The Wood Beyond the World is a fantasy novel by William Morris, perhaps the first modern fantasy writer to unite an imaginary world with the element of the supernatural, and thus the precursor of much of present-day fantasy literature. It was first published in hardcover by Morris's Kelmscott Press in 1894. Its importance in the history of fantasy literature was recognized by its republication by Ballantine Books as the third volume of the celebrated Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in July, 1969. The Ballantine edition includes an introduction by Lin Carter.
Morris considered his fantasies a revival of the medieval tradition of chivalrous romances. In consequence, they tend to have sprawling plots of strung-together adventures. His use of archaic language has been seen by some modern readers as making his fiction difficult to read.
When the wife of Golden Walter betrays him for another man, he leaves home on a trading voyage to avoid the necessity of a feud with her family. His efforts are fruitless, as word comes to him en route that his wife's clan has killed his father. As a storm then carries him to a faraway country, the effect of this news is merely to sunder his last ties to his homeland. Walter comes to the castle of an enchantress, from which he rescues a captive maiden in a harrowing adventure (or rather, she rescues him). They flee through a region inhabited by mini-giants, eventually reaching a city whose custom is to take as ruler when the throne is vacant the next foreigner to arrive. The late king having died, Walter and his new love are hailed as the new monarchs, and presumably live happily ever after.
When the novel was reissued in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series, James Blish noted that Morris's style was a successful recapturing of the style of Sir Thomas Malory, "all the way down to the marginal glosses and the nonstop compound sentences hitched together with scores of semicolons. He also recaptured much of the poetry; and if the reader will make the small effort necessary to accommodate himself to the rhythm of the style, he will find both it and the story rewarding."