The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Peter S. Beagle’s The Innkeeper’s Song is a fantasy novel that follows the exploits of a number of characters who attempt to assist an old, dying wizard (called “The Man Who Laughs,” “My Friend,” and “Tafiya”) as he engages in a duel of sorcery with his most talented student, Arshadin. The danger of this battle of sorcery lies in the fact that if the dying wizard fails to win, he will be transformed into a grigaath, a seemingly omnipotent, evil entity who will kill anything in his path. Even though the old wizard is extremely powerful, Arshadin’s powers are at least equal to his, and the old wizard can barely ward off Arshadin’s incessant attacks.

The major characters include two of the old wizards friends, Lal and Nyateneri. Lal is a dark-skinned woman who excels both in storytelling and in battle. Nyateneri is a tall, mysterious woman who appears to be a refugee from a fanatical monastic order. Along with Nyateneri comes a fox who possesses the magical capability of shape-shifting into the form of an old man. Before Lal and Nyateneri meet on the road, Lal comes across a dead woman, Lukassa, who has just drowned in a river. Lal resurrects Lukassa and takes her along on the trek to find the dying wizard. Another character, Lukassas fiancé, Tikat, pursues Lal, Lukassa, and Nyateneri all the way to The Gaff and Slasher.

At the inn, these wayfarers meet Karsh, the bellowing, bullying proprietor, as well as Rosseth,...

(The entire section is 525 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The world of The Innkeeper's Song is unnamed, and Beagle says that it may remain unnamed in the tales he sets in it. In some ways, it...

(The entire section is 278 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Beagle is a master word-smith, capable of conveying complex images in a few words: "A sway in the air" says all that needs to be said about a...

(The entire section is 763 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The Innkeeper's Song is a grownup book, with decidedly grownup themes, but the brilliance of its style and the engrossing nature of...

(The entire section is 262 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. How do characters' attitudes toward Nyateneri change when they discover that she is actually Soukyan, a man? How does this discovery shape...

(The entire section is 205 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What are the techniques Beagle uses to create and develop character in The Innkeeper's Song? Which are the most effective? How do...

(The entire section is 336 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Although he asserts that he does not write sequels, Beagle has written a novella, Lal and Soukyan (1997), that features two of the...

(The entire section is 168 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Cassada, Jackie. Review. Library Journal 118, 17 (October 15, 1993): 93. Cassada highly recommends The Innkeeper's Song to...

(The entire section is 264 words.)