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The Worm Ouroboros

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,286 ratings  ·  218 reviews
"An eccentric masterpiece"--Ursula K. LeGuin
"A new climate of the imagination"--C. S. Lewis
"A masterpiece"--James Stephens
This is the book that shaped the landscape of contemporary science fiction and fantasy. When The Lord of the Rings first appeared, the critics inevitably compared it to this 1922 landmark work. Tolkien himself frankly acknowledged its influence, with wa
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Paperback, 446 pages
Published April 28th 2006 by Dover Publications (first published 1922)
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A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinJ.R.R. Tolkien 4-Book Boxed Set by J.R.R. TolkienThe Name of the Wind by Patrick RothfussThe Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. LewisThe Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
The Best Epic Fantasy
183rd out of 2,258 books — 15,476 voters
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis CarrollThe Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank BaumThe King of Elfland's Daughter by Lord DunsanyThe Complete Fairy Tales by Hans Christian AndersenDracula by Bram Stoker
Pre-Tolkien Fantasy
12th out of 126 books — 99 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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mark monday
The Worm Ouroboros! It goes around and around and around... and back around again!

This is the story of the Lords of Demonland, their arch-foes the Lords of Witchland, various others (Lords of Goblinland and Impland and Pixyland et al), and their endless conflicts and political maneuverings and deeds of derring-do and black-hearted villainy and mystical quests into the heights of dark mountains and women so awesomely beautiful that it means instant infatuation and fearsome magic that swoops down
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Keely
Though now largely forgotten, Eddison's early works of Fantasy inspired both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, who never surpassed him in imagination, verbal beauty, or philosophy. In terms of morality, both later authors painted their worlds in broad strokes of black and white, excepting a traitor here or a redemption there. Like in the nationalistic epic 'Song of Roland', evil and good are tangible effects, borne in the blood.

Though similar on the surface, Eddison's is much more subtle. Though he depict
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Terry
Another love-it-or-hate-it book. Mannered in its language, weird in so many ways, and chock-full of larger than life characters acting in ways that most people just don't get. If you have a problem with something written in an archaic style, then you probably won't get much out of it, but if you like that kind of thing I think the book repays reading and is definitely worth it.

First off a caveat: it took me two reads of the book to appreciate it and a third to decide that I thought it was geniu
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Jonathan

The fantasy genre has become unfortunately muddled in recent history. For every Tolkien work you have a Shannara novel, for every Narnia you end up with an Eragon. Now I'm not an elitist type of reader. I don't disqualify a novel from being entertaining simply because it may be poorly written or a 'clone' of other better fantasy novels. However, that said, the staying power of a fantasy novel diminished when that novel is punctured through with unimaginative cliché or a derivative story.

The poin
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Terence
Feb 23, 2009 Terence rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Terence by: Atlas of Fantasy (J.B. Post)
Shelves: sf-fantasy
Why read The Worm Ouroboros?

Two reasons, chiefly. The first is that it’s fun; the second is that it’s a pleasure to read something whose author is so obviously in love with the English language, reveling in its intricacies.

To the first reason, if you’re looking for strong, character-driven plots or philosophical ruminations on Man’s condition, look elsewhere. Ouroboros is a celebration of the most pagan warrior virtues of the Western tradition. The basic story is the epic war between Demonland (
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Teresa Edgerton
THE WORM OUROBOROS

Rambling, obscure, written after the style of the seventeenth century, filled with characters it is difficult to even like, much less love, and the story is supposed to take place on Mercury, though it is not science fiction and there is no particular reason why the author should have hit on that planet more than any place else — this hardly sounds like a recommendation, I know, yet the book is, deservedly, considered a classic.

The story begins when King Gorice XI of Witchland
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Simon
This classic is an epic fantasy masterpiece. A perfect example that proves that works of this kind need not be sprawling volumes in sprawling series. Beautifully told (in an albeit antiquated prose style) and lusciously described it features everything that one might want including perilous journeys, great characters, court intrigue, dangerous sorcery and epic battles.

The characters are great heroes and villains of old, paragons of virtue, loyalty, determination or treachery. They deliver speech
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Bill  Kerwin

