The Well at the World's End

Infobox Book |
name = The Well at the World's End
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = Covers of "The Well at the World's End", vols. 1-2, Ballantine Books, 1970
author = William Morris
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = England
language = English
series =
genre = Fantasy novel
publisher = The Kelmscott Press
release_date = 1896
english_release_date =
media_type = Print (Hardback)
pages =
isbn = NA
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Well at the World's End" is a fantasy novel by the British artist, poet, and author William Morris. It was first published in 1896 and has been reprinted a number of times since, most notably in two parts as the twentieth and twenty-first volumes of the "Ballantine Adult Fantasy series" in August and September 1970. It is also available in one volume along with a similar Morris tale, "The Wood Beyond the World", in "On the Lines of Morris' Romances: Two Books that Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien."

Plot summary

Using language with elements of the medieval tales which were his models, Morris tells the story of Ralph of Upmeads, the fourth and youngest son of a minor king, who sets out, contrary to his parents' wishes, to find knightly adventure and seek the Well at the World's End, a magic well which will confer a near-immortality and strengthened destiny on those who drink from it.

Ralph meets a mysterious lady who has drunk from the well, and they become lovers. However, she is killed, and with the help of Ursula, another maiden whom he meets upon the way, Ralph eventually attains the Well.


Although the novel is relatively obscure by today's standards it has had a significant influence on many notable fantasy authors. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien both seem to have found inspiration in "The Well at the World's End": ancient tables of stone, a "King Peter", a quick, white horse named "Silverfax", and a character named "Gandalf" are only a few, to say nothing of Ralph's journey home as denouement, anticipating the Hobbits' return and battle for the Shire. Fact|date=June 2007

In an October 1914 letter to his future wife, Tolkien told her, "Amongst other work I am trying to turn one of the short stories [of the Finnish Kalevala] ... into a short story somewhat on the lines of Morris's romances with chunks of poetry in between." Fact|date=June 2007


The copyright for this story has expired in the United States, and thus now resides in the public domain. The text is available via Project Gutenberg.

External links

*gutenberg|no=169|name=The Well at the World's End

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