Do you re-read books? I am an avid re-reader, although I know that some people think that this is a waste of time when there are so many new books to explore. But I find that going back to books I have read once can offer new insights into a familiar story or simply the comfort of spending time with characters that you like.
That being said, quest novels do not seem to automatically lend themselves to re-reading. You already know that the heroes manage to get the ring to the fire, or find the hidden sword, and that all is set more or less right at the end. But even here, in the world of fantastic fiction, there are stories that bear a second or third or fourth reading. In many cases, what draws me back to fantasy titles is sheer pleasure in the use of language, especially in tales of high fantasy, with their reverberations of Mallory and faint echoes of Beowulf and the Norse sagas.
The Worm Ouroboros by E. R. Eddison is a fantasy classic that always seems to have something new to offer. Originally written in 1922, The Worm Ouroboros shares some characters with Eddison’s later Zimiamvian trilogy. Here, Eddison tells the tale of the bloody war between the Lords of Demonland, led by the masterful Lord Juss, and the witches, led by two crafty and treacherous kings, each named Gorice. Eddison’s tale set the standard for many of the high fantasy tales that were to follow. He deftly mixes swordplay, massive battles, magic, a perilous quest, politics and statecraft, and betrayal and revenge into a forceful story that is filled with lavish descriptions and lush language. It is the prose that brings me back to Eddison, a chance to enjoy long, luxuriant sentences filled with old-fashioned phrases and words. This is a story that would benefit from being read aloud. In mythology, Ouroboros was depicted as a snake or dragon swallowing its own tail, a symbol of the cyclical nature of life. The close of Eddison’s saga finds the Demon lords downcast at their enemies’ defeat. Life is not worth living without a foe to fight against. But like the snake that gives the book its title, the Demon lords’ story ends where it began, with the arrival of an emissary from the witch court, demanding fealty.
We have Eddison’s wonderful story only in ebook form, for iPad, NOOK, Android tablet, or PC. So if you have a mobile device:
Check the WRL catalog for The Worm Ouroboros