Recently there's been some media hype about Peter Jackson's upcoming first installment of his Hobbit movies, to follow up on the Lord of the Rings series. And it got me to thinking about the books. The Hobbit had a major influence on me as a preteen. I remember my dad reading it to me and and my sister, in chapters when we were only maybe 6 or 7 years old.
I attempted to read the Lord of the Rings series in junior high and it bored me – in the field of fantasy literature, I was much more interested in Herbert's Dune, on the one hand, or LeGuin's Earthsea books, on the other. But returning to it a few years later, I genuinely appreciated Tolkien, and moved on to consume the Silmarilion voraciously and repeatedly. That's my favorite of them – I'm into mythopoeia, obviously.
But thinking about the Lord of the Rings, though, lead me to recall the work in the genre that is most impressive to me, despite it's deeply flawed mythopoesis: E.R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros. The text is available online. So I began reading it, again. There's a strange tonal and linguistic authenticity – a lack of anachronism, perhaps, vis-a-vis the fantastic, high-medieval material – though in fact, the material is almost pre-medieval, but rather classical or Homeric. Regardless, it works. But it's not an easy book – a novel written in the 1920's that is in almost flawless 17th century English.