The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Elfin Ship introduces Jonathan Bing, the master cheesemaker of Twombly Town who has inherited the family business from his father, Amos. Christmas nears, but the elves who normally arrive to trade elfin cakes and Christmas gifts for various cheeses fail to arrive. Bing, with his faithful dog Ahab (based on the authors real-life dog Ahab), decides to travel down the Oriel River to find the elves so that Christmas will not be ruined for the good people of Twombly Town. He is joined in his adventures by a local boy named Dooly and Professor Wurzle, the towns eccentric scholar, specimen collector, and librarian/book loaner.

Along the way, they are caught up in the doings of Theophile Escargot, a strange man (in Bing’s opinion) who may or may not be Dooly’s grandfather and who is a legendary figure in Twombly Town. Escargot has come into possession of a pocket watch that is able to stop time. Bing and his cohorts discover that an evil dwarf named Selznak would like to possess the watch so that he can wreak havoc upon the people who live along the Oriel River. The travelers find themselves deep in trouble.

Along the way, the group encounters numerous beings, ranging from goblins to elves, dwarves, witches, and trolls; fish and squid; cats, bats, and bugs; and Squire Merkle and his merry men, a group resembling Robin Hood and his entourage. Throughout these adventures, James P. Blaylock’s tumultuous and meandering purplish prose delights the reader. Eventually Escargot and the watch are recovered in a wild battle in which the evil dwarf is defeated. The group obtains the...

(The entire section is 657 words.)