bunn (bunn) wrote,


I was reminded of 'From Elfland to Poughkeepsie', an essay by Le Guin about writing fantasy (it's in The Language of the Night, and I've just checked, there is a version of it online if you google).  This made me ramble.  I assume, from context, that Poughkeepsie (I have deliberately not looked it up) is a very dull and prosaic place in the USA.   But for me, it's a place that I have only ever  come across, so far as I am aware, in the context of that one essay. 

weird looking sort of name, no idea what it means
Quite long, not sure how to pronounce it
Looks a bit Scottish maybe, with that 'sie' on the end?
Associations: Elfland. have vague idea it's in Virginia, which name I associate with Elizabeth I and dashing explorers in ruffs.  (Edit: apparently this is incorrect. Oh well, all the best legends are vague on geography)

Name that I've grown up with in many different contexts
has an obvious meaning
easy to pronounce
Associations: Hollow Hills, hill forts, misfortune, 'elf arrows', Tolkien,  Kipling and the Dymchurch Flit, Tam lin, as many traditional stories as you can shake a stick at.

From where I'm standing, one of those names has strange 'other' associations, and I'm not sure it's Elfland...

I wonder if there is a British equivalent of Poughkeepsie.  Slough, maybe?  Except Slough always reminds me of the Slough of Despond in John Bunyan, which is *very* fantasy.  Swindon has the Magic Roundabout.   Leicester?  Leicestershire (home of the King Edward potato!) is *awfully* prosaic, but it is hiding a Roman caester in it's name, which is suggests hidden depths.

I suppose when you are trying to make things sound strange and other, it's always going to matter where you are standing at the time.  Hence, presumably, the hilarious-in-Britain 'High Lord Kevin' and of course poor Jack Vance's memorable 'Servants of the Wankh' which *still* makes me smile.  High Lord Kevin indeed.
Tags: books, le guin, probably overthinking, things that make you go hmmm, wittering
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