In the realm of fantasy, the lines between truth and fiction are often blurred. Fantasy authors, like all writers, draw inspiration from their own lives and experiences, weaving their personal truths into their imaginative tales. Here, we explore the life stories of two unusual fantasy authors – Lord Dunsany and Leonora Carrington – and how they integrated elements of truth and fiction in their work.

Lord Dunsany (1878-1957)

Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, the 18th Baron of Dunsany, better known as Lord Dunsany, was a prolific Anglo-Irish writer of fantastical tales and one of the most influential figures in early fantasy literature. Born to a noble family in County Meath, Ireland, Dunsany’s upbringing was steeped in privilege, history, and the allure of an ancient lineage. He lived much of his life at Dunsany Castle, a residence that had been in his family for over 800 years, a setting that undoubtedly fueled his vivid imagination.

Dunsany’s works are renowned for their dreamlike quality, poetic language, and sense of wonder. He often drew inspiration from his travels, blending elements of different cultures into his tales, such as the Arabic and Persian influences in The Book of Wonder and The Last Book of Wonder. His first collection of short stories, The Gods of Pegāna, introduced a pantheon of deities inspired by mythologies from various cultures, showcasing his ability to create entirely new worlds.

Dunsany served as an officer in both the Second Boer War and World War I, experiences that deeply impacted his later works. In Tales of War, he combined his firsthand knowledge of the battlefield with his signature fantasy style to explore the psychological effects of war on soldiers.

The fusion of personal experiences, historical settings, and fantastical elements in Dunsany’s works serves as a testament to the power of imagination and the interplay between truth and fiction in the realm of fantasy.

Leonora Carrington (1917-2011)

Leonora Carrington was an English-born artist and writer associated with the Surrealist movement. As a young woman, she rebelled against her privileged upbringing and rejected the societal expectations placed upon her. Her independent spirit led her to Paris, where she became involved with the Surrealist artists, including Max Ernst, with whom she had a romantic relationship.

Carrington’s works, both in visual art and writing, are characterized by their otherworldly and symbolic nature. They often feature fantastic creatures and mythical themes, reflecting her interest in alchemy, the occult, and Celtic mythology.

In her novella The Hearing Trumpet, Carrington tells the story of a 92-year-old woman who embarks on a surreal and mystical adventure after being sent to a bizarre nursing home. The novella explores themes of aging, identity, and spiritual transformation. Carrington wrote the story while living in Mexico, where she had settled after escaping the chaos of Europe during World War II.

Carrington’s life was marked by periods of turmoil, including a forced stay in a mental institution during the war. Her experiences with institutionalization and mental health struggles informed her later works, such as the semi-autobiographical Down Below, in which she recounted her time in the asylum and her subsequent escape.

The intermingling of personal experiences, surreal elements, and mythical motifs in Carrington’s works demonstrates how fantasy authors can channel their unique life stories and insights into their creative works, blurring the lines between truth and fiction.

Both Lord Dunsany and Leonora Carrington harnessed their life experiences, personal truths, and vivid imaginations to create works of fantasy that have left a lasting impact on the genre. While my life stories are less dramatic in comparison, I also get great joy in merging truth with fiction when I can. My Atlantis Twins series was in part inspired by a close encounter with a shark while swimming off the shores of Maui. But that is another story.

By exploring the lives and works of these authors, we gain insight into the power of fantasy to reflect and amplify our innermost thoughts, experiences, and emotions, allowing us to travel between the realms of truth and fiction.