Today I’m thrilled to have a couple of excerpts from The Essential Peter S. Beagle to share with you—plus a giveaway! Peter S. Beagle’s fiction includes The Last Unicorn, A Fine and Private Place, The Innkeeper’s Song, In Calabria, the Mythopoeic Award–winning novels Tamsin and The Folk of the Air, and the Hugo and Nebula Award–winning novelette “Two Hearts.” He has also written screenplays, including those for the 1978 animated film The Lord of the Rings, The Last Unicorn, and the Star Trek: Next Generation episode “Sarek.” His plethora of work has earned him both the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award and SFWA’s lifetime achievement award, being named a Damon Knight Grand Master.

Containing illustrations by Stephanie Law, both The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I: Lila the Werewolf and Other Stories with an introduction by Jane Yolen and The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume II: Oakland Dragon Blues and Other Stories with an introduction by Meg Elison were released yesterday. (These are also available in one volume as signed limited editions.) Keep reading for more information and one excerpt from each volume beginning with the author’s story notes—and click below for a chance to win a digital copy of both volumes (open internationally) or a print ARC of the second volume (US only)!

Note: The giveaway link has been removed since it is now over.
Cover of The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume I Cover of The Essential Peter S. Beagle, Volume II
Click each cover for more information, including the Table of Contents


These essential volumes of bestselling author Peter S. Beagle’s (The Last Unicorn) short stories demonstrate why he is one of America’s most influential fantasists. With his celebrated versatility, humor, and grace, Beagle is at home in a dazzling variety of subgenres, evoking comparison to such iconic authors as Twain, Tolkien, Carroll, L’Engle, and Vonnegut. From heartbreaking to humorous, these carefully curated stories by Peter S. Beagle show the depth and power of his incomparable prose and storytelling. Featuring original introductions from Jane Yolen (The Devil’s Arithmetic) and Meg Elison (Find Layla), and gorgeous illustrations from Stephanie Law (Shadowscapes), these elegant collections are a must-have for any fan of classic fantasy.

Story note from Peter S. Beagle

“Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros” is still one of my favorites of my own stories. René Auberjonois, a splendid actor and a good friend, always wanted to play Professor Gottesman, if it ever became a movie. When I mentioned that the Professor is Swiss-born, René responded immediately, “Well, I’m Swiss!” I borrowed the character’s name from a dentist who had his office in the Bronx building where I grew up. A very nice, funny man who didn’t believe in Novocain. Scarified my entire childhood, he did. . . .

Professor Gottesman and the Indian Rhinoceros

Professor Gustave Gottesman went to a zoo for the first time when he was thirty-four years old. There is an excellent zoo in Zurich, which was Professor Gottesman’s birthplace, and where his sister still lived, but Professor Gottesman had never been there. From an early age he had determined on the study of philosophy as his life’s work; and for any true philosopher this world is zoo enough, complete with cages, feeding times, breeding programs, and earnest docents, of which he was wise enough to know that he was one. Thus, the first zoo he ever saw was the one in the middle-sized Midwestern American city where he worked at a middle-sized university, teaching Comparative Philosophy in comparative contentment. He was tall and rather thin, with a round, undistinguished face, a snub nose, a random assortment of sandy-ish hair, and a pair of very intense and very distinguished brown eyes that always seemed to be looking a little deeper than they meant to, embarrassing the face around them no end. His students and colleagues were quite fond of him, in an indulgent sort of way.

And how did the good Professor Gottesman happen at last to visit a zoo? It came about in this way: his older sister Edith came from Zurich to stay with him for several weeks, and she brought her daughter, his niece Nathalie, along with her. Nathalie was seven, both in years and in the number of her there sometimes seemed to be, for the Professor had never been used to children even when he was one. She was a generally pleasant little girl, though, as far as he could tell; so when his sister besought him to spend one of his free afternoons with Nathalie while she went to lunch and a gallery opening with an old friend, the Professor graciously consented. And Nathalie wanted very much to go to the zoo and see tigers.

