The Worm Ouroboros
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Worm Ouroboros

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  2,009 ratings  ·  201 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...more
Paperback, 446 pages
Published April 28th 2006 by Dover Publications (first published 1922)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
A Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinThe Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings 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
173rd out of 2,126 books — 13,742 voters
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. TolkienWatership Down by Richard AdamsThe Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinAlice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Highbrow Fantasy Books
49th out of 286 books — 406 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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...more
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...more
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...more

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...more
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 (...more
Teresa Edgerton

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...more
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...more
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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...more
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
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...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)...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
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
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...more
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....more
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
Craig Herbertson
The problem with taking a half star off for the 'flaws' of The Worm Ouroborous' is that one would have to regrade every book on down by about ten stars. The book is simply a masterpiece vaunted high above ordinary things. I read it a sixteen, given me by my friend's father when I was raving about 'Lord of The Rings'. Despite the archaic prose I finished it in an evening and it has lived in my imagination now for over thirty years. I still like 'Lord of the Rings'; it is a great book,...more
This was great all-around, one of the better fantasy books I've ever read. It's from 1922 but it is weirdly out of time, a crazy mixture of the Iliad and Shakespeare and Arthurian romance, but with a bit of modern sensibility and darkness.

I've been reading fantasy on and off since I was a little kid, but lately I am hardly ever impressed by it at all, after suffering through too many sub-par Tolkien knock-offs. I've particularly avoided "high fantasy" -- the kind that has epic quests and world-...more
Sean Wadley
Of all the classical pre-Tolkien fantasy this here, Worm Ouroboros, is the best. Really it is quite impossible to offer a succinct review in relation to any quarter of this "magnus opus". Beautiful and far reaching in its depth, it is a vast fantasy book - not vast particularly in pages, in fact its quite short beside our modern greats, such as the song of fire an ice, which I believe is about seven hundred pages? But the vastness lies within the pages, the words the weave the genetic structure...more
Edward Butler
Visionary, if demanding, fantasy classic. Most importantly, the reader must be prepared for the novel's Elizabethan language. If you've read a lot of Shakespeare, you'll probably be sufficiently prepared, but it's a good idea to have a dictionary handy just in case.

It would also help for the reader to be quite familiar with gemstones, since every surface in this novel seems to be either carved from one or inlaid with one or more, and if you can't readily match pictures to names for a lot of the...more
I bought this paperback in 1973 and didn't get around to reading it until 2005. Luckily I'd covered it, so it wasn't rotting, but the page edges had yellowed a bit. The beginning was rather ham-fisted and contrived, as he gets his hero from the mundane present into the bewitched world of Demonland, but after that it's far better than any Tolkien. The events and characters are the sort you'd expect in a fantasy of this sort, but it seems to go beyond that and delve into human nature under the gui...more
Chris Lynch
Perversely enjoyed this 1922 precursor of epic fantasy, in spite of its many flaws. Written in mock archaic language, it draws on Norse myths so there is much pillaging and feasting. Dated (e.g. the pointless frame story, never closed), but has some memorable moments and is refreshingly amoral. The nominal heroes and villains do what they do for their own (mostly hedonistic) reasons, not because there is some grand battle between good and evil. Probably one reason many people dislike it is that...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Goodreads Librari...: Combine 2 12 Mar 26, 2014 06:27AM  
What's The Name o...: Classical fantasy (epic?) [s] 4 135 Jan 05, 2013 08:42PM  
  • The King of Elfland's Daughter
  • The Well of the Unicorn
  • The Broken Sword
  • The Green Pearl and Madouc (Lyonesse, #2-3)
  • The Emperor of Dreams
  • Black Gods and Scarlet Dreams
  • The Wood Beyond the World
  • A Voyage to Arcturus
  • The First Book of Lankhmar
  • Lud-in-the-Mist
  • One Lonely Night
  • The Mabinogion Tetralogy
  • Viriconium
  • Darker Than You Think
  • Gloriana
  • Peace
  • The Conan Chronicles: Volume 1: The People of the Black Circle (Fantasy Masterworks, #8)
  • Voice of Our Shadow
Eric Rücker Eddison was an English civil servant and author, writing under the name "E.R. Eddison."
More about E.R. Eddison...
Mistress of Mistresses A Fish Dinner in Memison The Mezentian Gate Zimiamvia: A Trilogy Styrbiorn The Strong

Share This Book

“Let worthy minds ne'er stagger in distrust
To suffer death or shame for what is just”
“The harvest of this world is to the resolute, and he that is infirm of purpose is ground betwixt the upper and the nether millstone” 2 likes
More quotes…