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A fantasy adventure novel by E.R. Eddison, completed in 1922. The story concerns the threats to the realm of Demonland, the dominion of Lord Juss. The high lords of Demonland, the Lords Juss, Goldry Bluszco, Spitfire, and Brandoch Daha, become separated from their armies by their foe, Gorice VII of Witchland, and adventure beyond the ends of their known world to meet with the Queen Sophonisba.

Although the storyline and the naming conventions are quite fantastic, the novel opens with a more Edwardian narrator, who, having decided to sleep the night in the Lotus Room of his vast mansion, is visited by a strange dream, which is then, as in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, related as the story. Interestingly, the story ends with Lord Juss declaiming to Queen Sophonisba Shakespeare's Sonnet XVIII, but without any other mention of the dream at the beginning.

Truly a strange novel, the Worm Ouroboros was written by E.R.Eddison in the Epic Tradition. Complete with an epic journey, temptress and a descent into hell. However, Eddison prior to and after writing this book spent the majority of his time (away from his job as a British Civil Servant, his family, etc.) translating Norse Sagas into English. The result being that the Worm Ouroboros is a peculiar mix of Southern and Northern European literary traditions, with the Norse value system overlaid on the Roman Archetypes. The story is enriched by allusions to both cultures, and is generally told with a Romantic slant.

It should be mentioned that in an unfortunate turn of history, Eddison decided to name his character races after the classic model, i.e. Witches, Imps, Demons, etc.. This convention may detract from the story as a distraction from today’s reader, especially since the races in the book don’t have the corresponding physical/mental characteristics which the names imply. I have no idea why he chose to name his races such, except to say that the book was written prior to Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series, and therefore was written prior to the re-popularization of those terms . It is interesting that they (Tolkien and Eddison) were contemporaries, and that Eddison served as an informal editor for Rings.

Another note with regard to the structure of the narrator fading out of the story: the reason for this is that the preface is actually an invocation of the muse in keeping with the Epic format.

more to come…

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