The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This book covers the whole of Thomas’ life, until his death in his early fifties. The story begins with Thomas the Harper’s arrival as a youth at the croft of Gavin and Meg, poor sheep farmers. Gavin narrates the first section. Despite Tom’s exuberance in storytelling and skill with the harp, neither Gavin nor Meg believes Tom’s stories about playing for the king. Meg believes he is a valley boy. They do not object to his lies, believing fantasizing to be the nature of harpers. Such is his talent that Meg believes he will soon substantiate his tales. They both like him and invite him to return.

When he does so, he is clearly prosperous. He is now known as the Rhymer and has a seemingly endless stock of songs, tunes, and stories. He attracts many of their neighbors to see and hear him. Despite his obvious success with the women of the court, he becomes close to a young local woman, Elspeth. They argue and bicker but, as he leaves and returns, they grow closer, becoming lovers on his last visit. He then disappears.

Thomas takes up the narrative as he describes how the queen of Elfland seduces him and abducts him to her kingdom. There, he is a virtual pet, kept in thrall by overpowering sexual attraction. In return, she orders him to speak to no one but her, though he may sing to all, and she provides him with earthly food so that he can leave in seven years. These seem like seven long days, but still he is caught up in court intrigue....

(The entire section is 528 words.)