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The House of the Wolfings
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The House of the Wolfings

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  181 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
The story of how the Wolfings fight, and eventually destroy, the invading Roman legions. Newly designed and typeset in a modern 6-by-9-inch format by Waking Lion Press.
Paperback, 260 pages
Published July 30th 2008 by Waking Lion Press (first published December 1st 1888)
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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 10, 2015 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
Sylvester Olson
Ya know how documents, museum exhibits, and nonfiction books occasionally frame their expository information in the form of narratives? For instance, a museum exhibit featuring cavemen might trace the life of a child through sequential displays, or a documentary might name an animal and follow it over the course of ninety minutes. In each case, the purpose of the narrative isn't really to tell a good story for story's sake, but to provide a framework in which the audience can follow along, makin ...more
Dec 03, 2012 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?


Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 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
Dec 01, 2015 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
Aug 28, 2013 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
Nathan Shumate
May 07, 2014 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.
Shala K.
Feb 06, 2008 rated it did not like it
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!"
Aug 08, 2013 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.
Joseph Raborg
Great Immersion into the Viking Age

I heartily recommend this work to all who love sagas and the Viking age. Few writers convey the feel of a saga to the extent as William Morris does here. At points the story is slow, but the book has some wonderful poetry and thrilling battles. Be sure to have a dictionary by your side to decipher some of the more poetic words.
Aaron Meyer
Nov 18, 2010 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.
May 24, 2011 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*
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Probably more of a 4.5 for me. I loved it. The elements that influenced Tolkien are clear, but the story stands up on its own. The poetry and song craft is uneven, but that didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of the storytelling.
Ron Gray
May 28, 2011 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.
Jake Yaniak
May 04, 2015 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.
Tabitha Ormiston-Smith
Aug 24, 2011 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.
Mike Furious
Jan 13, 2016 rated it liked it
More fantasy than anything.
Aug 31, 2013 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.
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
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.
Don Standing
I found this more interesting than enjoyable: the language was beautiful but occassionally too dense for me.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This a classic tale that inspired JRR Tolkein & C S. Lewis. Best short story I've get in awhile.
rated it really liked it
Dec 04, 2016
Dr. Andrew Higgins
rated it it was amazing
May 13, 2011
Kristi Israel
rated it really liked it
Nov 24, 2014
rated it it was amazing
Jun 25, 2011
rated it really liked it
Jul 17, 2014
Brett B
rated it it was amazing
Feb 26, 2016
rated it it was ok
Apr 25, 2012
Lucienne Boyce
rated it it was amazing
Dec 03, 2012
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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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