Eric Rücker Eddison, 1882-1945

Portrait

Biographical note

English author, best known for his early romance The Worm Ouroboros [1922] and his three volumes set in the imaginary world Zimiamvia, known as the Zimiamvian Trilogy: Mistress of Mistresses [1935], A Fish Dinner in Memison [1941], and The Mezentian Gate [1958].

These early works of high fantasy drew strong praise from J. R. R. Tolkien (see especially Letter 199 in the collected letters), C. S. Lewis (see the Tribute to E. R. Eddison in On Stories and Other Essays on Literature), and Ursula Le Guin (see the essay "From Elfland to Poughkeepsie" in The Language of the Night). Privately Tolkien found the underlying philosophy rebarbative, and clashed with Eddison at their sole meeting, while he in return thought Tolkien's views "soft". The books are written in a meticulously recreated Jacobean prose style, seeded throughout with fragments, often acknowledged but often frankly stolen, from his favorite authors and genres: Homer and Sappho, Shakespeare and Webster, Norse Saga and French medieval lyric.

They exhibit a thoroughly aristocratic sensibility; heroes and villains alike maintain an Olympian indifference to convention. Fellow fantasy author Michael Moorcock wrote that his characters, particularly villains, are more vivid than Tolkien's. Others have observed that while it is historically accurate to depict the great of the world trampling on the lower classes, his characters often treat their subjects with arrogance and insolence, and this is depicted as part of their greatness. Indeed, at the end of The Worm Ouroboros, the heroes, finding peace dull, pray for and get the revival of their enemies, so that they may go and fight them again, regardless of the casualties that such a war would have.

Works

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