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Literature: World Without End
This page is for the book by Ken Follett. For the classic 1950s sci-fi film World Without End.

The sequel novel to Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth, set 200 years later in Kingsbridge priory and featuring the descendants of the main characters in the previous novel. The catalyst for the tale begins when a group of children sneak away from festivities at Kingsbridge cathedral on Halloween 1327. The children witness a shocking bit of court intrigue. The main character this time is Merthin, the eldest son of a knight and descendant of Jack Builder from the original book. He's passed over by his father for knighthood and forced to become a builder. He quickly proves to be a prodigy at the trade and, like his ancestor, becomes a leading citizen in his efforts to build the small community into something greater. He must overcome many obstacles to realize his ambitions and earn the hand of his true love, Caris, who happens to be a descendant of Tom Builder from the original book. Merthin must deal with his vaguely familiar Jerk Ass brother, Ralph. Also featured is a peasant girl who is a good friend of Caris, Gwenda.

This novel shares many tropes with its predecessor, due to similarity in setting, plots, and themes.

A Mini Series adaptation, aired in the US in November 2012 and the UK in January 2013.


Tropes associated with World Without End

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Ralph for Philippa
  • Abusive Parents: Gwenda's dad won't win any father of the year awards.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the books, Caris is viewed as ordinary and Merin rather odd-looking. In the mini-series Caris is described the most beautiful women of Kingsbridge and Merin is played by the handsome Tom Weston-Jones.
  • All Men Are Perverts: Ralph, Alan, Bishop Richard, Merthin. Philemon is an inverse example, being completely asexual and having a lust for power.
  • As the Good Book Says: Repeatedly, sometimes to devious ends, as when Godwin convinces the monks to leave the town.
  • Author Appeal: Ken Follett must really like sex. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
  • The Baby Trap: Subverted Trope Merthin thinks he impregnated Griselda, so he propose to her, pressed also by her parents for a Shotgun Wedding but when he find out that the baby isn't his and everybody but him know this he refuse to marry a woman he despise.
    • Another Subverted Trope with Gwenda and Wulfric, though she never force him to marry her.
    • Finally played straight with Philippa and Ralph, although they're already married. She seduce him for make him believing he's the father but actually the father is his brother!
  • Bastard Understudy: Godwyn made Philemon this. Going by the ending, Philemon ended up a Dirty Coward rather than a bastard of any type.
  • Beta Couple: Gwenda and Wulfric.
  • The Black Death: Hits Kingsbridge hard—but not as hard as it might have thanks to Caris.
  • Big Little Brother: Ralph is this to Merthin.
  • Butch Lesbian: Mair is as much of one as any woman could be in Medieval times.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Lolla is this at first but she gets better.
  • Bury Your Gays: Mair dies of the plague, as does Thomas's implied lover. Of course, since it was the Black Death, they were hardly the only ones killed off. Countered, somewhat, by Bishop Henri, who, by the end of the book, is noted as all but married to his male lover.
  • Break the Haughty: Annete, an arrogant young woman who loves seeing men fighting for her and dumps a good man just because he becomes poor gets brutally raped by Ralph she even becomes The Woobie, despite her dickish behaviour.
  • Chick Magnet: Merthin is very popular among ladies.
  • Christianity is Catholic: As with the first novel, appropriate, as the Reformation was yet to come.
  • Composite Character: A huge one in the miniseries, as Brother Thomas is also King Edward II.
  • Corrupt Church: The Priory, under Godwyn and Philemon is rather unholy, to say the least.
  • Daddy's Girl: Caris is very close to her father.
  • Death of the Hypotenuse: After Caris joins the nunnery, Merthin marries another woman, and Caris gets involved in a relationship with another nun. Then The Black Death happens, and they're both single again.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Given the Same Story, Different Names nature of the plot, you might expect Godwyn to fill Prior Philip's shoes as the zealous priory reformer. It turns out he's got more in common with Waleran, and his POV sections fade away as he grows more villainous.
  • Despair Event Horizon: When it seems to Caris that she lost everything, she starts to fall into apathy. This is when people realize how badly they need her, leading her to earn her happy ending after all, subverting this trope.
  • Door Stopper: Even longer than The Pillars of the Earth.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: Gwenda's plan to make Wulfric love her? Drug him so he's horny, then have sex with him. He resists this, but then she seduces him when he's half-asleep and crazy with grief. Aside from a comment from Caris pondering the morality of these actions, it's treated as perfectly fine, and Gwenda isn't given nearly the bad treatment that Ralph gets for behaving similarly towards her.
  • Dramatic Thunder: When Godwyn appears in the cemetery, only to die moments later.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Everyone and anyone.
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: The characters keep themselves very busy. It's actually a good use of the trope, as the sex scenes are not Ikea Erotica and don't overshadow the plot.
  • Feudal Overlord: Ralph.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Queen Isabel, the She-Wolf of France, although she's only mentioned, she's a bright example and her action have a significant impact on the plot. Oh, and have I mentioned this trope is Truth in Television?
