« The Serpent Ouroboros », founding stone of fantasy

JRR Tolkien is considered one of the founding fathers of fantasy and remains the best known of them all. But did this literary genre have grandparents? In 1922, more than thirty years before « The Lord of the Rings », appeared « The Serpent Ouroboros », signed Eric Rücker Eddison, published this year in France by Callidor in a « centenary edition ». And it is an understatement to say that Tolkien was enthralled by reading this novel. “Rücker Eddison is the greatest and most compelling ‘invented worlds’ writer I have read. »

A passion for Icelandic sagas

The two men had many points in common, starting with a passion for Icelandic sagas, myths and legends, which irrigated their imagination until they led them to forge their own marvelous universe. But Tolkien had at least one criticism of Eddison: “I found his nomenclature lame and often inept. Because this is one of the main differences between the two writers. When Tolkien, a philologist, went so far as to invent a complete alphabet and a coherent Elvish language to build his Middle Earth as an academic, Eddison plunged back into his childhood notebooks when composing his work.

Taken from his childhood diaries

From ten years old, he was already drawing the adventures of the lords of Demonia that are Juss, Spitfire, Goldry Bluszco and Brandoch Daha, and too bad if these names, within the same family, seem to have no common logic. As an adult, Eddison wanted to finish what he was telling himself as a toddler, automatically sealing the link between fantasy and fairy tales discovered from an early age. He did so while retaining a childlike Manichaeism, a certain taste for epic twists, and… an all-Elizabethan language, as well as a pronounced love for meticulous descriptions of flamboyant armor and sumptuous palaces. The plot narrates the confrontations, sometimes comical, of Demons against Sorcerers, and follows like a charm. “This prose is excellent; fair, clear, vigorous… Nothing is artificial, nothing is vague; we see, we hear, we feel everything. This style is the authentic style of Eddison; it’s his voice, the voice of an artist”, appreciated Ursula K. Le Guin. Whom the first chapter of the “Serpent Ouroboros” immediately proves right. It narrates admirably how a man from our world receives the visit of a small martinet who offers him to fly away for the country of the Demons through a window. A tipping point that has given rise to children, from the magic wardrobe that opens the doors to the « World of Narnia » to the wall of a station platform in « Harry Potter » that takes it directly from our London to the land of wizards .


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