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The Well at the World's End, Vol 1

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  315 Ratings  ·  26 Reviews
William Morris was a Renaissance Man who left interesting marks across a variety of fields he was an artist, a philosopher, a politician, a utopian fantasist, and, as this wonderful tale will demonstrate, a man with the capacity for romance on an epic scale. The Well at the World's End was among the very first of its kind it is an epic romance made of duplicity, machinat ...more
Kindle Edition
Published (first published 1896)
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Oct 23, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Possibly the second true "imaginary world" fantasy novel (the possible first being Morris' The Wood beyond the World). Also, for a long time one of the longest -- 220,000 words, more-or-less, so longer than just about anything up until a certain Oxford professor started writing about a certain trip to a certain volcano.

This is a very consciously medieval book -- not just in that it's set in an imagined medieval world, but in that the story & language are an attempt to create a sort of mediev
Kat  Hooper
Oct 22, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

William Morris, a textile artist, was enamored of medieval chivalric romances, so The Well at the World's End, published in 1896, is his contribution to that dying literary genre. Thus, you’ll find heroic knights on quests, damsels in distress, and scary beasts to slay. The novel is even written in archaic language. What’s different and noteworthy about The Well at the World's End, though, is that it’s set in an entirely made-up world. For this reason, Wil
Sep 03, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkein fans
This was my first time reading one of Willaim Morris's longer novels, and I was quite impressed. Caveat: He's coming at this as a folklorist who wants to write fictional accounts of northern European historical ideas. The result is epic fantasy fiction written in old-world language, but with a compelling storyline. It was a bit predictable (especially since the chapter headings tell you exactly what's going to happen), but not entirely so. I really had no idea what it was about before I began, b ...more
Poetry is My Religion
This book truly does have everything you'd want from a medieval romance of this sort. The denoument was pretty long and hard to get into after the climax at the Well, but it got better as I went along, and I just reminded myself how Tolkien's LOTR finished in a similar way and no doubt owed such to the end of The Well.

Definitely think I'll try some other Morris.
Simon Mcleish
May 26, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This review covers both volumes.

Originally published on my blog here in November 1999.

William Morris' late nineteenth century romances have proved very influential in twentieth century popular literature, yet they are probably rarely read today. There is a strong case for arguing that they mark the origin of the modern fantasy genre. The Well at the World's End is the longest, and amply illustrates why his work has become both so influential and so obscure.

The story is a simple one, telling the
Michael Battaglia
Dig around in fantasy enough and eventually you get to William Morris. Granted, you've probably got a long way to go from George R.R. Martin to Tolkien to CS Lewis to Lord Dunsany to finally get there but if you're persistent enough he waits for you at the end of the line, like all those SF scenarios where when you get too far back in time you wind up running smack dab into the Big Bang.

I'm not sure if Morris can be considered the ur-author from which all epic high fantasy eventually emerged but
The strangeness and "sense of wonder" and all that stuff people say they like about fantasy is piled up pretty high in this weird book.

I have recently decided I need to know a lot more about William Morris and the door-stopper biography by E.P. Thompson William Morris: Romantic to Revolutionary is on my desk, mocking me with it's Stephen King "It" sized massiveness. I only knew that Morris was one of these utopians from before Marx crushed a lot of the imagination out of most socialists. I hadn'
This is the first volume, comprising Books 1 and 2 of 4. In the Introduction Lin Carter and L Sprague de Camp, distinguished 20th century fantasy writers, make the case that ‘The Well at the World’s End’, William Morris’ lengthiest tome, published in 1896, pioneered the heroic fantasy novel format. This is certainly true if the criterion of dimensional grandiosity (i.e. grand in an imposing or impressive way) is applied. J R R Tolkien took inspiration from this work to develop his famous ‘Lord o ...more
Elizabeth Ashworth
I knew that William Morris designed wallpaper - I've seen examples of it in National Trust houses - but somehow I'd missed that he was also a novelist until I found The Well at the World's End.

First published in 1896 and written in the style of a medieval quest legend, the four volumes of the book tell the story of Ralph of Upmeads, the youngest son of the king, who sets off to explore the lands beyond his home and to travel beyond the Wall of the World to drink from the waters of the Well at th
Joey Brockert
Ralph is a son of the king of Upmeads, last one of four (4) sons. The king wants to sen them off so they can experience the world, but he wants one to stay behind to comfort him and the Queen, so by drawing straws, Ralph is chosen to stay. The King did a quick explanation of the qualities of each son, and Ralph is quite the best, though the youngest. The others go off, and Ralph goes home, but he absconds with a horse and travels the way not passed out by his father, South. He was not to be kep ...more
Aug 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Se chiedete ai muri chi ha inventato il genere fantasy come lo conosciamo oggi, questi risponderanno: Tolkien! È un fatto universalmente riconosciuto, se non altro perché, nella maggior parte delle classifiche di “Migliori fantasy di tutti i tempi”, svetta Il Signore degli Anelli.

