Sunday, 13 June 2010

Tom O' the Roads

For the stories in The Book of Wonder, Dunsany started with Sime's pictures and created a scenario around them. More usually their working relationship followed the conventional model, with Sime illustrating what Dunsany wrote. Even then it was usually a case of close creative collaboration, as the two men were firm friends and very much in sync with each other's imagination.

The illustration above appeared in The Sword of Welleran and Other Stories, possibly the first time that one of Sime's pictures was the inspiration for the story. Dunsany bought the picture, described to him in a letter as showing "a man much decomposed, hanging in chains, while three villainous people in ancient hats come by the light of such a moon apparently to cut the man down." The story Dunsany created from this was "The Highwaymen", a perfect example of his mixture of weirdness, beautiful prose and a good heart:
These three were the staunchest friends that ever God had given unto a man. And he to whom their friendship had been given had nothing else besides, saving some bones that swung in the wind and rain, and an old torn coat and iron chains, and a soul that might not go free.
Years later, Dunsany asked Sime what he had intended in the picture, and was told that the men had come to cut off the dead man's hand to make into a Hand of Glory. It was typical of Dunsany that he made them instead the man's loyal friends. Read the whole story here.


  1. The final touch of weirdness has got to be those mushrooms.

  2. I suspect our Mr Sime was quite fond of mushrooms. Picking up from Phil's comment yesterday, it has always struck me that this vein of fantasy is a close cousin of the flights of the imagination taken by the fiction, music and cinema of the 1960s.

  3. Good story.

    Yes I had a hand of glory once, out the back of a small taverna on Mykonos, she was very thorough.