Origins of The Worm Ouroboros

Eddison as a young man

Eddison as a young man

In the vaults of the Bodleian Library lies a well-thumbed sketch book, dated 1892. It is filled with characters and adventures drawn from the imagination of a 10 year-old Eddison. The dashing features and costumes of Lords Juss, Brandoch Daha, Spitfire and ‘Goldy Blusoe’ of Demonland, fill the pages, as do their battles with their many adversaries, including Gorice II of Witchland and Fax Fay Faz of Impland. Incredibly these same characters and many of their adventures appeared in print 30 years later when The Worm Ouroboros was published.

In his autobiography Eddison’s childhood friend, Arthur Ransome, reflected on their early games, which included characters from The Worm Ouroboros, ‘The language, the place-names and the names of the heroes were for me an echo of those ancient days when Ric and I produced plays in a toy theatre with cardboard actors carrying just such names and eloquent with just such rhetoric. Gorice, Lord Goldry Bluszco, Corinius, Brandoch Daha seemed old friends when I met them nearly forty years later’.

In a letter written by Eddison to Ransome in 1935 he refers to Ransome’s affection for The Worm Ouroboros, ‘I am most awfully glad you approve of M[istress] of M[istresses]: glad too that she has not dethroned the Worm in your affections…Adel is probably, as you say, at the root of the Worm preference’. Adel was the village in West Yorkshire where Eddison and Ransome grew up and where they played together.

Childhood Drawings