(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The stories in Kingdoms of Elfin appeared late in Warner’s life and writing. Her earlier writings, however, had a fairy-tale quality, a touch of the fantastic. Lolly Willowes: Or, The Loving Huntsman (1926), her first novel and generally considered her best, was about a woman who becomes a witch. Kingdoms of Elfin also continues an earlier trend toward satire. The scene in “Foxcastle” of the captured and tethered James Sutherland recalls Gullivers examination by the Lilliputians in Jonathan Swifts Gullivers Travels (1726). Warner uses the aristocratic elfins as Swift used the Lilliputians: to exemplify unattractive traits of the British upper classes. The aristocratic elfins live only for pleasure. They are so proud of their idleness that they decline to fly, thereby distinguishing themselves from working fairies, and Zuy is despised by the other kingdoms (see “The Search for an Ancestress”) because it makes its money honestly through trade.

Although queens rule, gender roles are carefully defined: Ladies do needlework, like Lady Fidès in “Winged Creatures” (who embroiders a pavilion with all the birds of her native land), and men go questing, an activity unsuitable for ladies. Entertainment consists of feasting (see “The Power of Cookery”), gaming, gossip, and blood sports; cultivation of the intellect is left to the court poet and court rejects such as the debating society in “The Blameless...

(The entire section is 423 words.)