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Authors: L. Sprague deCamp,Fletcher Pratt

The Complete Compleat Enchanter

BOOK: The Complete Compleat Enchanter
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The Complete Compleat Enchanter

L. Sprague deCamp and Fletcher Pratt

The complete Harold Shea stories from SF master L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, together at last! In these five tales of the fantastic, psychologist Harold Shea and his colleagues travel to parallel worlds where magic works, and in which mythologies, legends, and literal fantasies of our world can be reached by a system of symbolic magic. The five stories collected in
The Complete Compleat Enchanter
explore the worlds of Norse mythology, Edmund Spenser's
The Faerie Queene
, Irish mythology and more. Includes the complete text of the previous collections
The Castle of Iron
Wall of Serpents
, and
The Incompleat Enchanter


“Oh bird that speaks

With the words of men

Mocking their wisdom

Of tongue and pen

A monster burst out of the forest and was upon them before they could get to their feet. With a frightful roar it knocked Chalmers down with one scaly forepaw. Shea got to his knees and pulled his épée halfway out of the scabbard before a paw knocked him down too. . . .

“The Blatant Beast!” cried Belphebe. “Now surely are we lost!”

“What mean you?” roared the monster. “You called me, did you not? Then wherefore such surprise when I do you miserable mortals the boon of answering?”

Chalmers gibbered: “Really—I had no idea—I thought I asked for a

“Well?” bellowed the monster.

“B-but you’re a reptile—”

“What is a bird but a reptile with feathers? Nay, you scaleless tadpole, reach not for your sorry sword!” it shouted at Shea. “Else I’ll mortify you thus!” The monster spat,
The green saliva sprayed over a weed, which turned black and shriveled. “Now then, an you ransom yourselves not, I’ll do you die ere you can say ‘William of Occam’!”

“What sort of ransom, fair monster?” asked Belphebe, her face white.

“Why, words! The one valuable thing your vile kind produces.”

Belphebe turned to her companions. “Know, good sirs, that this monster, proud of his gift of speech, does collect all manner of literary expression, both prose and verse. I fear me unless we can satisfy his craving, he will truly slay us.”

Shea said hesitantly: “I know a couple of jokes about Hitler—”

“Nay!” snarled the monster. “An epic poem.”

Baen Books by L Sprague de Camp

The Hand of Zei

The Glory That Was

The Fallible Fiend (forthcoming)

With Fletcher Pratt

The Complete Compleat Enchanter

Land of Unreason

With Catherine Crook de Camp

The Stones of Nomuru

The Incorporated Knight

The Swords of Zinjaban

With David Drake

The Undesired Princess and the Enchanted Bunny

This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.

Copyright © 1989 by L. Sprague de Camp

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form.

A Baen Books Original

Baen Publishing Enterprises

P.O. Box 1403

Riverdale, N.Y. 10471

ISBN: 0-671-69809-5

Cover art by Thomas Kidd

First printing, March 1989

Second printing, November 1989

Third printing, September 1992

Distributed by SIMON & SCHUSTER

1230 Avenue of the Americas

New York, N.Y. 10020

Printed in the United States of America

eISBN: 978-1-62579-320-1

Electronic Version by Baen Books


John W. Campbell, Jr.,

of gyronny, argent, and sable


“The Incomplete Enchanter” (including: “The Roaring Trumpet” and “The Mathematics of Magic”) copyright © 1941 by Henry Holt and Company. A somewhat different form of this novel appeared in the May and August 1940 issues of
, copyright © by Street & Smith, Inc.

“The Castle of Iron” copyright © 1941 by Street & Smith, Inc., for
, April 1941.

“The Wall of Serpents” copyright © 1955 by Future Publications Inc.

“The Green Magician” copyright © 1954 by Galaxy Publishing Corporation.

All copyrights renewed by L. Sprague de Camp, 1967-1982.

I write of things which I have neither seen nor learned from another, things which are not and never could have been, and therefore my readers should by no means believe them.

—Lucian of Samosata


David Drake

Thirty-nine issues of UNKNOWN (I’m including those after the title change to UNKNOWN WORLDS) were published from March 1939 to October 1943. Like its sister magazine, ASTOUNDING (far and away the most important SF magazine of the day), UNKNOWN was edited by John W. Campbell.

