matt martin

e.r. eddison’s fantasy novel the worm ouroboros appeared in 1922      the same year as james joyce’s ulysses      and presages the structure of joyce’s later finnegans wake      the plot is cyclic and loops back to the beginning      sadly this innovative shape is the one thing to recommend eddison’s book      it’s set on the planet mercury      where people have names like ‘king gaslark of goblinland’      the heroes are struggling against a witch-king who is reincarnated with different skills every time they kill him      this villain himself is thus trapped within cycles of death and rebirth      symbolised by the ouroboros ring he wears      a snake with its tail in its mouth      and just when he’s beaten for good and can rest      the heroes decide their adventures have been such fun that they will employ a magic wish and reset time back to the story’s beginning      so that they can enjoy it again      and again      the witch-king must therefore return to his reincarnations      and what of the reader      the book is introduced as a vision experienced by an earthling      but this framing device doesn’t reappear at the end      the dreamer and therefore the reader are trapped forever like the witch-king in an adventure not their own      as eddison swallows his own tale      how will you escape from this hell

     •    research the ouroboros to learn more of its nature
     •    make the witch-king the story’s hero and thus derail the narrative