WHH Short Fiction: “The Valley of Lost Children”

We’re moving on to the stories included in the fifth and final volume of Night Shade Book’s collected fiction of William Hope Hodgson. In the words of the book’s editor, Douglas A. Anderson, it is a “sweet sampling of Hodgson’s best – and strangest – work”. Many of these stories were published posthumously or in American editions solely designed to protect Hodgson’s copyright in that country

Review: “The Valley of Lost Children”, William Hope Hodgson, 1906.

Cover by Jason Van Hollander

This is a sad and sentimental story about a couple who married late after saving their money and managed to have a single child, a son, who dies, seemingly from tetanus from a thorn prick.

As the parents are burying him, an old man shows up and asks to say a blessing over the grave. He says the dead boy will meet his dead daughter in the valley of lost children. He goes on at length about the metaphor of Christians coming to God like little children, and the old man talks about the valley as a place he hopes to go to.

The second part of the story is 20 years later. Life on the couple’s hardscrabble farm of the has gotten worse. Despite their efforts, they have been foreclosed on, and they have to depart, the woman crying at the grave of their dead son which she must now leave.

After they walk many miles, she hears singing. She hears it again after supper. That night she goes to the valley of lost children and sees her son and others.

As we discover ourselves in the brief third part of the story, she has died and gone to the valley.

It’s a sentimental story, and the old man’s part goes on too long, but Hodgson does do a good job with the dialogue. On the other hand, this is only the third story Hodgson published.

The son of an Anglican cleric, Hodgson wrote only three stories that have any significant Christian element, this one, “My House Shall Be Called the House of Prayer”, and “Eloi Eloi Lama Sabachthani”.

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