  • Good People Have Good Sex
  • Good Is Dumb: Wulfric's not a genius, but he's one of the nicest people in the novel.
  • Historical Fiction: Sir Thomas Langley knows a secret about the real-life murder of King Edward II. Ralph fights at Crecy and saves the life of Edward, the Black Prince. Caris pleads her case to the Black Prince's father, King Edward III. Also Historical-Domain Character.
  • Holier Than Thou: Godwyn.
  • Hospital Hottie: Caris is definitely this.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Pretty much, comparing to The Pillars of the Earth.
  • The House of Plantagenet: Edward III.
  • Hundred Years War: The story takes place during this time, and features the Battle of Crecy.
  • The Immune: It is stated several times that those who catch the plague and recover never catch it again. Examples include Merthin and Brother Thomas. Then there are some people who seem to be naturally immune, such as Caris and Merthin's daughter Lolla.
  • Kicked Upstairs: Philemon, at the end of the book.
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: Ralph, during an attempt of Luke, I Am Your Father to Sam.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Rather abruptly subverted with Ralph, leading to Killed Mid-Sentence.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: Gwenda tells Ralph that Sam is his son to avoid him being hanged.
  • Medieval Morons: Largely averted. While many characters are shown to be resistant to new ideas, it is far from a universal trait, and often the people opposing any changes or reforms have something to gain by upholding the status quo.
  • Missed the Call: Saul Whitehead would have been the Prior Philip expy... if Godwyn hadn't gotten to him.
  • Missing Mom: Caris' mother died in the early chapters.
  • Morality Chain: Merthin is a downplayed version of this to Ralph. Ralph only feels shame when he thinks of how his brother would disapprove of his behaviour, but this never actually stops him from committing any evil acts.
  • Naughty Nuns / Sexy Priest: Many of the priests, monks, and nuns still have sexual relations despite their vows of chastity.
  • Nun Too Holy: Caris is essentially an agnostic, and not good at following her oaths of chastity and obedience.
  • Nurture Over Nature
  • Parental Substitute: Aunt Petranilla try to be this to Caris, but she failed.
  • Personal Mook: Godwyn has Philemon, and Ralph has Alan Fernhill.
  • The Plague: The Black Death, no less.
  • Politically Correct History: Averted with the town of Kingsbridge as a whole, but Caris's views on... well, pretty much anything would be standard for a twenty-first century, agnostic liberal.
  • Rags to Riches: Merthin fills this trope.
  • Rape as Drama: C'mon, Ralph.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: William, Bishop Henri, Mother Cecilia and generally neutral characters who are not personally involved in the conflicts. Nathan Reeve also has elements of this.
  • Retired Badass: Brother Thomas was a knight. He had good reasons for became a monk.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Godwyn's cat Archbishop. Later Philemon also has one.
  • Romancing the Widow: Ralph first approach to Philippa. She doesn't even want to hear about it so he switchs to And Now You Must Marry Me level.
  • Same Story, Different Names: This novel and its predecessor share a great many plot points. Both are about a genius architect in Kingsbridge who invents the next stage of architecture, but must overcome countless obstacles impeding his building project and love life. They also both feature a court secret that is introduced in the very beginning and not revealed until close to the end of the story. They both feature a battle scene in which a sympathetic POV character observes and an antagonist POV character fights. Both involve the POV characters asking the king for favors. Both feature as antagonists an evil knight who's fond of rape and a ruthless, power-hungry cleric.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Done by Ralph to Gwenda. Several times. Until he gets killed for it.
  • Shovel Strike: Sam uses one as an Improvised Weapon and actually kills his target with it.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: Merthin and Ralph, Philemon and Gwenda, Caris and Alice
  • Sinister Minister: Godwyn is not a positive influence on Kingsbridge.
  • Situational Sexuality: After becoming a novice nun, our heroine Caris has a fling with another nun. There also several other side-character monks/priests or nuns who have similar relationships, though some of them are indicated to be outright homosexuals rather than situation ones.
  • Smug Snake: Godwyn fancies himself a Magnificent Bastard, but the plague proves otherwise.
  • Sneeze of Doom : And how.
  • Spirited Young Lady: Caris is utterly bright for medieval standards.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Caris and Merthin can't catch a break.
  • Stay in the Kitchen: Caris' nightmare and main reason for refusing marriage.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Mair and Caris when they go to France. Justified by their fear of what could happen to a pair of unaccompanied women in a warzone.
  • Time Skip: A 10 year skip happens 3 times during the story.
  • Title Drop: During one of Godwyn's prayers.note 
  • The Unfavorite: Merthin designed a full safe bridge, became a wealthy builder, and made riches unfathomable by most in the town. His father only cares whether or not Ralph becomes a knight again.
  • Villainous Crush: Ralph is obsessed with poor Philippa.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Elizabeth Clerk, being set up as a villain, loses the prioress election to Caris... and is never heard from again.
  • Witch Hunt: Literally. Caris is forced to become a nun to avoid execution for witchcraft.

Wolf HallHistorical Fiction LiteratureYoung Royals
World War ZLiterature of the 2000sWWW Trilogy

alternative title(s): World Without End
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