Isaac Asimov and Manly Wade Wellman are among the writers of that period who believed UNKNOWN’s literary standards to be even higher than those of ASTOUNDING. Certainly there is no other magazine in the SF/fantasy genre whose contents over a comparable run have been reprinted in so high a percentage as those of UNKNOWN.

The stereotypical UNKNOWN story is a fantasy which includes some humor and which is constructed according to rules as rigorous as those John Campbell was applying to science fiction at the time. (The time, for those of us willing to categorize, was the Golden Age of Science Fiction.)

There are major exceptions to every item within the above generalization. UNKNOWN printed science fiction; in fact, the magazine was designed around SINISTER BARRIER, an SF novel by Eric Frank Russell. Not all of the contents showed a light touch (find the humor in, for instance,
Carillon of Skulls
by Lester del Rey). And there were stories which weren’t especially rigorous or even especially good. As an editor once pointed out to me, he wasn’t hired to print blank pages . . . but sometimes the only choice is a story you’d just as soon have seen in the competition.

Despite those caveats, the stereotype of rigorous fantasy with humor
a pretty accurate description of what you’d find if you flipped through UNKNOWN at random. The pieces which best typify “the UNKNOWN story” both in style and in writing quality are the Harold Shea stories by (as they then were billed) Fletcher Pratt and L. Sprague de Camp.

These stories. You hold in your hands what are probably the best stories to come from what is probably the best magazine in the genre.

Fine, and SILAS MARNER is a classic too. Why would you want to read the Harold Shea stories

Because they’re fun. Because all the virtues they had forty-odd years ago are still virtues today.

These are fast-paced adventure novellas in which fairly ordinary folks from the present day transport themselves into myth worlds populated by monsters and villains, wizards and heroes—including some characters who mix several of the categories.

And that’s important too, because the characters behave refreshingly like people instead of fitting neatly into one or another stereotype. Heroes can be hot-tempered, stupid, and arrogant. Villainous wizards may turn out to be intelligent, success-oriented fellows, so similar to modern academics that it can be a little difficult to pick sides in the struggle between good and evil. A modern man doesn’t become a mythic hero simply because he’s dropped into a heroic myth—but he may be able to learn some of the attributes of heroism that remain valid in his world as well.

The rigor of the stories appears in two fashions: the authors display expert knowledge of the myths which form the framework for the novellas;
they display expert knowledge of the real conditions of the worlds on which the myths are based.

These real worlds provide the story backgrounds, and (as somebody who tries to do that sort of thing himself) I cannot praise Pratt and de Camp too highly for the way they succeeded at the job. You won’t learn what the house of a wealthy Norse farmer looked like by reading the Eddas; but you can get a great description here, in
The Roaring Trumpet.

The Harold Shea stories are historically accurate, but they sure aren’t stuffy. When a band of Frost Giants appears, for instance, they talk and act like Brooklyn gangsters.

Generations of bad writers from William Morris to the present have insisted that characters in heroic fantasy must speak only in pseudo-Elizabethan; Sprague de Camp was one of the first to publicly defend the use of colloquial English (in a letter to the editor of
The Harp and the Blade
by John Myers Myers) in heroic settings.

However, he and Pratt had already used similar colloquialisms in
The Roaring Trumpet.
The effect is humorous—but it’s also a reminder that these characters are making choices not so very different from those being made in our consensus reality.

Good and Evil don’t always point themselves out unequivocally. There are reasons to co-exist with the Fire Elves and with the Pinochet government; but the dungeons of Muspellheim and Santiago are reasons
to do so. Muspellheim is here, described with a precision which demonstrates that the authors were as familiar with human inhumanity as they were with Elizabethan social structure.

And those unobtrusive lessons may be the best part of some of the most entertaining fantasy stories you’ll ever have a chance to read.

—Dave Drake



There were three men and a woman in the room. The men were commonplace as to face, and two of them were commonplace as to clothes. The third wore riding breeches, semi-field boots, and a suede jacket with a tartan lining. The extra-fuzzy polo coat and the sporty tan felt with the green feather which lay on a chair belonged to him also.

