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The Worm Ouroboros

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  2,636 ratings  ·  246 reviews
When J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings was published, reviewers saw that there was only one book with which it could legitimately be compared: E.R. Eddison's classic fantasy adventure The Worm Ouroboros. Set on a distant planet of spectacular beauty and peopled by Lords and Kings, mighty warriors and raven-haired temptresses, Eddison's extravagant story, of a great wa ...more
Paperback, 445 pages
Published 1999 by Replica Books (first published 1922)
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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
DNF at 55%.

The author uses archaic words as if they are going out of style… oops, they did go out of style. This is probably the first book ever where I liked the overly wordy descriptions of everything over dialogs for the simple reason that unlike dialogs the descriptions sometimes contain words still in use in modern English. I strongly suspect it was an oversight. I complain about dialog, but please do not start me on poetry and songs. While dialogs use words which were considered archaic ev
J.G. 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
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
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

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
On this ‘re-read’ of Eddison’s fantasy classic I listened to the audio version produced by Librivox. Now normally Librivox recordings, given that they are free, can be pretty hit-or-miss. This, I am happy to say, is a case where they stumbled upon an excellent reader. Jason Mills tackles Eddison’s delicious, albeit often difficult and certainly archaic, prose with panache and style. For me his accent didn’t hurt either and leant the reading a somewhat exotic flair (for those of us across the pon ...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
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 (
I read this book on my Kindle, primarily on planes and in airports.

This was incorrect.

I should have been sitting in a high-backed leather chair, preferably in a tall-ceilinged octagonal library paneled in dark wood, lit by a gas lamp when the rays of the setting sun coming across the moorlands of my estate no longer provided sufficient light. Instead of a tiny plastic cup full of ice and Diet Coke I should've had, oh, let's say, a vintage port or cognac poured from a crystal decanter.

I would, of
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
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.
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
Jun 11, 2015 Celise marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
The books that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien? Sure I'll read them.
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
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)
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
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.
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
Apr 22, 2015 D.J. Edwardson rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers of Mythology
This book is brilliant, 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 the
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:


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
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.
This is a difficult book to rate, because part of what I'm considering, when I review books, is, "How well did the author accomplish their goals? What would have improved the book had it been done differently?" And Eddison has absolutely, no questions asked, accomplished his goals; there is nothing here that, if changed, would make this book more what he wanted it to be.

That the pacing is rambling and stutter-stop and the characterization almost completely blank is irrelevant. The Worm Ouroboro
(My old review, reposted from blog at

Lately I’ve been trying to read as much ‘classic’ fantasy as I can. My main criteria for counting a work as a classic has been (1) the work or author is prominent in Gygax’s Appendix N [ or (2) it was written before the resurgence of epic fantasy in the early 1980s (which I, rightly or wrongly, attribute largely to the success of D&D and the renewed interest in the Lord of t
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
A. Carroll
I give this book four stars, partly for the free use of odd "spyllyngs" in what missives it "contaigns." Otherwise it is remarkable, not the least for its paganness. In a post-Christian age, plenty of writers claim to be "pagan," but most of them don't really understand what paganism was about. Eddison does. The story starts off slowly, but once it starts, it begins to twist and turn as much as the Worm Ouroboros itself. Once we have been transported to Mercury (a sequence I could have done with ...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
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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Sword & Sorcery: ...: 2015 Mar-Apr (b) Goblins & Ouroboros 18 32 May 08, 2015 10:10PM  
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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...
Mistress of Mistresses A Fish Dinner in Memison The Mezentian Gate Zimiamvia: A Trilogy Styrbiorn The Strong

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