Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic
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This is a reread, and it's of the Kindle edition, not the paperback, so my status is in percent read. I do happen to own this paperback version -- both Volume I and II -- but it's buried on a shelf.
Anyway, I haven't read this in at least 15 years, so in many respects the material is almost new to me. The basics of the story are familiar, but I've forgotten a lot of details.
This is not a book I would recommend to just anyone. Morris's archaic, faux medieval English takes a bit of getting used to, for one thing. Also, The Well at the World's End has much less in common with The Lord of the Rings than the casual observer might think. Though Morris's writings had enormous influence on Tolkien, they aren't the same.
The Well takes place in a fanciful version of medieval England, where the little kingdom of Upmeads is one of several pseudo-countries in the geography. Ralph is the youngest of the four sons of King Peter of Upmeads. After his three older brothers set forth on adventures, Ralph is left home to tend the manor and take care of his parents. He decides that's not good enough and so runs away to have his own adventures.
At the time he runs away, he knows nothing of the Well. Nothing has forced him to leave Upmeads, and at least as far as I've read -- 20% -- there's nothing stopping him from going back.
In most novels in all genres, Something Happens outside the main character's control that sets events in motion. Whether it's the arrival of aliens from another planet, the death of a parent, the loss of a fortune, or whatever, the protagonist is thrust into circumstances he or she never anticipated and isn't prepared for.
I found the fact that Ralph just decides to set out on his own was a bit uncomfortable in terms of story construction, because I never established a bond with him. His predicaments are essentially of his own making, and it's difficult to have sympathy for a person, even a fictional one, who makes his own problems. So far, however, he hasn't really had any problems! This means there has been virtually no drama, no emotion, and very little action.
But I'm not sure that's the reason to read Morris: the importance of his writing is the style and the imagination he brought into it, the creation of an alternate reality in which some things are familiar -- horses and castles and churches and monks and saints -- and other things are not. This was one of Morris's last works, and the only one I've read beginning to end, so I'm looking forward to finishing this re-read and then gong on to the others.