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The Worm Ouroboros

An epic fantasy book by E. R. Eddison.

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The Highest of the "High Fantasies"

  • Feb 11, 2000
Rating:
+5
I reviewed this book some years back right here on amazon.com, though amazon seems to have washed that effort away long ago. In fact I read the book many years earlier still and so I'm a little tentative about returning here to review this book again. Can I do it justice after such a long remove? Will I even remember enough to talk about it? Still, since it's one of the great ones in the much-maligned (often deservedly so) fantasy genre, I feel I must. Readers here will certainly have heard of J. R. R. Tolkien, the father, if you will, of modern fantasy. And, presumably, those finding this page will also know something of E. R. Eddison, the author of this wonderful book. Suffice it to say that, in this book at least, Eddison outshines the estimable Professor Tolkien, despite this book's clumsy opening. Although he lacked Tolkien's comprehensive and detailed mind and was certainly not the scholar, or perhaps even the craftsman, Tolkien was, Eddison's WORM has a magnificent poetic sweep that even Tolkien's great trilogy of magic and adventure and ancient worlds decidedly lacked. Here is a tale of magical beings and high adventure set, oddly enough, on a mystical version (vision?) of the planet Mercury to which we are spirited in the form of an astral projection of one Lessingham, an adventurer and dreamer, who is taken one night on a journey by a spiritual guide in the form of a little bird. All very strange and distracting and, ultimately, unimportant. For Lessingham soon fades into the background of the narrative as the vision he sees on this strange world swells and surrounds and overpowers him and the reader both. We are soon caught up in the sweep of a tale that is a veritable medieval tapestry, never mind the awkward and almost childish nomenclature which Eddison relies on. This is the story of a Demon kingdom besieged by its enemies in Witchland and their evil ruler, King Gorice XII, who conspire to overthrow and consume the heroic Demons under the rule of heroic brothers and kinsmen. There is treachery and mighty deeds to redeem the fallen and great battles and an ending which is as surprising and strange as it is oddly satisfying. If Tolkien's trilogy is an epic fairy tale writ large, this one is a veritable medieval saga of heroic proportions. That it is ultimately magical and fantastic places it squarely in the fantasy tradition which Tolkien gave credibility and new life to. But Eddison came first (he wrote this tale in the mid-1920's I believe), though he is still little heard of today. He deserves better as does this book. (He's also the author of a straight historical novel which deserves to be read, STRYBIORN THE STRONG, based on the old Icelandic saga tradition which, to some degree, also influenced THE WORM. More, he did a translation of one of the original sagas, EGIL'S SAGA, which is one of the best of that literary tradition and among the best-known of the sagas -- though this translation is also hard to come by. For those here who are interested in the saga as novel, I've also done one of my own, though I doubt it is up to Eddison's STYRBIORN, though, of course, I certainly took my best shot! It's called THE KING OF VINLAND'S SAGA and can be found right here on amazon.com by searching its title.) -- SWM

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More The Worm Ouroboros reviews
review by . January 24, 2010
Readers here will certainly have heard of J. R. R. Tolkien, the father, if you will, of modern fantasy. And, presumably, those finding this review will also know something of E. R. Eddison, the author of this wonderful book.      Suffice it to say that in Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros at least, this author outshines the estimable Professor Tolkien, despite the book's somewhat clumsy opening. Although he lacked Tolkien's comprehensive and detailed mind and was certainly not the …
About the reviewer
Stuart W. Mirsky ()
Ranked #231
I'm a retired bureaucrat (having served, most recently, as an Assistant Commissioner in amunicipal agency in a major Northeastern American city). In 2002 I took an early retirement to pursue a lifelong … more
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 A fantastic and stylized story of a protracted war between domineering King Gorice of Witchland and the Lords of Demonland in an medieval world reminiscent of Norse sagas.--This text refers to theKindle Editionedition.
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Tags

Books, Fiction, Fantasy, E R Eddison

Details

Author: E. R. Eddison
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Ballantine Books, Buccaneer Books
Format: Novel

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