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The Well at the World's End

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  567 ratings  ·  66 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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3.81  · 
Rating details
 ·  567 ratings  ·  66 reviews

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Mar 18, 2012 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
4.5 Stars! It was an excellent adventure, full of knights, lovely ladies, mystical adventures, battles and a quest. You can't get much better than that. I'm surprised that it's not more well-known.
Connie Jasperson
Jan 31, 2014 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
Oct 13, 2014 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.
Vishal Katariya
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
The Well at the World's End

I'm very interested in fantasy literature, and enjoy reading it very much. A few months ago I'd read The King of Elfland's Daughter, and now I've just read an even older book by William Morris. It was first published in 1896 and is considered to be one of the first modern fantasy works in English.

I found that the book was quite misogynistic - is this something that I should have expected given the timeline of its publication? The important characters all seem to be men
Jul 31, 2014 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
Jun 29, 2010 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
Sep 22, 2010 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
Micah Dunlap
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
the hero, Ralph, is practically invincible through half the story, and then the other half of the story he’s invincible AND immortal. but you gotta appreciate how consistently meloncholy the whole damn thing is.

sucks that there’s no monsters tho :/
E.A. Lawrence
Jul 31, 2013 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.
Lauren Huff
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I love William Morris so much. Tolkien before Tolkien, with actual badass women whose actions and motivations make sense. <3
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kurt Henry
Jul 03, 2013 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
Oct 29, 2012 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
Bryn Hammond
Apr 15, 2012 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.
Vikas Datta
Jun 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most interesting..
L'objet d'abord : c'est un beau livre avec une magnifique illustration, quatre gravures à l'intérieur et une introduction instructive. La traduction française est agréable et respecte le "style médiéval" de Morris. J'aurai préféré une véritable couverture cartonnée, plus épaisse, mais globalement c'est du bon boulot de la part des Forges du Vulcain.

Le roman en lui-même provoquera des réactions mitigées : il est historiquement intéressant comme source d'influence pour Tolkien et les autres, mais
Luciana Darce
Jul 24, 2014 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
Jun 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sci-fi-fantasy
If you LOVE medieval literature, you would enjoy this tale, as it is structured like all the classic medieval stories--virtuous hero sets out on a quest, meets some lady loves, gets out of trouble, seeks wisdom concerning his quest. However, if you are not familiar with or a fan of medieval lit, this book will seem tedious and repetitive. Even if you do like medieval lit, this may feel repetitive; it did to me. The climax occurs in the middle of the story, then the characters return home, meetin ...more
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book was long and difficult to get through. It's written in an older English. The plot is convoluted with what seemed like a never ending amount of side stories. The characters are thin and unmemorable (which doesn't make the story any easier to follow). Yet besides all of that, this book is an epic. It paved the way for so much of the fantasy stories we have come to enjoy today. It's worth reading for that reason alone.
Steve Crooks
For a book written in 1896 it showed the clearcut differences between the ever-victorious good over the nefarious influence of evil. But it is a real yawner and therefore very conducive when sleep otherwise won't come. Filled with so many archaic words that it takes some time and repetition to "translate" to the actual meanings. I "wot" this from experience.
Chad A. Pentecost
Jul 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For the Tolkien and Lewis fanatic.

The journey was long and arduous....for me the reader and also for the hero Ralph. This is not an easy read nor completely entertaining. What it gives is some diamonds in the rough and a glimpse into one of the strong influences for Middle Earth and Narnia. I recommend you stay away unless you're ready to sweat it out on this journey of perseverance and fortitude.
Liz Murphy
Jul 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
DNF. Way too hard to get through. when a book becomes a chore...
Nov 14, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, dnf
not readable too me, such old fashioned language!
Steven Simpson
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This elegant, looooong and slow epic is the first true fantasy novel. Reading it is an exercise in patience and a trip back to the medieval world.
Terrie Sager
May 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Just finished reading with my wife aloud. We found the language and plot line a bit tough, but it was interesting to find out some of the influence exerted on C.S. Lewis and Tolkien.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Un roman initiatique prémisse de la fantasy.
Diego  Diaz
Jan 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I'm currently trying to read fantasy books pre-Tolkien and this was one of the first books that I was recommended, mainly because it was one of the books that influenced CS Lewis and the aforementioned Tolkien.

The language utilized in the book was archaic, but readable I believe. Sometimes I needed to re-read some paragraphs because I felt that I missed some details but in comparison with others books of the same time it was quite a smooth read.

I loved t
Mar 17, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish
Shelves: fantasy
Maybe it really is as great as Lewis said, but it required way too much brainpower to be enjoyable bedtime reading.
D.M. Dutcher
Apr 11, 2013 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
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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
“Let tomorrow cross its own rivers.” 5 likes
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