The E. R. Eddison "Worm Ouroboros" Thread

Extollager

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That's a good review to which you linked, Teresa, thanks.

I don't know that there is a lot to discuss about The Worm, having now read it three times. There's much to learn* from Tolkien's fantasy and Lewis's cosmic trilogy has clues to follow up on almost every page,* but with this book by Eddison you can sense what it's all about within a few pages. If you like that, you have a grand literary experience ahead of you. If you don't, nothing to come if you just stick with it will prove to be worth the effort.

*I don't mean that one reads these works as being sugar-coated lessons. They are permeated with imaginative expressions of real wisdom and put us in contact with it. I believe they're all about real human flourishing. Eddison wrote a great work of escapist art.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Eddison wrote a great work of escapist art.
And yet I don't believe that is what he intended to do at all. He meant The Worm and the loosely connected Zimiamvia Trilogy to be deeply meaningful and revelatory, an expression of Eddison's personal philosophy which Tolkien so deplored. Unfortunately (from Eddison's viewpoint, certainly not from mine), I don't think the books actually converted anybody to that philosophy. Many readers are repulsed by it, and those who admire the books tend to admire them for other reasons entirely.

On the other hand, some of the politics do sound historically familiar, and in that sense are relevant.
 

Extollager

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My impression is that, compared to The Worm, Eddison's philosophy is much more emphasized in the Zimiamvian books, which I've never seriously tried to read although I have owned copies for over 40 years.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Eddison's philosophy is much more emphasized in the Zimiamvian books, which I've never seriously tried to read although I have owned copies for over 40 years.
The Divine Feminine is certainly more emphasized in the Simiamvian books, tiresomely so, I would say. (I read Mistress of Mistresses and skimmed the others.) I don't think you are missing much by not reading them. Well, apart from some glorious prose. The Worm is much more fun, even though it can be irritating, too, due to Eddison's worshipful attitude toward Nietzchean supermen, which seems to be very much a part of his philosophy and is very much present.
 

Extollager

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I wonder if hardly anyone would pay attention to the "philosophy" implied by The Worm if not for knowing of the later books. Right from the beginning of The Worm the reader seems to be encouraged not to take it seriously -- an "Induction" (suggesting A Midsummer Night's Dream), the setting on Mercury, etc. C. S. Lewis read all of the books and gave enthusiastic thumbs up to The Worm while plainly stating his detestation for the philosophy of the latter three and his aversion to (I quote from memory) their "transcendent trulls and bona robas," etc. You pointed out Tolkien's similar judgment.

Thanks for your suggestion. I suspect I will keep the vintage Ballantine Zimiamvians that I have largely for sentimental reasons but never read them. (Actually, my copy of The Mezentian Gate is a Pan reprint of the Ballantine, complete with cover art.) There'll always, I expect, be something better to read, unless some extrinsic reason for reading them occurs.

If I'm not mistaken, a friend has read the trilogy, but I believe he owns all of the Ballantine Fantasy series that Carter edited soon after Eddison was reprinted, and has read them all, and might even be working his way slowly through a rereading of each one. Yes, he's even read The Night Land -- twice now, I guess.
 

Teresa Edgerton

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Whereas, what inspires my aversion is the malignant narcissism of the heroes of The Worm, which Eddison presents for our admiration.
 
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Fried Egg

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Hah, I have had "The Mezentian Gate" on my to-read shelf for quite some time too. I haven't been able to work up the enthusiasm to read it after followin up "The Worm" with "Mistress of Mistresses" and not finding it anywhere near as enjoyable. One of these days I intend to give it a go...
 

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I recently got around to reading the whole Zimiamvia trilogy which I'd owned for about 30 years, bought in a wonderful shop in North London called the Fantasy Centre which is now long gone. I loved The Worm Ouroboros for the beauty of its descriptive writing- I am one of those readers who does NOT want to crack on with the story before I know what all the characters are wearing! However you can have too much of a good thing and ER Eddison's detailed descriptions of jewellery and sumptuous costumes got a bit tedious after a while, I began to think "who sewed on all those diamonds then?"
However my real objection to the book is that I disliked almost all the characters, most especially Lessingham whom the reader is clearly expected to admire unreservedly. ERE reminds me of Sir Thomas Mallory's Morte d'Arthur in which every named character is a knight, a king, or an upper class damsel, with occasional walk-on parts for unnamed hermits (to care for the wounded), peasants (to give directions) and dwarves (to carry messages). ERE's only named character of non-noble birth is Gabriel Flores, whose common birth accounts for his despicable character. At one point Lessingham threatens to flog Gabriel because he has spoken disrespectfully of someone who, though an enemy of Lessingham, was nonetheless noble and therefore not to be insulted. ERE seems entirely identified with this attitude. As he wrote in the 1930s I suspect he would have admired the most extreme forms of Fascism, such as the writings of Julius Evola who rejected Mussolini for being too populist. ERE's casual antisemitism and racism goes with this territory.
Tolkein might have some superficial similarities (he's preoccupied with bloodlines and hidden kings) but some of his heroes are actually common folk, especially Sam who is actually working class, and the hobbits generally are very unpretentious folk lacking any king or aristocracy, who precisely because of their "insignificance" are the only folk who can be trusted to dispose of the ring.
 

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