Dico questo non per scalzarlo dalla sua posizione, ma per fare una precisazione: Tolkien non ha inventato il genere fantasy. Casomai lo ha diffuso e lo ha reso un genere amatissimo. Colui che ha inventato il fantasy è i
Dec 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(Note: this is Volume I of II) It was Quite good. The simplicity of the story in The Wood Beyond the World is refreshing, however the extra space allowed by taking up 2 larger volumes affords a much wider canvas for The Well at the World's End. The story of Ralph was interesting and as of the writing of this I'm excited to read Volume 2 to find out how it ends!

I would say I was more taken with the world in this book more than the story propper. The plot is more of a mythological or archtypal jou
At the end of Volume One, it's hard to say where all this is going. Ralph's somewhat-bildungsroman travels takes him through several lands. Each is beset by some social injustice (a harsh lord, war-torn, extreme economic disparity, and so forth) and each crying out for resolution or at least beacons entanglement for the hero. But Ralph's journey always takes him away. He floats above, intent on his nebulous quest for THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END (which is inconsistently capitalized in the Ballant ...more
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Well at World's End is hailed as being a masterpiece of fantasy fiction, praised by HG Wells and influencing the likes of Tolkien. Personally I found it's Medieval English style painful to follow, and so any poetic intention of the prose was lost on me. However I struggled on in hopes of some redeeming plot or character element. Sadly I found the characters to be very one dimensional and the romance highly superficial, although I understand that this was written in a different time and for a ...more
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember finding this book at a vintage book sale and was strongly drawn to the title and the book cover. I began reading this book back when I was a fresh college graduate and was surprised to find it a very engaging adventure. What made it really special is that it was written by William Morris, one of the remarkable Pre-Raphaelite artists I admire. That is, it was because of this book that I learned more about Morris and his art. It later became an even bigger surprise that J.R.R. Tolkien w ...more
May 13, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the first William MOrris Book I ever read when I was about 17 years old. I'm now 56 and remain firmly addicted to William Morris. It's the fantasy books of Morris that gave Tolkien his inspiration and when reading Morris you can certainly see that to be the case, the only noticable difference between the two is that Morris is a bit more mysterious and misty. You do need both volumes though as it is one story. If you want to get lost in an alien land there's no better one than one of Morr ...more
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
After reading William Morris’s The Well At World’s End, I can feel every aching step, every maddening mile of Prince Ralph’s epic quest to drink the magic draught and save the kingdom from the wiles of wicked men. I can feel the chafe of the bridle, the callous from the bit, my chair-bound behind as sore as if I’d been riding on his saddle, spent arms and weary legs wrapped tight around his armoured knighthood.

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Sometimes you read a book for its plot, sometimes you read a book for its writing - sometimes for its words. Greensward, greenwood, thrall, Wood Perilous...? This book is like a tapestry come to life. I took notes while reading it, made a list of the words I liked, had to look up a few in the dictionary. This book has flavor. It may not be strong on excitement, but you'll never find anything quite like it. (I hated that the heroes' name was Ralph, but whatever.)
Nov 25, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Irvn by: found in a dusty bin
the best original fantasy world, certainly one of the earliest created with such attention to detail-- though the characters are human, their passions are divine and leave us mortals gasping at such pleasure
Scott Forbes
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, owned
Took me some time to get into it, but by the end I was enthralled. I have volume II now, and I am looking forward to it!

Spoiler-free blog entry
Kristi Thompson
Hmm. Umm. Interesting enough to read, more for the deliberately archaic and stilted prose than for the plot or characters. I got a little tired of how everyone who came near the main characters fell on their knees and worshipped them, even before they drank from the well.
Travis Webster
May 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Eat your heart out, Tolkien!
Marts  (Thinker)
Interesting fantasy title
Perseverance and trusted friends will carry you through to the end!!
Nishal Pranlall
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the best ever
a true classic
Daniel Clark
It was a fun read, I liked the florid olde speech. The story was a little too flat and it dragged just a bit.
Rating: PG. no sex/language
Melissa Mckinney
rated it liked it
May 16, 2012
rosie Lenth
rated it it was amazing
Dec 30, 2013
Sean D'angelo
rated it really liked it
Oct 15, 2007
rated it really liked it
Mar 31, 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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“With the arrogance of youth, I determined to do no less than to transform the world with Beauty. If I have succeeded in some small way, if only in one small corner of the world, amongst the men and women I love, then I shall count myself blessed, and blessed, and blessed, and the work goes on.” 26 likes
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