Rereading: THE BLESSING OF PAN by Lord Dunsany

Something strange is going on in the remote English village of Wolding nestled among the downs, and only the vicar, Elderick Anwrel, seems to realize how it threatens the souls of every resident. Teenager Tommy Duffin has become obsessed with the standing stones on the hill above the village, the mysterious shadows of dawn and dusk, and the promise of answers to questions he doesn’t even understand. He fashions a set of reed pipes, and begins to play haunting tunes that come to him from some unknown source, and his music is soon ringing across the town every night, luring young girls to join him. Other boys at first plan to beat Tommy, but then they too are captured by the music and join the audience in their rapt attention and dancing.

Vicar Anwrel realizes this sudden resurgence of paganism is something he can’t fight alone, and he appeals to his bishop for help, but the bishop instead sends him on a seaside holiday. Others in the church prove equally unhelpful and think him mad. There’s little he can do as more and more of the townsfolk are taken by the charms of Tommy’s music, and talk begins of a sacrifice on the central stone on the hill.

This book, published in 1928, shows Dunsany writing with more skill about people and their interactions than in earlier years, with characters that are real and sympathetic on all sides of the problem. Yet something is lost by his choice to never allow the real magic to become clear and take the stage. Still a fine read, with a surprising resolution. Recommended.

The Blessing of Pan by Lord Dunsany

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