“So you shall,” her uncle announced gallantly. “Just as soon as I find out exactly where the zoo is.” He consulted with his best friend, a fat, cheerful, harmonica-playing professor of medieval Italian poetry named Sally Lowry, who had known him long and well enough (she was the only person in the world who called him Gus) to draw an elaborate two-colored map of the route, write out very precise directions beneath it, and make several copies of this document, in case of accidents. Thus equipped, and accompanied by Charles, Nathalie’s stuffed bedtime tiger, whom she desired to introduce to his grand cousins, they set off together for the zoo on a gray, cool spring afternoon. Professor Gottesman quoted Thomas Hardy to Nathalie, improvising a German translation for her benefit as he went along:

This is the weather the cuckoo likes,
And so do I;
When showers betumble the chestnut spikes,
And nestlings fly.

“Charles likes it too,” Nathalie said. “It makes his fur feel all sweet.”

They reached the zoo without incident, thanks to Professor Lowry’s excellent map, and Professor Gottesman bought Nathalie a bag of something sticky, unhealthy, and forbidden, and took her straight off to see the tigers. Their hot, meaty smell and their lightning-colored eyes were a bit too much for him, and so he sat on a bench nearby and watched Nathalie perform the introductions for Charles. When she came back to Professor Gottesman, she told him that Charles had been very well-behaved, as had all the tigers but one, who was rudely indifferent. “He was probably just visiting,” she said. “A tourist or something.”

The Professor was still marveling at the amount of contempt one small girl could infuse into the word tourist, when he heard a voice, sounding almost at his shoulder, say, “Why, Professor Gottesman—how nice to see you at last.” It was a low voice, a bit hoarse, with excellent diction, speaking good Zurich German with a very slight, unplaceable accent.

Professor Gottesman turned quickly, half-expecting to see some old acquaintance from home, whose name he would inevitably have forgotten. Such embarrassments were altogether too common in his gently preoccupied life. His friend Sally Lowry once observed, “We see each other just about every day, Gus, and I’m still not sure you really recognize me. If I wanted to hide from you, I’d just change my hairstyle.”

There was no one at all behind him. The only thing he saw was the rutted, muddy rhinoceros yard, for some reason placed directly across from the big cats’ cages. The one rhinoceros in residence was standing by the fence, torpidly mumbling a mouthful of moldy-looking hay. It was an Indian rhinoceros, according to the placard on the gate, as big as the Professor’s compact car, and the approximate color of old cement. The creaking slabs of its skin smelled of stale urine, and it had only one horn, caked with sticky mud. Flies buzzed around its small, heavy-lidded eyes, which regarded Professor Gottesman with immense, ancient unconcern. But there was no other person in the vicinity who might have addressed him.

Professor Gottesman shook his head, scratched it, shook it again, and turned back to the tigers. But the voice came again. “Professor, it was indeed I who spoke. Come and talk to me, if you please.”

No need, surely, to go into Professor Gottesman’s reaction: to describe in detail how he gasped, turned pale, and looked wildly around for any corroborative witness. It is worth mentioning, however, that at no time did he bother to splutter the requisite splutter in such cases: “My God, I’m either dreaming, drunk, or crazy.” If he was indeed just as classically absent-minded and impractical as everyone who knew him agreed, he was also more of a realist than many of them. This is generally true of philosophers, who tend, as a group, to be on terms of mutual respect with the impossible. Therefore, Professor Gottesman did the only proper thing under the circumstances. He introduced his niece Nathalie to the rhinoceros.

Nathalie, for all her virtues, was not a philosopher, and could not hear the rhinoceros’s gracious greeting. She was, however, seven years old, and a well-brought-up seven-year-old has no difficulty with the notion that a rhinoceros—or a goldfish, or a coffee table—might be able to talk; nor in accepting that some people can hear coffee-table speech and some people cannot. She said a polite hello to the rhinoceros, and then became involved in her own conversation with stuffed Charles, who apparently had a good deal to say about tigers.

“A mannerly child,” the rhinoceros commented. “One sees so few here. Most of them throw things.”

His mouth dry, and his voice shaky but contained, Professor Gottesman asked carefully, “Tell me, if you will—can all rhinoceri speak, or only the Indian species?” He wished furiously that he had thought to bring along his notebook.

