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The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison

The Worm Ouroboros (1922)

by E. R. Eddison

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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I never attended a kindergarten ... Instead I enjoyed a succession of educators whom I shared with the son of one of my father's friends. This was Ric, Eric Rucker Eddison ... My friendship with Ric, thus begun in the nursery, lasted until he died during the last war, after a long career in the Board of Trade, and the writing of some very unusual books, The Worm Ouroboros, Styrbiorn the Strong, other romances and a very fine translation of Egil's Saga. The Worm Ouroboros was a book of strange power, a story of fantastic heroes in a fantastic world, written in a consistent, fastidious prose that seemed devised for that purpose. The language, the place-names and the names of the heroes were for me an echo of those ancient days when Ric and I produced plays in a toy theatre with cardboard actors carrying just such names and eloquent with just such rhetoric. Gorice, Lord Goldry Bluszco, Corinius, Brandoch Daha seemed old friends when I met them nearly forty years later. Ric throughout his life had a foot in each of two worlds, and the staid official of the Board of Trade was for ever turning from his statistics to look out from the towers of Koshtra Belorn. Of us two Ric was always the leader, and throughout our lives the tone of our relationship was exactly what it had been when he was Ric (short not for Eric but for Fredericius) and I was Bony (short for Bonifacius), enacting terrifying scenes in the Adel nursery.

Arthur Ransome, Autobiography (1976), pp. 37-38.
2 vote ArthurRansome | Jun 25, 2014 |
Un poema epico in prosa più che un libro fantasy come potremmo intenderlo al giorno d'oggi. Eddison ha uno stile affascinante ed evocativo, per quanto la sua verbosità possa affaticare, rallentando di molto la lettura. In certi punti richiede pazienza e impegno, ma stiamo parlando di uno degli scrittori che ha fatto la storia del fantasy e penso proprio ne valga la pena.Non sono d'accordo con alcune scelte dell'autore, forse ingenuità: considerando che l'azione si svolge su Mercurio, ho trovato un po' fuori luogo i rimandi a elementi terrestri (che i personaggi non dovrebbero conoscere) come Satana, Artemide, la Luna (Mercurio non ha satelliti) o il calendario nostrano... D'altra parte però ammetto che buona parte del fascino di questo libro sta nelle citazioni in esso contenute. Inoltre Eddison riempie il lettore di nomi (molti decisamente bizzarri), in particolare geografici, a cui è difficile stare dietro, data anche l'assenza di una mappa nell'edizione italiana. Nota di merito invece al sorprendente finale. ( )
  Tonari | May 19, 2013 |
It took me a while to read this book, partly because of the flowery Elizabethan language. I understood it, and it was written well, but like rich chocolate it could only be digested in small portions. 'The Worm Ouroboros' is an epic of war, treachery, vengeance and justice set on a fantastic version of Mercury. The main protagonists are the heroes of Witchland and Demonland. These heroes cross the world to do battle with each other. They love fighting and honour and dangerous quests; they resemble the heroes of the Iliad. Unlike that work, this book glorifies war and heroism. The characters are well-written and larger than life. They are heroes and they know it. A good fantasy book which might have been the fantasy prototype which 'The Lord of the Rings' became. It didn't though, probably because the language style would make it inaccessible to many readers. ( )
  questbird | Apr 22, 2013 |
Let's be perfectly clear, I am not giving this book four stars because it's a great novel. It's not even a good novel. It's a terrible goddamn novel. But sometimes being unique, interesting, weird and precious is more important than actually being any good.

Before I read this, I had thought Lord of the Rings was a unique and unprecedented literary event, and the primal fountainhead from which the modern high fantasy genre flowed. Reading Dunsany did not sway me of this opinion, but reading Eddison has. Most of what is special about the Lord of the Rings, in particular the faux-archaic prose style evoking the rhythms of the pagan epics that inspired it, is right here, published over a decade before Tolkien's famous novel was begun.

Unlike the Lord of the Rings though, this book is not an exercise in carefully constructed world-building. In fact, it's a goddamn mess - there's some kind of weird frame story about a modern Englishman astrally projecting to the planet Mercury that's summarily discarded and then never mentioned again in the second chapter, all of the people and place names are weird apparently random nonsense strings that the author came up with when he was 10 and refused to change when the story was later committed to novel form, the author can't make up his mind whether the peoples of his world are human or not, everyone worships the Greek pantheon for some reason, and the supposed protagonists are sketched so poorly that Tolkien, of all people, was able to lambast the novel's characterization with no fear of being accused of hypocrisy.

What is so lovable about the book is its sheer force of idiosyncrasy. The descriptive prose so rococo you'd swear the author was having you on. The verbatim-reproduced letters of the characters who, in medieval style, lack standardized spelling. Two whole chapters of mountain climbing - not of things happening while ascending a mountain, but about nothing but the mechanics of getting up there. The way the characters will recite 16th century poems and songs that the author meticulously attributes in his end-notes. The way the characters will recite ancient Greek poems that the author meticulously attributes in his end-notes making sure to let you know the translation is his. YOU WILL NEVER FIND ANOTHER HIGH FANTASY NOVEL ANYTHING LIKE THIS ONE. ( )
2 vote jhudsui | Apr 5, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (16 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
E. R. Eddisonprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cabell, James BranchPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Henderson, KeithIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prescott, OrvilleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stephens, JamesIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tinkelman, MurrayCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To W. G. E. and to my friends K. H.
G. C. L. M. I dedicate this book
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There was a man named Lessingham dwelt in an old low house in Wastdale, set in a gray old garden where yew-trees flourished that had seen Vikings in Copeland in their seedling time.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0486447405, Paperback)

This is the book that shaped the landscape of contemporary science fiction. J. R. R. Tolkien acclaimed its author as "the greatest and most convincing writer of 'invented worlds' that I have read." Written in the best traditions of Homeric epics, Norse sagas, and Arthurian myths, it recounts compelling tales of warriors and witches.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:32 -0400)

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