(Note: I try to steer clear of “news” on Sunday, as a way of observing the Sabbath. And also as a way of hanging on to my sanity.)
In his epic fantasy, The Worm Ouroboros, E. R. Eddison wrote in a unique and probably inimitable literary style and wrapped up the story in a brilliant, unexpected stroke that takes one’s breath away.
The story opens with the lords of Demonland, on the planet Mercury, holding a sumptuous wingding at one of their highly decorative palaces. In the midst of the festivities, a servant announces a visitor: “Sire, it is an ambassador from Witchland and his train. He craveth present audience.”
The ambassador’s message is so flagrantly insulting that it starts a major war. After many heroic exertions, and coming within an inch of losing the war, the Demons finally win, conquering the Witches root and branch–total victory.
Gathered to celebrate their triumph, they play host to a princess who is a special favorite of the gods, and whom they rescued from the Witches during the war. She tells them she has the power to appeal to the gods on their behalf, that they shall now be rewarded by having their greatest wish granted.
Well, the Demons have a problem: having wiped out Witchland, there’s nothing left for them to do, and they’re bored–bored to the point of desperation. Voicing their discontent, they can’t quite bring themselves to say what it is they really wish for. But the princess knows.
And suddenly the servant barges into the throne room with an astonishing announcement: “Sire, it is an ambassador from Witchland and his train. He craveth present audience.”
Well, who saw that coming?
It was a touch that made the book immortal, and very few writers would dare to do the same.
For those of you who wish to become fantasy writers, there is a lesson here: when you’re tempted to stop–don’t! Crash through the wall and let your imagination have its way.
And never, never end a chapter with a sentence like, “And then nothing much happened for the next four chapters.”
There’s not much point in writing a fantasy novel if you’re not going to be bold.