A charming little fairy tale about a young man sent to learn alchemy from a magician who must exchange his shadow for the knowledge The magician s charwoman, an old but immortal crone warns him from this, but he rashly ignores her and discovers the perils of running around the countryside without a shadow or in his case, with a lesser, unnatural shadow it doesn t change with the light.Dunsany has a picturesque style that hearkens back to earlier times but generally without seeming too precious or affected, and was recognized by H P Lovecraft in his Supernatural Horror in Literature though not this particular work, probably since that essay was begun before this was published. Fantasy isn t done like this any This book isn t about world building or plot so much as beautiful writing and the sense of time It s hard to describe something like scuba diving, where you find yourself submerged in a completely different world, things are hushed, the sea life accepts you as another fish, there s the feeling of weightlessness and time doesn t pass in the way you re used to The other thing that impressed me about TCS was how Dunsany takes something very simple and everyday that we barely think about and makes it into the crux of the story The significance of shadows was developed so beautifully I am still thinking about it I don t know that any fantasy writer has ever done this as powerfully The only example of something similar I can think of is how Philip Pullman uses the daemons in The Golden Compass but it s still very different Anyway, I loved it The feeling of ageless, golden time William Morris has that too, only reading him is like being within a tapestry The slowed sense of time is an art form I haven t seen in modern fantasy. I am willing to give Lord Dunsany the benefit of four stars, despite the rude connotation that Lord Vishnu is someone a follower of Dark Arts would pray to Dunsany was a learned man and another book by him makes light of religion as such, so I was somewhat taken aback at this bigotry Anyway, like I said, I ll not let that stand in my review of a book that I really enjoyed.The story follows the travails of a young man, Ramon Alonzo who has to learn the art of making gold from a sorcerer so he can accumulate enough dowry for his only sister, Mirandola The poor man soon finds out the terrible price of learning anything from this evil man, but must keep going because of his love for his sister and out of chivalry towards an old charwoman who is desperate for her shadow that was taken by the sorcerer.Lord Dunsany writes about a simpler time, when the marriage of a daughter, with a big fat dowry for her future husband was top most priority, a scenario, that sadly still unfolds in many a place However, Lord Dunsany gives Mirandola a strong character and lets her take her destiny in her own hands, something perhaps not very common in those times As usual, the story is made entertaining by the many intelligent quotes and the importance of losing something one takes for granted like one s shadow is exemplified by the terrified and hostile attitude of society towards an anomaly like that The overall tone of the book remains hopeful and at times even funny, especially with Dunsany s trademark humor which in this book concerns the psychology of a dog I still am not sure why the knowledge of boar hunting taught by Alonzo s ancestor to the sorcerer was such a big deal that the sorcerer felt so obliged to teach Ramon Alonzo something in return I guess hunting is an integral part of Dunsany s works no matter what they are about, so I won t dwell on it longer, but Dunsany s style is surely growing on me. Perhaps Lord Dunsany s most accessible work, without ever losing his inimitable style in prose The description of the magic inherent in learning how to read is among the finest moments in fantasy, and never fails to instill a sense of wonder, while most other authors struggle to keep fireballs, elves and dragons from seeming mundane and boring. Lord Dunsany s fantasy stories are not as twee as people often claim Sometimes they can be ironic and dark, though they always remain lyrical and wistful His later work ishumorous than his early stuff By the time he turned from writing short stories to novels in the 1920s he had honed his musical, slightly mocking, always wondrous style to something approaching perfection The Charwoman s Shadow is a novel that bears linkages to his picaresque first novel The Chronicles of Rodrigues , for it takes place one generation later in the same magical Spain that never really existed, the Spain of the Golden Age , specifically near the end of that Age Young Ramon Alonzo is commanded by his father to make gold to pay for his sister s dowry, so he apprentices himself to a sorcerer and