The Gentleman with Thistledown Hair
of the most terrifying fairies I have ever encountered in all my literary
pursuits. And, more impressive still, this gentleman, though a recent comer to
the World of Literature, has already made an unforgettable mark. As sprung from
the imagination of the inimitable Susanna Clarke, I give to you the King of
meet this fairy in the 2004 novel, Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. If you have not read it. . . oh, my! Oh, my, oh, my!
You really must. Never have the worlds of Englishness and Fairy been so
masterfully combined in a rather tremendous volume.
the Gentleman with Thistledown Hair is the focus of this article, so let me
focus on him for a moment.
is, as above stated, the King of Lost-Hope, a fairy kingdom full of madness and
wickedness, though its ruler would certainly never think of himself as wicked.
He is his own absolute source of mortality . . . indeed, I'm not entirely
certain the word "morality" ever comes into any thought or
consideration beneath that amazing poof of hair on his head!
the above picture, we see him as we meet him for the first time in Ms. Clarke's
amazing novel. He bends there over the form of the dying Emma Wintertowne. Her fiancé,
Sir Walter Pole, desperate for the young woman's life, called upon the services of
Mr. Norrell, England's only "practicing magician." Norrell, in turn,
uses his power to summon the above fey gentleman, bargaining with him to save
the young woman's life.
Norrell, after all, sees no problem with the bargain: Half Emma Wintertowne's
life will be spent in the real world . . . the other half in Fairy.
her life is saved, so who's to care? And who's to listen to poor young
Emma--shortly thereafter married and called Lady Pole--when she tries to tell
them about the dreadful second life she leads, when every night, she is summoned
to the castle of the Gentleman with Thistledown Hair to dance with the fairy
is not the only one caught in this fey gentleman's lure. Sir Walter's footman,
the handsome and dignified Stephen Black catches the fairy's eye. The Gentleman with
Thistledown hair is so taken with Stephen, in fact, that he determines to make
him a king!
whatever cost to England, to mortals, or to Stephen himself . . .
I cannot possibly give away any more of this amazing story. You must yourselves
pick up the adventures of England's last two practicing magicians, the charming,
fashionable Jonathan Strange, and the shy, fussy Mr. Norrell.
is not a story to be missed. And will soon, I am given to understand, be translated onto the big screen. Dare we hope (or dread) to see the Gentleman with
Thistledown Hair portrayed on the silver screen? We may wonder . . .