“I have no idea,” the rhinoceros answered him candidly. “I myself, as it happens, am a unicorn.”



Story note from Peter S. Beagle

My late friend Pat Derby (with whom I wrote my one as-told-to book, The Lady and Her Tiger) was forever rescuing half-starved wolves, bears, and mountain lions, kept as guardians of their compounds by drug dealers all over hidden wilderness camps in northern California, mostly to ward off, not so much the police and the FBI, as their fellow dealers. I lived in the Santa Cruz area for twenty-two years, during which time it became one of the major sources of marijuana and—far worse—crystal methedrine, which, by the time you read this, may have been officially recognized as the leading cash crop of the state. I knew Trinity County in those days less well than I knew Santa Cruz, Alpine, El Dorado, and Monterey, but the underground economy was the same, and everyone from Sacramento officialdom to boardwalk hippies knew it. This story merely takes the hidden world that Pat Derby showed me a notch further: what if drug dealers employed dragons, instead of lions. . . ?

Trinity County, CA: You’ll Want to Come Again and We’ll Be Glad to See You!

“This stuff stinks,” Connie Laminack complained. She and Gruber were dressing for work in the yard’s cramped and makeshift locker room, which, thanks to budget cuts, was also the building’s only functional toilet. To get to the dingy aluminum sink, she had to step around the urinal, then dodge under Gruber’s left arm as he forced it up into the sleeve of his bright yellow outer coverall.

“You get used to it.”

“No, I won’t. They let me use my Lancôme in school. That smells human.”

“And has an FPF rating that’s totally bogus,” Gruber said. “Anything you can buy retail is for posers and pet-shop owners. Won’t cut it out here.”

Laminack unscrewed the top from the plain white plastic jar on the shelf below the mirror, and squinted in disgust at the gray gloop inside. “I’m just saying. Gack.”

Gruber smiled. Stuck with a newbie, you could still get some fun out of it. Sometimes. “Make sure you get it every damn place you can reach. Really rub it in. State only pays quarter disability if you come home Extra Crispy.”

“Nice try, but some of us actually do read the HR paperwork we sign.”

“Oh, right,” Gruber said. “College grad.” She gave him a hard look in the mirror, but dutifully started rubbing the D-schmear on her hands and arms anyway, then rolled up her pants legs to get at her calves.

“Face, too. Especially your face, and an inch or two into the hairline. Helps with the helmet seal.”

“Just saving the worst for last.”

Gruber laughed wryly. “It’s all the worst.”

“You’d be the one to know, wouldn’t you?”

“Got that right, trainee.”

By the time they headed out to the Heap, he was throwing questions at her, as per the standard training drill, but not enjoying it the way he usually did. For one thing, she’d actually done a good job with the D-schmear, even getting it up into her nostrils, which first-timers almost never did. For another, she seemed to truly know her shit. Book shit, to be sure, not the real-world shit she was here to start learning . . . but Gruber was used to catching new kids in some tiny mistake, then pile-driving in to widen the gap, until they were panicked and stammering. Only Laminack wasn’t tripping up.

It had begun to bug him. That, and the fact that she bounced. Like he needed perky to deal with, on top of everything else.

He waved back to Manny Portola, the shift dispatcher, who always stood in the doorway to see the different county crews off. It was one of Manny’s pet superstitions, and in time it had become Gruber’s as well, though he told himself he was just keeping the old guy happy.

Laminack waved to the dispatcher as well, which irritated Gruber, even though he knew it shouldn’t. He slapped the day-log clipboard against his leg.

“Next! Name the three worst invasives in Trinity.”

“Trick question.”

“Maybe, maybe not.”

“No,” she insisted. “Definitely. You didn’t define your terms.” Her bland smile didn’t change, but Gruber thought he heard a tiny flicker of anger. Maybe he was finally getting to her. “Are we talking plants or animals here? ’Cause Yellow Star Thistle and Dalmatian Toadflax and Kamathweed are hella invasive, even if the tourists do like the pretty yellow flowers. And if we are talking animals, not plants, do you want me to stick to the Ds, or do you want me to rattle off the three worst things that have ever crawled or flown or swum in here from somewhere they shouldn’t? Which I could. And what do you mean by ‘worst,’ anyway? Because for my money, jet slugs are about as yucky as it gets, and there are a lot more of them up here now than there are China longs. So yeah, I call trick question.”

