Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Worm Ouroboros (1922)

I just finished another book of note, mostly because it's totally insane. Written in 1922 by a seemingly crazy and extremely OCD Englishman, The Worm Ouroboros is an early predecessor to Tolkien, although in this case, the entire novel is written in a mix of Shakespearean vernacular with just a touch of Homerian and Norse epic. Man, oh man. We're talking, having-to-sound-out-the-words-because-they're-barely-English sort of writing. At just over 500 pages, I have to admit that it took me a while to make it through the book. But I'm convinced it was worth it. The plot is convoluted and extremely sexist and patriarchal, but then again, it was written in the 1920's. In fact, the entire story is focused around a single war, at the end of which the heroes are so sad and bored that they beg the gods to revive their enemies so they can go at it again. That's the worm for you, eating it's own tail. Undeniably the origin of physical and psychological debates, the worm represents many things to many people, but always with the underlying concept of continuity. All in all, there's no denying the historical context of the novel and that's what really makes it interesting. Combining space travel with ghouls, witches and demons, plus polytheism and fantastical voyages, you've got a piece that sent Tolkien chomping at the bit a few decades later. Among his criticisms of this early piece of fantasy is the fact that Eddison used names devised during childhood instead of engaging in serious etymological research. But then again, everyone knows Tolkien was crazy. He was probably just jealous that Eddison came up with a meticulous appendix and chronology before he did. Actually, Eddison did know both Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, and he was also fluent in Greek, Latin, French and Icelandic, a passion of his hobbies and not his position as Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George or Companion of the Order of the Bath. So all in all, definitely a man worth respecting. This book is one of his earliest, and although I definitely need a break, I will certainly return.

Final Judgment: "A Fantasy epic not for the faint of heart/Mind-boggling detail and manipulation of the English language/Get the 60's version and it comes with pictures!/You know what they say: "Hungry dogs will eat dirty puddings"!

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