Extrapolation

The Foundations of E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros

Extrapolation (2013), 54, (2), 183–203.

Abstract

It is tempting to position ER Eddison's first novel, The Worm Ouroboros, as a synthetic example of the Icelandic sagas he read and translated in his capacity as a dedicated amateur medievalist. Close examination casts serious doubt on this interpretation, however. The book contains many features - most of them obviously deliberate inclusions by Eddison - that are the precise opposites of the features Eddison claimed to admire as essential strengths of saga literature. Furthermore, biographical evidence exists to suggest that the characters and incidents of The Worm Ouroboros were present in Eddison's imagination before he most likely discovered medieval literature. It seems more likely, therefore, that his fantasies gave rise to his medievalism, rather than vice versa.

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Carpenter, Humphrey. The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. London: Unwin, 1978. Print. The Inklings: C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends Google Scholar

Carter, Lin. Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings. 1969. Revised edition. London: Gollancz, 2003. Print. Tolkien: A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings Google Scholar

Chambers, Roland. The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome. London: Faber & Faber, 2009. Print. The Last Englishman: The Double Life of Arthur Ransome Google Scholar

D'Ammassa, Don. "Villains of Necessity: the Works of ER Eddison." Discovering Classic Fantasy Fiction. Ed. Darrell Schweitzer. Gillette, NJ: Wildside Press, 1996. 88-93. Print. Discovering Classic Fantasy Fiction 88 93 Google Scholar

De Camp, L. Sprague. Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1976. Print. Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers: The Makers of Heroic Fantasy Google Scholar

Eddison, E. R. Egil's Saga. 1930. Translation and introduction. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968. Print. Egil's Saga Google Scholar

Eddison, E. R. Mistress of Mistresses. 1935. Zimiamvia: A Trilogy. Ed. Paul Edmund Thomas. New York: Dell, 1992. 3-308. Print. Mistress of Mistresses. 1935. Zimiamvia: A Trilogy 3 308 Google Scholar

Eddison, E. R. The Worm Ouroboros. 1922. New edition. London: Ballantine Books, 1975. Print. The Worm Ouroboros Google Scholar

Harris-Fain, Darren. "E. R. Eddison." The Dictionary of Literary Biography. Ed. Darren Harris-Fain. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2002. 255: 74-81. Print. The Dictionary of Literary Biography 255 74 81 Google Scholar

Lang, Andrew. "The Story of Sigurd." The Red Fairy Book. 1890. Ed. Andrew Lang. New York: McGraw Hill, 1967. 357-67. Print. Note that this edition is an exact facsimile of the original 1890 edition. The Red Fairy Book 357 67 Google Scholar

Le Guin, Ursula K. "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie." Fantasists on Fantasy: A Collection of Critical Reflections by Eighteen Masters of the Art. Ed. Robert H. Boyer and Kenneth J. Zahorski. New York: Avon Books, 1984. 195-209. Print. Fantasists on Fantasy: A Collection of Critical Reflections by Eighteen Masters of the Art 195 209 Google Scholar

Lewis, C. S. Collected Letters. Ed. Walter Hooper. London: Harper Collins, 2004. Vol. 2. Print. Collected Letters 2 Google Scholar

Manlove, Colin. The Impulse of Fantasy Literature. Kent, OH: Kent State UP, 1983. Print. The Impulse of Fantasy Literature Google Scholar

Oakes, David A. "The Eternal Cycle: The Beginning and Ending of E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros." Extrapolation 40.2 (1999): 125-28. Print. The Eternal Cycle: The Beginning and Ending of E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros Extrapolation 40 125 28 Google Scholar

Pesch, Helmut W. "The Sign of the Worm; Images of Death and Immortality in the Fiction of E. R. Eddison." Death and the Serpent; Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ed. Donald M. Hassler and Carl B. Yorke. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1985. 91-101. Print. Death and the Serpent; Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy 91 101 Google Scholar

Ransome, Arthur. The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome. London: Jonathan Cape, 1976. Print. The Autobiography of Arthur Ransome Google Scholar

Rateliff, John D. The History of the Hobbit. 2 vols. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Print. The History of the Hobbit 2 Google Scholar

Sawyer, Andy. "Lessingham." Aklo. Ed. Roger Dobson, R. B. Russell and Mark Valentine. Oxford and Horam: Tartarus Press and Caermaen Books, 1998. 92-106. Print. Aklo 92 106 Google Scholar

Schuyler, William M. "E. R. Eddison's Metaphysics of the Hero." New York Review of Science Fiction 31 (March 1991): 12-17. Print. E. R. Eddison's Metaphysics of the Hero New York Review of Science Fiction 31 12 17 Google Scholar

Tolkien, J. R. R. Collected Letters. Ed. Humphrey Carpenter. London: Unwin, 1981. Print. Collected Letters Google Scholar

Tolkien, J. R. R. "On Fairy-Stories." 1935. Ed. Douglas A. Anderson and Verlyn Flieger. London: Harper Collins, 2008. 313-400. Print. On Fairy-Stories 313 400 Google Scholar

Wilson, Sharon. "The Doctrine of Organic Unity: E. R. Eddison and the Romance Tradition." Extrapolation 25.1 (1984): 12-19. Print. The Doctrine of Organic Unity: E. R. Eddison and the Romance Tradition Extrapolation 25 12 19 Google Scholar

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Young, Joseph