This is an odd book. It begins with a frame story the author abandons after a score of pages, features a host of characters whose names sound like the imaginary friends of a clever six year old (Fax Fay Faz, Goldry Bluszco, Lord Brandoch Daha, etc.), and a meandering narrative often slowed by page upon page of magnificent but hardly essential description. Its style is an Elizabethan pastiche of leisurely--and often difficult--sentences crammed with "hard words" and crowded with allusive phrases
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Jim
This is a 'classic'. A lot of high-powered writers liked it. I tried several times to make it through it before I managed it. The language is almost constructed - it doesn't flow for me as much as writhe around before I finally pin it down. It's in an odd style (Elizabethan?) with a story that reminds me of the Iliad or the Odyssey. Great story, sucky style. Why he writes such long, convoluted sentences with archaic words in such a stilted style is beyond me. All the critics like it, but I doubt ...more
Alex
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tom Meade
A very strange book, frequently beautiful, ofttimes prolix, and with a thematic structure that left me scratching my head. I don't know enough about Eddison so as to say that he wholly endorsed the view put forward by the Demons - namely, that "fun", or "beauty" is the whole goal of life, and that, should access to this be disbarred, it may be necessary to engage the Gods themselves in assuring the perpetuation of an indefinite cycle of meaningless violence - but given the presence of characters ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Well...this is a beautifully written book. It has flowing prose, a touch of poetry and you can see the influence of a good early twentieth century education in the story telling.

But I freely admit I wonder why a writer writing in 1922 (or shortly before) chose to relate his tale in 16th century English. I know some love it and I also freely admit it is great for "portentous" storytelling:

And it came to pass that the King of Demon Land did challenge the monarch of Witch Land to wrestle (Wrastle)
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Mario Gámez
La literatura épica y la fantástica, principalmente estos géneros, están representadas por la serpiente Uróboros que se come su propia cola, símbolo de la eternidad, "cuyo final siempre está en el principio, y cuyo principio siempre está en el final por siempre jamás".

Es raro encontrar que un autor contemporáneo de estos géneros nos presente una historia fresca, innovadora, que nos atrape desde un inicio y que, además, tenga un valor excepcional dentro del movimiento. Hemos visto incontables esc
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Steve
I already commented on someone else's review of this book. Anyway, the best fantasy novel I've ever read (and the best read I've had this year). Not an easy read, but take it slow and let the beautiful language establish its own pace. Gorgeous prose that reads like poetry.
Cheryl Terrel
I never knew what bloated meant until I read this book. At least 50% of this book described flowers and clothing. The other 50% was ridiculous. Since it was written following the First World War, I can imagine it being a commentary on the absurdity of the British cultural position toward warfare, but it would have been nice for at least ONE character to be sort of likable/reasonable/intelligent/NORMAL.

The story in a nutshell: one of three brothers is kidnapped, the remaining brothers and their f
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Alex Klimkewicz
Epic high fantasy! Compared to Lord of the Rings! Rich and majestic!

Well, I guess all of those are true to certain degrees. E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros is a challenging read because it is written in Jacobean prose, about 200 years after it went out of style. Here is a fantasy story of epic supermen battling equally powerful and very evil enemies on the fields and in the mountains and on the seas of Mercury. Yes, that Mercury. The planet. They are the lords of Demonland, four epic heroes ag
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Aaron
Had to put it down after 150 pages. I was thrilled in the beginning with the langorous prose style and similarities to the Icelandic Sagas. That thrill wore off as Eddison spent more and more time describing physical locations and the characters took on an odd similarity to each other. There was only one engaging character and he was seen only sporadically after the first 50 pages, totally unlike the one Icelandic Saga I read (Egil's Saga) which was stuffed with unique and vibrant personalities. ...more
D.J. Edwardson
Feb 11, 2008 D.J. Edwardson rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Readers of Mythology
This book is brilliant and a literary feast that makes modern works seem wanting in their command of the english language. It is written in Jacobian english and is highly stylized, requiring modern readers to have a dictionary handy to be able to follow Eddison's wide-ranging and archaic vocabulary. But those who make the effort will uncover a story rich in heroism, epic characters and events. I did find the ending somewhat disappointing, but it is true to the kind of fatal heroic world view of ...more
Josh Hyland
For the lover of language, of the beautiful for its own sake; for the lover of books and of old books: a meditation on the noble and its cost.

My original thoughts, written right after I closed the last page:

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I had to READ this book; it did not pull me along (at times; at others, I would go through 50-100 pages without realizing it; the last 200 pages went by much more quickly than those preceding). This is due in part to the book's high level of English, including the use
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Dave
The critics say that The Worm Ouroboros is up there with The Lord of the Rings as far as classic fantasy goes.

I'm inclined to agree.

It's slow going because of the book's old-timey idiom, but the language is very enjoyable so I don't mind a bit of digestion time.

With so many fantasy tales today sporting dark, cool anti-heroes it's very refreshing to go back to the old themes of idyllic champions, cooperation, and brotherly love.

