The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Lair of the White Worm, Bram Stoker’s last novel, was published one year before his death and written while the author’s health was failing. Biographers have speculated that the poor quality of the writing is a result of the author’s physically deteriorating condition and the possibility that he may have been under the influence of drugs used to control pain.

The story concerns Adam Salton, who returns to England from Australia and stays with his Uncle Richard in the family freehold in the heart of old Mercia in central England. Richard Salton’s friend, Sir Nathaniel de Salis, a geologist, natural historian, and president of the Mercian Archaeological Society, explains to Adam that Mercia was an ancient Anglian kingdom built on Roman ruins and that elemental forces still hold sway in the area’s peaks and caverns. These powers are localized at Mercy Farm, built on the ruins of an early Christian nunnery, and at Diana’s Grove, a thicket of ancient oaks.

Mercy Farm is tenanted by Michael Watford and his two granddaughters, Lilia and her cousin Mimi. Diana’s Grove and its ancient house belong to a mysterious and beautiful widow, Lady Arabella March. Lady Arabella was left cold and distant after a childhood encounter with a snake. She is, in actuality, the human manifestation of an ancient and immense dragon whose intelligence evolved over the centuries as her physical form diminished. She wishes to secure her fortune by...

(The entire section is 459 words.)