The Sundering Flood Critical Essays

William Morris


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Sundering Flood is the last of a series of heroic fantasies that William Morris wrote during the final decade of his life. In it, he dramatized the democratic ideal toward which he worked in his public role as spokesman for the Socialist League. This ideal is visible from the novel’s beginning, when, even though he is the youngest member of the household, Osberne’s keen sense and bravery earn him the position of family spokesman. That is not to say that there is unanimity; one man, known as Surly John, speaks out against him but is shouted down by the rest. Surly John is never punished for his opposition, illustrating Morris’ view that democracy must be founded on tolerance.

Later, when trouble threatens, the people hold a Thing-Mote or town meeting to select Osberne as their war leader. This is not a position Osberne seeks, but the will of the people and his own recognition of his ability are too strong for him to decline. A strict democrat might protest against the “tyranny of the majority” visible in this election, but not when the minority consists only of Surly John.

The final articulation of the democratic spirit is made visible in the City of the Sundering Flood, where an unjust king is driven out by an alliance of small craftsmen, local husbandmen, and Sir Godrick’s loose band of free knights. The people choose a town council dominated by the crafts guilds, which in turn elects a Burgreve or town sheriff. As...

(The entire section is 407 words.)