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The House of the Wolfings

3.76  ·  Rating Details  ·  127 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
In a 1960 letter, J. R. R. Tolkien referred to The Lord of the Rings when he wrote, “The Dead Marshes and the approaches to the Morannon owe something to Northern France after the Battle of the Somme. They owe more to William Morris and his Huns and Romans, as in The House of the Wolfings or The Roots of the Mountains.” With a foreword and introduction, this is the text of ...more
Paperback, 260 pages
Published July 1st 2008 by Waking Lion Press (first published December 1st 1888)
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(showing 1-30 of 412)
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This is a moving tale about the Goths fighting off a Roman invasion. There was prophecy and doomed romance and heroic acts of self sacrifice. The characterisation was a little light, but I still felt for everyone at the end. There were strong women characters who were full of wisdom and spirit who took an active role in defending their homes even though it was just the men who went to battle. There were hints of fantasy with dwarfs who hated mankind and people who were not quite human. It was a ...more
Jan 15, 2015 Stan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like many others I read this book after learning it was one of the works that influenced Tolkien. And, the influence can clearly be seen.

One obvious connection is that Morris' forest is Mirkwood. I found it interesting that Morris actually uses the term mid-earth once. And, three of four of Morris' charaters have names which are similar to names Tolkien used in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings.

So, from that standpoint alone, The House of the Wolfings is very interesting.

The House of the Wolfi
Oct 21, 2014 Curtis rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, novel, mythgard
William Morris discovered the most tedious way to tell a story, and he demonstrated his discovery in "A Tale of the House of the Wolfings." I find it hard to believe that he was once offered the office of Poet Laureate of Great Britain and Ireland, upon the death of Lord Tennyson, given how poor the meter and rhyme of his verse in this book is — perhaps the council which presented it to him did so in jest. I applaud Morris for turning it down on the pretense of political differences rather than ...more
Jan 02, 2013 Lydia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The story is honestly very straight forward, the Wolfings and the Kindreds of the Mark are defending their homeland from the invading Romans. But then come the human interactions and the wiles of life that add depth and heart to an otherwise straight forward story. Perhaps the most interesting question the story ponders, is could you fight for your kindred knowing you would die, or could you send the one you love the most into battle knowing he would die? And what would you do to prevent it?