(ideas that have not been forgotten by metal, thank you DragonForce.
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Lobstergirl
Nov 22, 2012 Lobstergirl rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Ayatollah Mohammad Reza Mahdavi Kani
Shelves: own, fiction
Fantasy is not my genre. At all. In no way, shape, or form. At around p. 70 I was deeply regretting having cracked The Worm Ouroboros. But I pushed on, and oddly enough, I began to enjoy it, primarily because the language is quite exquisite, baroque, Shakespearean. I won't say the plot pulled me in completely, but I will admit to rooting for the heroes of Demonland in their quest to subdue the warriors of Carcë. And there are bits that are quite humorous:

Brandoch Jaha said in Juss's ear, "Our pe
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Joel Barnes
Aug 23, 2007 Joel Barnes rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: derring-doers
Shelves: thisyear
wow! nothing like good old epic fantasy fun to keep you going on a backpacking trip. closest comparison is to the Odyssey, rather than lord of the rings, but the fellows in this book make Odysseus look like a hack. Highest quality feats of strength, political intrigue, dashing of skulls on rocks, bringing-forth of darkness, and all manner of derring-do. Totally sweet; although if you can't see yourself reading shakespeare for pleasure, it might be tough to get through due to olde english aspirat ...more
Rhea
Jun 21, 2013 Rhea is currently reading it
I love how the worm encircles the picture in these covers.

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Elf
I read this at the reccomendation of a teacher I worked with. I swear I've never had to force myself to keep reading a book quite like this one. I had to plow through each sentence and still came away utterly unsatisfied at the end. It was more a feeling of relief that it was finally over.
R.M.F Brown
Probably one of the most frustrating books I have never read. I say never, because I gave up after seven chapters, something I rarely do when reading a book.

Proponents of this novel hail it for its dazzling use of prose, its rich and vivid imagination. I beg to differ. The prose is so dense, so layered on, the novel almost collapses under its own weight!

People may cite its imagination, but to my mind, its a mish-mash of European legends, and eastern philosophy. One gets the impression that the
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Thiago
Every fantasy fan should read this book, unfortunately most never will.

I was unsure if I would like it, the first few pages scared me a bit, I wasn’t used to the style of the prose, and it begins a bit slow and over-descriptive. It is entirely written in Elizabethan prose (internet says Jacobean, hell if I know the difference) and although it almost put me off at first I see now it couldn’t have been done in any other way, once you get used it is magical, entrancing. And don’t worry about the in
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Randolph Carter
A flawed classic of high fantasy. Notable for breaking ground where few had tread before in such a sweeping manner. Flawed by being primarily declamation and posturing with little character insight. For instance, why is Lord Gro always tempted to support the underdog? As such, it reads, especially in its faux archaic language, like an Icelandic Saga more than anything else, although there was never any saga this complex. Oh, and there is Wrastling too!

Also, I'm not sure what happens to the "drea
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Ryan Young
This should have been such a great book. The prose style is fantastically transporting despite the story. Had Eddison been writing today this would have been a "cycle" of 10 or 12 or 30 books, accompanied by detailed maps and innumerable pages of text. As published, and no doubt due to the strictures of his era, this work suffers from too grand a scope in too small a space. Aside from the whirlwind exposition and overall lack of depth, this novel also suffers from a fatal flaw in morality. After ...more
Caleb Wilson
An idiosyncratic classic. Eddison's marvelous imagination shines throughout, giving us heroes out of a technicolor Medieval romance, whose clothes and dwellings are described in so much detail that it almost approaches French Surrealism, but it's also very apparent that this was written before such a thing as "secondary world" fantasy actually existed, since the book apparently takes place on Mercury, where the countries are called Demonland, Witchland, Pixieland, Impland, and Ghoul-land, despit ...more
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in February 2001.

Often touted as a rival to The Lord of the Rings, Eddison's epic fantasy has more in common with the large scale of The Silmarillion. Eddison wrote four loosely linked novels while working as a civil servant, of which The Worm Ouroboros is the first and best known. Its subject is a war between the Demons and Witches, the latter aided by a willingness to act dishonourably and by the dread sorcery of their king, Gorice XII.

The flaws in The Worm
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Goodreads Librari...: Combine 2 13 Mar 26, 2014 06:27AM  
What's The Name o...: Classical fantasy (epic?) [s] 4 137 Jan 05, 2013 08:42PM  
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  • A Voyage to Arcturus
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  • The Green Pearl and Madouc (Lyonesse, #2-3)
  • The Well of the Unicorn
  • Sea-Kings of Mars and Otherworldly Stories
  • Lud-in-the-Mist
  • The Mabinogion Tetralogy
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • One Lonely Night
  • The Conan Chronicles: Volume 2: The Hour of the Dragon (The Conan Chronicles, #2)
  • Gloriana
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Eric Rücker Eddison was an English civil servant and author, writing under the name "E.R. Eddison."
More about E.R. Eddison...
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“Let worthy minds ne'er stagger in distrust
To suffer death or shame for what is just”
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