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The Well at the World's End

3.88  ·  Rating Details  ·  369 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
The Well at the World's End was among the very first of its kind--it is an epic romance of duplicity, machination, passion, and wizardry, and is, in short, a vast odyssey into the weird. It is a beautifully rich fantasy, a vibrant fairy tale without fairies. It is the most entrancing of William Morris's late romances--part futuristic fantasy novel, part old-fashioned fairy ...more
Paperback, 562 pages
Published June 12th 1977 by Ballantine Books (first published 1896)
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Connie Jasperson
Jan 31, 2014 Connie Jasperson rated it it was amazing
First published in 1896, and now in the public domain, The Well at World's End by William Morris has inspired countless great fantasy authors. J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were students at Oxford when they became devotees of Morris's work, to name just two. I first read this book in college back in the dark ages, when Ballantine released it as a two-volume set.

This fairly unknown literary treasure is now available free, as a download for your Kindle or other reading device. I got my Kindle vers
Jun 01, 2012 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic example of pre-Tolkien fantasy, this book was an incredible slog, in both good and bad ways. On the one hand, incredibly loooong, complex and full of too many side stories and obscure references. On the other, incredibly familiar--I kept meeting places, characters, themes and scenarios that have been reborn many times into modern fantasy because they are so powerful, interesting, useful, or just plain fun. I also enjoyed the archaic language, even though it made the story occasionally ...more
Apr 26, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I can't believe I waited this long to read this classic fantasy novel. When I began, and got into it well, I could scarcely put it down.

Written in an old-English style that is a pleasure to some and a hindrance to others (very much a pleasure to me), The Well at the World's End is a romantic fantasy of a quest for the marriage of youth and wisdom, or, in sooth, true eternal life. Not a life that does not end, for though long-lasting indeed, yet death shall at last come as a comfort to the man or
Oct 31, 2014 Ron rated it did not like it
Read this--tried to read this because it has been cited as influencing both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasies a generation later. If this was what they were forced to read, no wonder they wrote their own.

The story, a typical youngest son questing novel, isn't so bad but the storytelling is terrible. Morris tries to recreate medieval language, but ends with something stilted and unreadable.

Don't waste your time. Disappointing.
Dec 30, 2013 Ellen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic adventure with great characterization and best of all a female character with character. Yay! I can see why this book inspired so many subsequent fantasy novels.
Mar 04, 2015 Ricardo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-books
Lectura imprescindible para todo aquel que desee adentrarse en la historia del género de fantasía, y sin embargo es un libro muy difícil de recomendar. Estamos ante una obra muy larga, en la que suceden muchas cosas, hay muchos personajes y encima está deliberadamente escrita en un inglés anticuado de inspiración medieval que en muchas ocasiones dificulta su lectura e impide que se avance muy rápido. Aún así, no es de extrañar que sea una de las obras más importantes de la fantasía pre-Tolkien, ...more
Kurt Henry
Jul 03, 2013 Kurt Henry rated it it was amazing
Ignore reviews that say this masterpiece, perhaps the first true fantasy novel, is "needlessly written" in an "Old English" style. There are several archaic words that Morris uses repeatedly and he has a preference for words not derived from latin. Anyone can survive a mere handful of colorful archaisms. If one dislikes anachronistic dialogue (as when soldiers with bows are commanded to "fire," this is the antidote. Tolkien and Lewis, on the night they met, shared their love of this magical book ...more
May 08, 2012 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This apparently is a pioneering book, having influenced both Tolkien and Lewis; for that reason, it may be of interest to their fans (like me) to find such things as stone tables, an evil king named Gandolf (sic), a great journey to the world's end, and trouble at home when the hero returns. The language, which is written in Middle English (even though it was published only a hundred or so years ago), may irritate some readers, but I myself wasn't too troubled by it. What bothered me about this ...more
Oct 15, 2013 Steven rated it it was amazing
An absolutely charming Fantasy story by the man who invented Fantasy back in the 1880's and a great influence on Tolkien who said in one of his letters that he wished to write a long story on the lines of William Morris and that many passages from LOTR owe as much to Morris's work as they do to the Icelandic Saga's.
The Well at the Worlds End isn't Morris' first fantasy but is generally excepted as his best. He has this uncanny way of writing in the same ways that he paints or draws. Everything
Sep 18, 2014 Sirfloridas rated it really liked it
This is a book about glamour, and I wonder whether the intended message is opposite to the impression that is given. A quick summary is that a young man, chosen to rule a small but sturdy kingdom, shirks his duty and rides off in selfish pursuit of a nebulous prize. Along the way, he falls in love with style over substance and fails to recognize his true love. Throughout he winds up on top, though whether he deserves to is never very clear. When he reaches his goal, he receives little more than ...more
Luciana Darce
Jul 24, 2014 Luciana Darce rated it liked it
Quem acompanha o Coruja já deve ter ouvido falar no meu projeto pessoal de conhecer os grandes mestres da fantasia a. T. (antes de Tolkien). Já passaram por aqui a injustamente desconhecida Hope Mirrlees e o magistral T. H. White – e outros mais estão a caminho.

