." Formerly a god of mirth and merriment, Hoodzrazai's discovery turned him grave and sombre. Inclusion of such points adds to the overall tone of hidden knowledge and the power of gods.

A Human Touch. A final point to note is Dunsany's ability to make it all very human. The Gods of Pegāna, as mighty as they all are, have human flaws and an inexorable death. The struggles of the people of Pegāna are, in turn, our struggles, too, and can perhaps be best summed up by the words of the prophet Yonath: "Man Knoweth Not." Though told in a poetic, epic style, the ability to keep the tales very close to the lives of men is a compelling talent.

Rating:


Conclusion:
The Gods of Pegāna is a work which extends beyond the realms of fantasy and into the soul of humanity itself. I would recommend it not only for the beauty of the work and the intricate pantheon created in such a short a space, but also for the intense messages and the profundity which they stir. Dunsany's first work is one well worth reading, proving that he was as much a philosopher as an author. 

Good Scribing & Good Health!




***The Gods of Pegāna (1905) by Lord Dunsany, was originally published on a commissioned basis by (Charles) Elkin Matthews.  It is available in stores, online (see above), and at your local public library.
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