Jan 06, 2016 Cynthia rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
I was happy to find this tale and others that are forerunners of Tolkien's novels. The beginnings of Rohan are here, in language that is similar to Tolkien's, if not as satisfying. Unlike the Rohirrim, they have a clear picture of the afterlife of warriors, namely the feasting hall of the gods depicted in the Norse legends. All things are done for the benefit of the whole of the House, or the people, and death is not feared, just accepted as part of a larger whole. The supernatural has a place, ...more
Jake Yaniak
May 04, 2015 Jake Yaniak rated it really liked it
Not for small kids, this interesting fantasy recounts the battles between the 'Markmen' - primarily those of the House of the Wolfings - and the Romans. The author does an excellent job crafting the setting. All the dialogue is in verse, but it is not clumsy or forced. Truly impressive.
Dec 30, 2015 Patrick rated it really liked it
Great story. For all of the complaints, the verse dialogue really worked for me. The battle scenes aren't quite as exciting as some other fantasy works, but overall I really liked it.
Sep 24, 2013 Fer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Umha leitura longa e complexa, nalgumhas ocasions bocado árida. Tenho que admitir que os cantos épicos no médio da narrativa enajenavam-me muito da história. Porém o livro no seu contexto representa o primeiro agromo da literatura fantástica que daria lugar a peças como o Senhor dos Anéis, e esses traços iniciáticos som claramente visíveis. O texto caminha entre as beiras das sagas mitológicas autênticas e esse começo de literatura fantástica. Também é destacável como essa aridez geral do texto ...more
Mike Furious
Jan 13, 2016 Mike Furious rated it liked it
More fantasy than anything.
Jan 31, 2016 Mike rated it really liked it
This a classic tale that inspired JRR Tolkein & C S. Lewis. Best short story I've get in awhile.
Luke Sineath
Oct 01, 2014 Luke Sineath rated it liked it
Shelves: fantasy, 19th-century
Hard to review. I read this because of Morris' massive influence on Tolkien, and while it was ok, his writing, at least in this book, does not come close to Tolkien's greatness. I enjoyed the archaic language, yet his world did not feel persistent nor realised with any great depth. There was but a patina of otherworldliness and faerie, but no abiding substance; and at times the language felt off. Great reading for historical interest in the development of a genre, but not satisfying in itself.
Shala Howell
Feb 06, 2008 Shala Howell rated it did not like it
Shelves: couldnt_finish
I picked this up because I read somewhere that Morris inspired Tolkien, invented the Celtic fantasy, etc. etc. Seemed important. Sadly it is written in a faux-epic style that I'm willing to put up with when reading, say, Beowulf, but it remains to be seen whether I can stomach this just for the sake of reading an author reputed to have inspired Tolkien. Right now it seems to me most likely that he inspired Tolkien in the sense that Tolkien read Morris and said, "Hey I can do this MUCH better!"
Giorgos Keramidas
Jun 22, 2013 Giorgos Keramidas rated it really liked it
A romantic description of the life of Gothic tribes, and the struggle of the tribe of "Wolfings" along with their kindred Goths, those who live at the "Mark", against the invading Romans. The story of Thiodolf, the leader of the Wolfings, Arch-Duke of the Goth tribes as they mark to war, and his very personal dilemma: use a cursed artifact to save his own life imperiling all the Goths at the same time, or risk death for the promise of victory against the invading legions.
Nathan Shumate
Jun 06, 2014 Nathan Shumate rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An almost forgotten book of historical fantasy from 1888 (free on, of a Gothic tribe defending themselves against Roman invasion. Both influential on Tolkien and drawing from common sources with him (you can see a definite kinship with Rohan, plus place names such as "Mirkwood"). The text is lyrical in the true sense of "meant to be read or recited aloud," with large sections of dialogue rendered in verse. Highly recommended.
Aaron Meyer
Nov 18, 2010 Aaron Meyer rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
An idealized account of the lives of the Germanic Gothic tribes. It is very engrossing if you can get yourself into the flow of the story, very poetic. I really enjoyed it but I feel that many today would find it rather out of fashion or to romanticly inclined in vision. I would say, though, give it a chance for a few chapters if you are not hooked by then you never will be.
Tabitha Ormiston-Smith
Aug 30, 2011 Tabitha Ormiston-Smith rated it did not like it
I can't really say much about this book, because I found it very boring and only managed to finish it with the aid of OCD. I could have told the story so much better in a haiku:

Romans invaded
House of Wolfings fought and won
But their War Chief died.

That is literally the whole story.
Ron Gray
Jun 17, 2011 Ron Gray rated it really liked it
The language is thick... too thick... WAY too thick. It's written in Ye Olde Story-Telling style. "Dost thou wouldst wherewithal and thine wain sheep..." yugh.

Anyway, despite all that, it's a good story and worth the trouble if you can stomach it.
May 27, 2011 Kevin rated it did not like it
Very disappointed. Put it down a third of the way through. The verse bits are just unbearably plodding. You know a book has failed you (or you it, I suppose) when you give up in the middle of a battle scene. *yawn*
Aug 31, 2013 Randy rated it really liked it
I started reading Ivanhoe and was put off by the archaic language. This book is more readable, and directly connected to the modern fantasy genre. It was quite good.
Don Standing
I found this more interesting than enjoyable: the language was beautiful but occassionally too dense for me.
Rick Davis
Jan 04, 2013 Rick Davis rated it really liked it
Fantastic. It's easy to see how Morris inspired Tolkien and Lewis.
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William Morris was an English architect, furniture and textile designer, artist, writer, socialist and Marxist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. His best-known works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Earthl ...more
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“Whiles in the early Winter eve
We pass amid the gathering night
Some homestead that we had to leave
Years past; and see its candles bright
Shine in the room beside the door
Where we were merry years agone
But now must never enter more,
As still the dark road drives us on.
E'en so the world of men may turn
At even of some hurried day
And see the ancient glimmer burn
Across the waste that hath no way;
Then with that faint light in its eyes
A while I bid it linger near
And nurse in wavering memories
The bitter-sweet of days that were.”
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