Morris é um desses grandes – um mestre de mestres, uma vez que é inspiração reconhecida de autores como Tolkien (que fala dele em cartas à esposa) e Lewis (que chegou a escrever ensaios sobre o autor). O mais conhecido de seus livros é Th
Bryn Hammond
Apr 15, 2012 Bryn Hammond rated it it was ok
Shelves: imagined-fiction
I think I'll try his narrative poems instead. I've nothing against slow and old-fashioned - on the contary, I came for that - but didn't have much oomph.
D.M. Dutcher
Apr 11, 2013 D.M. Dutcher rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, classic
I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. If you can get past the needless archaism, you'll find a deep tale of a young knight who seeks his fortune, finds heartbreak, and is purified through a quest to find life at the Well at the World's End.

There are four sons of the king of the Upmeads. The Upmeads is a small land, not rich but at peace. However like all young men, they crave adventure, and draw lots to see who will go and who will stay. The youngest, the unfortunately named Ralph, is the
Chris Griffith
Jan 27, 2011 Chris Griffith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Messeemeth as though this to be one of those books, one might either love or hate. I loved it! Although it is hard not to like a book which has a character named "Gandolf" and predates Tolkien's work by close to 100 years. Here's the plot: Young knight goes in search of adventure, meets the love of his life, she's murdered, he seeks revenge (sort of), becomes very sad, falls in love again, the two are married, they continue on their quest which is to drink from the WELL a the WORLD'S END. (It's ...more
Fraser Sherman
Aug 02, 2014 Fraser Sherman rated it did not like it
Shelves: fantasy
I've enjoyed some of Morris's other fantasy work, but at 225,000 words, this apparently exceeded his abilities. Written in faux-medieval style (which Morris does well), this follows the noble Ralph in his quest for the eponymous magic well. Unfortunately while there's plenty of treachery and evil in his path, way too much of the story is talk, talk, talk and descriptions of the scenery, rather than anything happening. A classic that hasn't aged well.
Sep 04, 2014 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
In this book by William Morris, I feel like I've discovered a treasure the like of "Robin Hood and His Merry Men" or "King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table". If you love those two books, then you have to read "The Well at the World's End"! Not only does Morris' book read like the tale of an ancient hero (I would say it reads like an epic, but it is not in verse), but it is also full of beautiful archaic English words (really helpful to have Kindle's integrated dictionary as I read it). ...more
Mar 14, 2015 wacko rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a most wonderful, relaxing read. Yes, the language is archaic and the storyline meandering and slow, but that is so much of what gives this book it's charm. It is written as if a whole slew of children's fairy tales were discovered to have a single, originating story, and this is it. It brought to mind the tales of King Arthur or Robin Hood, as I believe it was meant to do. Definitely one to read aloud if at all possible.
Jan 01, 2013 DavidO rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
What to say about this book? It influenced Tolkien and CS Lewis, and is written in middle English, or a facsimile therefore, though it was far easier to read than the Knights of the Round Table.

