(Unofficially) Peter S. Beagle

The Innkeeper's Song

The Innkeeper's Song
by Peter S. Beagle
cover painting by John Jude Palencar
Published by Penguin/Roc

The Innkeeper's Song

"There came three ladies at sundown:
one was brown as bread is brown,
one was black, with a sailor's sway,
and one was pale as the moon by day.

The white one wore an emerald ring,
the brown led a fox on a silver string,
and the black one carried a rosewood cane
with a sword inside, for a saw it plain.

They took my own room, they barred the door,
they sang songs I never had heard before.
My cheese and mutton they did destroy,
and they called for wine, and the stable boy.

And once they quarried and twice they cried-
Their laughter blazed through the countryside,
The ceiling shook and the plaster flew,
and the fox ate my pigeons, all but two.

They rode away with the morning sun,
the white like a queen, the black like a nun,
and the brown one singing with scarlet joy,
and I'll have to get a new stable boy."

Years ago, Beagle, an avid songwriter, had idly come up with a tune called "The Innkeeper's Song," above. It was several years later that he finally wrote the book, "to find out what the hell the song was really about." This world entranced him so much that he wrote a series of six stories set in the same land, only one of which has characters from Innkeeper. The collection, called Giant Bones, was written because, as he says, "I just missed those people! It's never happened to me before."

Innkeeper has also been cited as one of the best examples of multi-character point-of-view writing.

Told from numerous different points of view, Innkeeper is never simply one story. It is several tales woven together for a brief span of time, yet at the end unravelling and continuing on their separate ways. It is at once about the three women, travelling companions, and their friends and enemies, yet also the story of those living at or around the inn where these three stay for a time, while seeking a wizard friend of theirs. To tell anymore would be to give too much away, but you have my assurance that this is not a novel to pass by, or to be picked up lightly. You will be drawn in as surely as the sun rises and sets. Or does it?

There has been some speculation that the old wizard in Innkeeper is, in fact, Schmendrick from The Last Unicorn. I personally do not subscribe to this theory, not only because of the differences in the two characters, but the fact Beagle has stated many times that Giant Bones was the only time he had ever returned to a world he had created. I'm sure that if a character from The Last Unicorn were to wander into one of his books, he's throw us a few more hints. In my opinion, the wizard in Innkeeper may have been slightly influenced by Schmendrick, but any resemblences are unintentional.


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