Gruber definitely wasn’t ready for two weeks of this. “Nobody likes a show-off, Laminack.”

“No, sir.”

“We’re not County Animal Control, and we’re damn well not the State Department of Food and Agriculture or the California Invasive Plant Council. So what do you think I wanted to hear when I asked that question?”

Reaching the Heap, Laminack opened the driver’s-side door for him and stepped back. She didn’t exactly stand at attention, but near enough.

“I think you wanted me to tell you that last year’s baseline survey put quetzals, China longs, and Welsh reds at the top of the list in Trinity, but winter was rough, so it’s too early to know yet what we’ll be dealing with this season. Especially with the pot growers and meth labs upping their black-market firepower.”

“Hunh.” Without meaning to, he found himself nodding. “Not bad, Laminack.”

“Call me Connie, okay? My last name sounds like a duck call.”

Great, Gruber thought. She even bounces standing still.

First scheduled stop of the day was more than thirty miles out of Weaverville, up 299 into the deep woods of Trinity National Forest, almost all the way to Burnt Ranch. Despite everything eating at him, Gruber always found the views in this corner of the county restful, an ease to the soul, and he enjoyed watching Connie begin to get clear on just how big the place was, even in this first tiny taste: 3,200 square miles by outline, same size as Vermont on the map—or all of Texas, if ever God came along and stomped the Trinity Alps out flat—and only 13,000 people to get in the way, the majority of whom lived in Weaverville and Lewiston and Hayfork. The rest were so spread out that words like “sparse” and “isolated” didn’t do the situation justice. Gruber had been on the job for sixteen years, and he knew there were people living in corners of these woods so deep he still hadn’t been there yet.

They turned off onto a tributary road that wasn’t shown on the state-supplied map, and wound uphill for five snaky miles before Gruber stopped the Heap and killed the engine.

“Welcome to your first block party. Another mile or so up, we’re going to do a little Easter egg hunt. You want to guess what kind?”

For the first time this morning, Connie hesitated. Then she caught herself and said, firmly, “Belgian wyverns. I thought maybe doublebacks, for a minute, but that would have been a couple of weeks ago at this latitude. Right?”

Gruber nodded. “Almost all the other Ds are late-summer, early-autumn layers, but wyverns and doublebacks—and Nicaraguan charlies, only we don’t have those up here, not yet, thank God—they lay their eggs in the spring, so they’ll hatch and be ready in time to eat the other Ds’ eggs. Just this side of parasites, you ask me. But some elements of the Asian community think ground-up prepubescent wyvern bones are an aphrodisiac, so there’s always some idiot in the woods willing to try and raise the little bastards. We got an anonymous tip on this place a week ago.”

“So let’s go. I’m ready.”


Peter Soyer Beagle is the internationally bestselling and much-beloved author of numerous classic fantasy novels and collections, including The Last Unicorn, Tamsin, The Line Between, Sleight of Hand, Summerlong, In Calabria, and The Overneath. He is the editor of The Secret History of Fantasy and the co-editor of The Urban Fantasy Anthology. Beagle published his first novel, A Fine and Private Place, at nineteen, while still completing his degree in creative writing. Beagle’s follow-up, The Last Unicorn, is widely considered one of the great works of fantasy. He has written widely for both stage and screen, including the screenplay adaptations for The Last Unicorn, the animated film of The Lord of the Rings, and the well-known “Sarek” episode of Star Trek. As one of the fantasy genre’s most-lauded authors, Beagle has received the Hugo, Nebula, Mythopoeic, and Locus Awards as well as the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire. He has also been honored with the World Fantasy Life Achievement Award and the Comic-Con International Inkpot Award. In 2017, he was named 34th Damon Knight Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Association for his contributions to fantasy and science fiction. Beagle lives in Richmond, California.