Harold Ray Darling (1932-2016) was better known as an author by the pen name he usually used, Welleran Poltarnees. This name was based on two of Lord Dunsany's most famous stories: “The Sword of Welleran” and “Poltarnees, Beholder of Oceans.”
Harold was a bookman at heart and had his first bookstore at the age of 15. On graduating from Hoover High School and San Diego State College, Harold started the Shadow Box Film Theater and the Sign of the Sun Bookstore near the college. In 1964 Harold opened the Unicorn Film Theater in La Jolla, California. After the Sign of the Sun was destroyed by arsonists, Harold opened the Mithras Bookstore next to the theater in 1966.
Harold’s ambitious programing of foreign and American films was so exceptional that it drew the attention and praise of Henri Langlois, founder of the Cinémathèque Française. It showed obscure foreign films rarely being screened in America, experimental films and American classics.
The Unicorn/Mithras became, during its 17 years of existence, a cultural mecca. The bookstore stayed open until at least midnight, and often later, and became a focus for intellectuals in the area. While searching for used books for the bookstore, Harold began the collection of old children’s books which would grow into a remarkable library of books and ephemera.
In 1970 Harold and his wife, Sandra Woodward Darling, founded the Green Tiger Press. Initially it concentrated on bringing back the wonderful illustrations from out-of-print children’s books. Its first publication was “All Mirrors are Magic Mirrors: Reflections on Pictures Found in Children’s Books”, which Harold wrote and published under the pseudonym, Welleran Poltarnees. The Press soon began developing original books illustrated by American and European artists, and added cards, calendars and prints to its offerings, moving from the Darlings’ home to former Cadillac showroom in downtown San Diego.
In 1986 the Green Tiger was sold and the Darlings founded the Blue Lantern Studio, a design and book packaging enterprise. On moving to Seattle in 1993, they added Laughing Elephant, a publishing branch and again began producing books and stationery products. Always a bookman at heart, Harold started 67 Books in downtown Seattle, but the earthquake of 2001 made its existence brief. The Laughing Elephant is now located in the Fremont area of Seattle.
It was no accident that Harold had a film theater and collected illustrated books. He loved the conjunction of pictures and words. He created the “Frank and Ernest” books with his wife, Alexandra Day, as a result of his amusement with the diner slang he found in a book and wanted to picture. His last book was entitled “Happiness,” and was a perfectly realized manifestation of his belief in the power of pictures and words to make the world a better place.