The owner of this theatrical outfit was neither a movie actor nor a rich young idler. He was a psychologist, and his name was Harold Shea. Dark, a trifle taller, a little thinner than the average, he would have been handsome if his nose were shorter and his eyes farther apart.

The woman—girl—was a tawny blonde. She was the chief nurse at the Garaden Hospital. She possessed—but did not rejoice in—the name of Gertrude Mugler.

The other two men were psychologists like Shea and members of the same group. The oldest, the director of the others’ activities, was bushy-haired, and named Reed Chalmers. He had just been asking Shea what the devil he meant by coming to work in such conspicuous garb.

Shea said, defensively: “I’m going to ride a horse when I leave this afternoon. Honest.”

“Ever ridden a horse?” asked the remaining member of the group, a large, sleepy-looking young man named Walter Bayard.

“No,” replied Shea, “but it’s about time I learned.”

Walter Bayard snorkled. “What you ought to say is that you’re going to ride a horse so as to have an excuse for looking like something out of
First there was that phony English accent you put on for a while. Then you took up fencing. Then last winter you smeared the place with patent Norwegian ski-grease, and went skiing just twice.”

“So what?” demanded Shea.

Gertrude Mugler spoke up: “Don’t let them kid you about your clothes, Harold.”

“Thanks, Gert.”

“Personally I think you look sweet in them.”

“Unh.” Shea’s expression was less grateful.

“But you’re foolish to go horseback riding. It’s a useless accomplishment anyway, with automobiles—”

Shea held up a hand. “I’ve got my own reasons, Gert.”

Gertrude looked at her wrist watch. She rose. “I have to go on duty. Don’t do anything foolish, Harold. Remember, you’re taking me to dinner tonight.”



Shea winced. “Gert!”

“So long, everybody,” said Gertrude. She departed in a rustle of starched cotton.

Walter Bayard snickered. “Big he-man. Dutch!”

Shea tried to laugh it off. “I’ve tried to train her not to pull those in public. Anyway she makes more money than I do, and if she’d rather have four dates a week Dutch than two on my budget, why not? She’s a good kid.”

Bayard said: “She thinks you’re the wistful type, Harold. She told the super—”

“She did? Goddamn it. . . .”

Chalmers said: “I cannot see, Harold, why you continue to—uh—keep company with a young woman who irritates you so.”

Shea shrugged. “I suppose it’s because she’s the one not impossible on the staff with whom I’m sure I’ll never do anything irrevocable.”

“While waiting for the dreamgirl?” grinned Bayard. Shea simply shrugged again.

“That’s not it,” said Bayard. “The real reason, Doctor, is that she got the psychological jump on him the first time he took her out. Now he’s afraid to quit.”

“It’s not a matter of being afraid,” snapped Shea. He stood up and his voice rose to a roar of surprising volume: “And furthermore, Walter, I don’t see that it’s any damn business of yours. . . .”

“Now, now, Harold,” said Chalmers. “There’s nothing to be gained by these outbursts. Aren’t you satisfied with your work here?” he asked worriedly.

Shea relaxed. “Why shouldn’t I be? We do about as we damn please, thanks to old man Garaden’s putting that requirement for a psychology institute into his bequest to the hospital. I could use more money, but so could everybody.”

“That’s not the point,” said Chalmers. “These poses of yours and these outbreaks of temper point to an inner conflict, a maladjustment with your environment.”

Shea grinned. “Call it a little suppressed romanticism. I figured it out myself long ago. Look. Walt here spends his time trying to become midwestern tennis champ. What good’ll it do him? And Gert spends hours at the beauty parlor trying to look like a fallen Russian countess, which she’s not built for. Another fixation on the distant romantic. I like to dress up. So what?”

“That’s all right,” Chalmers admitted, “if you don’t start taking your imaginings seriously.”

Bayard put in: “Like thinking dreamgirls exist.” Shea gave him a quick glare.

Chalmers continued: “Oh, well, if you start suffering from—uh—depressions, let me know. Let’s get down to business now.”

