The Worm Ouroboros

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The Worm Ouroboros
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E.R. Edison’s The Worm Ouroboros inspired the epic-fantasy writers that followed him. This production is of the first edition (1922).

The Lords of Demonland are celebrating Lord Juss’s birthday when an envoy arrives from Witchland. He brings demands from King Gorice XI of Witchland that the Lords of Demonland “kiss his toe, and acknowledge him to be their King and they, his ill-conditioned, disobedient children”. The Lords of Demonland reject this utterly and, to settle the matter, they challenge King Gorice to a wrestling match against their champion, Lord Goldry Bluszco.

But the situation is worsened by the result of that match and ultimately, war is declared. A war that includes dark magic, sorcery, quests, mystical lands, and heroic high-adventure. Ursula K. Le Guin called it “An eccentric masterpiece”, C. S. Lewis said it represented “A new climate of the imagination”, Orville Prescott said it was “A literary event of the first order.”

Critics compared Tolkien’s writing to it when he first published The Lord of the Rings and he freely acknowledged its influence. Eddison writes his narrative in a lyrical, medieval style and in the tradition of Norse mythology, Arthurian myths, and Greek tragedy. In his short dedication he says, “It is neither allegory nor fable but a story to be read for its own sake”, however, the theme of repetition (the cyclical nature of life, history, and war), is undeniable. The “worm (serpent or dragon) Ouroboros” is, after all, “The serpent which eats its own tail”.

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