Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cimmerian sighting: Dunsany’s The Sword of Welleran a cold comfort for heroes

Such was Merimna, a city of sculptured Victories and warriors of bronze. Yet in the time of which I write the art of war had been forgotten in Merimna, and the people almost slept. To and fro and up and down they would walk through the marble streets, gazing at memorials of the things achieved by their country's swords in the hands of those that long ago had loved Merimna well.

--Lord Dunsany, “The Sword of Welleran”

Every age reveres its heroes. The ancient Greeks idolized their even more ancient forebears, the godlike heroes of the Trojan War. Medieval knights modeled their chivalric ideals upon Arthur’s round table. Many in our current generation look back with awe on the deeds of the vanishing heroes of World War II.

But is this longing a form of misplaced nostalgia? Were we to strip away the romance and look with unsentimental eyes upon the grim deeds these heroes actually performed on the battlefield, how would our perspectives change?

Cloaked in rousing high fantasy trappings, Lord Dunsany’s short story The Sword of Welleran (1908) explores the myth and the reality of war and its heroes, leaving the reader at story’s end with a chill, anti-heroic undercurrent. It serves as a warning for the warriors of the next generation not to over-romanticize the way of the sword.

To read the rest of this post, visit The Cimmerian Web site.

4 comments:

Tor Hershman said...

Past, present and future generations!!!
Here wheeeeeee gone, going, shall go.....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LubuSAgB5s

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bat said...

Lord Dunsany is one of the best writers I have ever read and the Penguin book that is pictured on this blog has some truly great stories in it. Gods, Men and Ghosts (Dover) also has great tales not found here, and with Sime pictures.

Welleran said...

Dunsany is one of the great under-utilized sources for D&D!

Ancient Weapons said...

Thanks for the idea, I hadn't read Lord Dunsany until I read your review.