sells his shadow in return for the alchemical secret But when he meets an old charwoman in the sorcerer s house who once did the same thing he soon learns that the ramifications of his act will be far worse than he ever could imagine There s a delightfully silly joke halfway through this book where Dunsany talks about recent scientific research into the wisdom of dogs some of it conducted from the dog s side A modern editor would probably force an author to delete such a passage as being too distracting and absurd and therefore undermining the suspension of disbelief I m glad nobody forced Dunsany to remove it. Another classic from the beginning of modern fantasy Set in the golden age of Spain, before the magic left Of what value are our shadows Does the body make the shadow, or does the shadow make the body And what would people think of you, if you had no shadow 01 2012 Dunsany is brilliant I can t believe it took me so long to learn this Also, I m really glad that the LA library system had the book so I could read it Beautiful language, haunting imagery, and a wonderful story I first fell in love with Dunsany for his constant and evocative use of the word gloaming 03 2014 I like this book so much I have such a hard time describing Dunsany I just go into raptures and splutter incoherently while making expansive hand motions. It is clear, even to the most casual reader, that Lord Dunsany s The Charwoman s Shadow is a morality tale, of one sort or another For most readers, it will not matter is the charwoman s lost shadow is merely representative of joy in the simple things or symbolic of the soul itself it will represent innocence and the potential for hope It is the essence of something lost and something desired At one point we read far on into the night he plotted the rescue of shadows How many a man through hours of silent darkness has laid his lonely plans for thingsinsubstantial p 154 The story begins with a young man being pressed into service to a black magician who is supposed to teach him the alchemical treatment for making gold As soon as he arrives in the isolated domicile belonging to the great magician, an old, wrinkled woman warns him not to let the magician have his shadow like he stole her shadow And, of course, the young man isn t inclined to reason for the rationale stated here For youth argues rapidly, and in a way, clearly, from whatever premises it has, not often tarrying to enquire ifpremises be needed p 100 The shadows in this story are quite significant, perhaps of eternal significance At one point the priest says, On Earth the shadow is led hither and thither, wherever he will, by the man but hereafter it is far otherwise, and wherever his shadow goes, alas, he must follow which is but just, since in all their sojourn here never once doth the shadow lead, never once the man follow p 160 This revelation makes it all theimperative that the young man solve the problem of the shadow in the title and others before the magician catches on The problem seems a matter of life or death, as well as, apparently, eternal consequences.In the meanwhile, the protagonist Ramon Alonzo has to avoid people who are suspicious that he has gone over to the devil s side, negotiate a compromise with his father over his sister s dowry, and try to find the love hinted at in his vision when he mistakes one thing for another The Charwoman s Shadow is a short, ornately worded, fantasy that iswonder than adventure,mystery than suspense Yet, it is clearly a work pointing to what fantasy could and would be from the latter part of the 20th century onward. A classic of the fantasy genre.A lord of Spain summons his son Ramon and explains that while gold is indeed dross, it is nevertheless useful, especially since his daughter, Ramon s sister, Mirandola needs to be married and so have a dowry Since they can not have Ramon work at a trade, he sends him off instead to learn from a magician how to make gold Fortunately, Ramon s grandfather had explained to a magician some of how to hunt boars, and he was grateful for it There, Ramon finds the magician s charwoman casts no shadow She earnestly warns him about giving up his own.The tale winds on in Dunsany s enchanted lyrical prose Involves a neighboring lord who raises pigs, lying about coming from the forest, the dangers of giving up your shadow, the best love potion I have seen in fiction, and somewhatThough the magic that lies in what he uses An Old Woman Who Spends Her Days Scrubbing The Floors Might Be An Unlikely Damsel In Distress, But Lord Dunsany Proves Once Again His Mastery Of The Fantastical The Charwoman S Shadow Is A Beautiful Tale Of A Sorcerer S Apprentice Who Discovers His Master S Nefarious Usage Of Stolen Shadows, And Vows To Save The Charwoman From Her Slavery