Shea asked: “More tests on hopheads?”

“No,” said Chalmers. “We will discuss the latest hypotheses in what we hope will be our new science of paraphysics, and see whether we have not reached the stage where more experimental corroboration is possible.

“I’ve told you how I checked my premise, that the world we live in is composed of impressions received through the senses. But there is an infinity of possible worlds, and if the senses can be attuned to receive a different series of impressions, we should infallibly find ourselves living in a different world. That’s where I got my second check, here at the hospital, in the examination of—uh—dements, mainly paranoiacs. You”—he nodded at Bayard—“set me on the right track with that report on the patient with Korsakov’s psychosis.

“The next step would be to translate this theoretical data into experiment: that is, to determine how to transfer persons and objects from one world into another. Among the dements, the shift is partial and involuntary, with disastrous results to the psyche. When—”

“Just a minute,” interrupted Shea. “Do you mean that a complete shift would actually transfer a man’s body into one of these other worlds?”

“Very likely,” agreed Chalmers, “since the body records whatever sensations the mind permits. For complete demonstration it would be necessary to try it, and I don’t know that the risk would be worth it. The other world might have such different laws that it would be impossible to return.”

Shea asked: “You mean, if the world were that of classical mythology, for instance, the laws would be those of Greek magic instead of modern physics?”

“Precisely. But—”

“Hey!” said Shea. “Then this new science of paraphysics is going to include the natural laws of all these different worlds, and what we call physics is just a special case of paraphysics—”

“Not so fast, young man,” said Chalmers. “For the present, I think it wise to restrict the meaning of our term ‘paraphysics’ to the branch of knowledge that concerns the relationship of these multiple universes to each other, assuming that they actually exist. You will recall that careless use of the analogous term ‘metaphysics’ has resulted in its becoming practically synonymous with ‘philosophy’.”

“Which,” said Shea, “is regarded by some as a kind of scientific knowledge; by others as a land of knowledge outside of science; and by still others as unscientific and therefore not knowledge of any kind.”

“My, my, very neatly put,” said Chalmers, fishing out a little black notebook. “E.T. Bell could not have said it more trenchantly. I shall include that statement of the status of philosophy in my next book.”

“Hey,” said Shea, sitting up sharply, “don’t I even get a commission?”

Chalmers smiled blandly. “My dear Harold, you’re at perfect liberty to write a book of your own; in fact I encourage you.”

Bayard grinned: “Harold would rather play cowboy. When I think of a verbal pearl, I don’t go around casting it promiscuously. I wait till I can use it in print and get paid for it. But to get back to our subject, how would you go about working the shift?”

Chalmers frowned. “I’ll get to that, if you give me time. As
see it, the method consists of filling your mind with the fundamental assumptions of the world in question. Now, what are the fundamental assumptions of our world? Obviously, those of scientific logic.”

“Such as—” said Shea.

“Oh, the principle of dependence, for instance. ‘Any circumstance in which alone a case of the presence of a given phenomenon differs from the case of its absence is causally relevant to that phenomenon.’ ”

“Ouch!” said Shea. “That’s almost as bad as Frege’s definition of number.”

Bayard droned: “The number of things in a given class—’ ”

“Stop it, Walter! It drives me nuts!”

“ ‘—is the class of all classes that are similar to the given class.’ ”

“Hrrm,” remarked Chalmers. “If you gentlemen are through with your joke, I’ll go on. If one of these infinite other worlds—which up to now may be said to exist in a logical but not in an empirical sense—is governed by magic, you might expect to find a principle like that of dependence invalid, but principles of magic, such as the Law of Similarity, valid.”

“What’s the Law of Similarity?” asked Bayard sharply.

“The Law of Similarity may be stated thus: Effects resemble causes. It’s not valid for us, but primitive peoples firmly believe it. For instance, they think you can make it rain by pouring water on the ground with appropriate mumbo jumbo.”

“I didn’t know you could have fixed principles of magic,” commented Shea.

