Three Hearts and Three Lions Critical Essays

Poul Anderson


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Although not printed in book form until 1961, Three Hearts and Three Lions was serialized in 1953, one year before Poul Anderson’s first two novels appeared—Brain Wave (1954) and The Broken Sword (1954). Around the same time, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was published (The Fellowship of the Ring, 1954; The Two Towers, 1954; and The Return of the King, 1955).

Conceptually, Three Hearts and Three Lions is similar to The Broken Sword. Both are high fantasy novels featuring the land of Faerie and its elves, sprites, and other supernatural beings. Each is set within the ninth century c.e., and each uses Northern European myths for background. The plots are simple and linear. A difference is that The Broken Sword pays more attention to the land and people of Faerie. It features a full-scale war within Faerie, between elves on the sympathetic side and trolls on the chaotic side. In Three Hearts and Three Lions, most Faerie folk side with Chaos against Law and humans, and the actual war is fought offstage. The tension created in its vivid depiction of warfare and the greater detail lavished on Faerie and its characters make The Broken Sword the superior book. This may explain why it was published first. Three Hearts and Three Lions did not achieve book publication until after Anderson had established a...

(The entire section is 408 words.)