I gave up on the book because there wasn't much of a story in terms of drama. I wasn't emotionally invested in the story in the slightest. I managed to get 25% of the way through it before giving up in despair because the main character didn't impress me in the slightest, and he scarcely did anything exce
Jun 07, 2016 Bradley rated it liked it
This is one of the earliest of the Modern Fantasy genre: medieval, non-historical setting with magic and heroic quest. I enjoyed reading it but mostly for its historical significance in a genre that I love.
May 22, 2015 Colin rated it it was ok
I only kept with the book because I'd learned that Professors Tolkien and Lewis read this and appreciated it. And you can see how this book influenced their works. It was written in an archaic style, which normally pleases me, but here it was overdone. Way overdone. The story was a bit typical, too. Predictable. And it just kept going, and going, and going.
This book had all the hallmarks that said I should have loved it, but it just wasn't the case. Don't think I can really recommend it.
Bob J
May 06, 2014 Bob J rated it liked it
The language is a little thick and the story doesn't have a lot of surprises, but the characters are diverse and very winning, and the melancholy edge to things is worth the trip.
Oct 08, 2013 Mike rated it liked it
I picked up this book because I stumbled across an article saying that it was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien's Gandalf character. I found it an interesting read. It's certainly not what we would consider a modern fantasy novel, or even what we would consider a classic fantasy novel (like The Lord of the Rings), but it was interesting to read this as a precursor to the genre -- and there are certainly some elements borrowed from this book.

In and of itself it's not the best book I've ever read
Daniel Garrison
May 07, 2016 Daniel Garrison rated it did not like it
It wasn't my cup of tea. I didn't care for the writing style and frankly, the story was like my mp3 player when the repeat button gets stuck.

Apr 03, 2016 John rated it it was amazing
Enchanting beyond words. Now I see what the big deal was. Why they all loved him.
James Giddings
Jul 23, 2012 James Giddings rated it it was amazing
Absolutely wonderful late-19th century adult fantasy with deep characters who journey over a map that is not shown on paper but becomes more real than any map of our "real" world. Written in beautiful consciously archaic language by the author of "The News from Nowhere". There is much to say about this book, and I will try to return to say some of it. The miracle of the modern ebook has made this whole 2-or-3-volume novel available as one volume. I first read part of the book in the 'seventies b ...more
I gave up after 60 pages. I see why Lin Carter calls this the first heroic fantasy novel -- it has every single element that makes me run screaming away from the epic fantasy doorstoppers published today. So while I give props to Morris for creating the formula, it just is not a book for me.

Plus, really? He HAD to pretend he was writing in the 12th century? While "thee" and "thou" don't bother me much, adding -est to every adjective and inverting every single clause gets really, really old, real
Vikas Datta
Jun 20, 2016 Vikas Datta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most interesting..
Apr 13, 2013 Jason rated it did not like it
I gave this a whirl since it is considered a fantasy classic, but it got bogged down and repetitive pretty quickly. Protagonist leaves home, goes to a place, falls for a local girl and vice versa, moves on in his quest before anything happens, rinse and repeat. It might be that once the main character hooks up with the Dry Tree bandits things could get interesting, but the book is so lethargic up that point I'm not bothering to finish.
Jun 08, 2013 Dennis rated it really liked it
A Victorian novel which is one of the inspirations of Tolkein, CS Lewis and the modern fantasy genre. It's a fairly generic story in which good reliably triumphs over evil but is gracefully written and the plentiful use of middle English makes for a good atmosphere.
I'm just not in the mood to read this right now. It was just too much a standard medieval romance, not enough magic and a very typical "male quest" reminded me much more of LOTR than his other books. Giving up for now but will probably re-read at some point.
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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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