The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Bordered on the West by the Debatable Hills and Fairyland, Lud-in-the-Mist is governed by Master Nathaniel Chanticleer, the High Seneschal. Although he is outwardly pleasant and kind, Nathaniel is inwardly unhappy. His unhappiness began several years earlier, when he and some of his friends dressed up for a party as ghosts of their ancestors. An amateur musician, he seized the opportunity to play his lute. Plucking one of the strings rather harshly, Nathaniel heard “the Note,” a dissonant pitch that menaced the harmonious, predictable, and prosaic nature of his life. He now frequently feels discontented and longs to hear the Note again, but he is afraid that it will reawaken his youthful restlessness.

Historically, Lud-in-the-Mist rooted out all magic and adventure when it ousted the last of its “noble” rulers, Duke Aubrey. After a battle that lasted three days, Lud’s citizens killed all the nobles and drove Aubrey from Lud-in-the-Mist into Fairyland. Because of its connection to the artistic and political caprice of Duke Aubrey, fairy fruit became taboo after the revolution. Eating it makes one delusional, desiring only to flee Lud and escape into Fairyland. Welcoming the new laws, Lud’s citizens embraced the “science of jurisprudence.” Law now directs Lud-in-the-Mist, and Nathaniel’s duty is to uphold it.

Ironically, trouble begins for Lud’s citizens in the house of Chanticleer itself. There, while Nathaniel cuts a famous Moongrass cheese for a party, his son Ranulph cries out for him to stop, claiming that if he proceeds, “all the flowers will wither in Fairyland.”...

(The entire section is 662 words.)