“Certainly,” replied Chalmers solemnly. “Medicine men don’t merely go through hocus-pocus. They believe they are working through natural laws. In a world where everyone firmly believed in these laws, that is, in one where all minds were attuned to receive the proper impressions, the laws of magic would conceivably work, as one hears of witch-doctors’ spells working in Africa today. Frazer and Seabrook have worked out some of these magical laws. Another is the Law of Contagion: Things once in contact continue to interact from a distance after separation. As you—”

Shea snapped his fingers for attention. “Just a second, Doctor. In a world such as you’re conceiving, would the laws of magic work because people believed in them, or would people believe in them because they worked?”

Chalmers put on the smile that always accompanied his intellectual rabbit-punches. “That question, Harold, is, in Russell’s immortal phrase, a meaningless noise.”

“No, you don’t,” said Shea. “That’s the favorite dodge of modem epistemologists: every time you ask them a question they can’t answer, they smile and say you’re making a meaningless noise. I still think it’s a sensible question, and as such deserves a sensible answer.”

“Oh, but it is meaningless,” said Chalmers. “As I can very easily demonstrate, it arises from your attempt to build your—uh—conceptualistic structure on an absolutists rather than a relativistic basis. But I’ll come back to that later. Allow me to continue my exposition.

“As you know, you can build up a self-consistent logic on almost any set of assumptions—”

Bayard opened his half-closed eyes and injected another sharp observation: “Isn’t there a flaw in the structure there, Doctor? Seems to me your hypothesis makes transference to the future possible. We should then become aware of natural laws not yet discovered and inventions not yet made. But the future naturally won’t be ignorant of our method of transference. Therefore we could return to the present with a whole list of new inventions. These inventions, launched into the present, would anticipate the future, and, by anticipating, change it.”

“Very ingenious, Walter,” said Chalmers. “But I’m afraid you overlook something. You might indeed secure transference to
future, but it would not necessarily be
future, the actual future of our own empirico-positivist world. A mental frame of reference is required. That is, we need a complete set of concepts of the physical world, which concepts condition the impressions received by the mind. The concepts of the future will be the product of numerous factors not now known to us. That is—”

“I see,” said Shea. “The frame of reference for the actual future is not yet formed, whereas the frames of reference for all past worlds are fixed.”

“Precisely. I would go beyond that. Transference to any world exhibiting such a fixed pattern is possible, but to such worlds only. That is, one could secure admission to any of H.G. Wells’ numerous futures. We merely choose a series of basic assumptions. In the case of the actual future we are ignorant of the assumptions.

“But speculative extrapolation from our scanty supply of facts has already carried us—uh—halfway to Cloud-Cuckooland. So let us return to our own time and place and devote ourselves to the development of an experimental technique wherewith to attack the problems of para-physics.

“To contrive a vehicle for transposition from one world to another, we face the arduous task of extracting from the picture of such a world as that of the
its basic assumptions, and expressing these in logical form—”

Shea interrupted: “In other words, building us a syllogismobile?”

Chalmers looked vexed for an instant, then laughed. “A very pithy way of expressing it, Harold. You are wasting your talents, as I have repeatedly pointed out, by not publishing more. I suggest, however, that the term ‘syllogismobile’ be confined for the present to discussions among us members of the Garaden Institute. When the time comes to try to impress our psychological colleagues with the importance of paraphysics, a somewhat more dignified mode of expression will be desirable.”


Harold Shea lay on his bed, smoked, and thought. He smoked expensive English cigarettes, not because he liked them especially, but because it was part of his pattern of affectation to smoke something unusual. He thought about Chalmers’ lecture.

It would no doubt be dangerous, as Chalmers had warned. But Shea was getting unutterably bored with life. Chalmers was able but stuffy; if brilliance and dullness could be combined in one personality, Reed Chalmers combined them. While in theory all three members of the Institute were researchers, in practice the two subordinates merely collected facts and left to the erudite Doctor the fun of assembling them and generalizing from them.

Of course, thought Shea, he did get some fun out of his little poses, but they were a poor substitute for real excitements. He liked wearing his new breeches and boots, but riding a horse had been an excruciating experience. It also had none of the imaginary thrill of swinging along in a cavalry charge, which he had half-unconsciously promised himself. All he got was the fact that his acquaintances thought him a nut. Let ’em; he didn’t care.

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