The Wood Beyond the World
frontispiece to the Kelmscott edition
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
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. The book's importance in the history of fantasy literature was recognized by its republication by Ballantine Books as the third volume of the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series in July, 1969. The Ballantine edition includes an introduction by Lin Carter.
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. However, 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, and eventually reach the city of Stark-wall, whose custom, when the throne is vacant, is to take the next foreigner to arrive as ruler. The late king having died, Walter and his new love are hailed as the new monarchs. The two are married and presumably live happily ever after.
Morris considered his fantasies a revival of the medieval tradition of chivalrous romances. In consequence, they tend to have sprawling plots comprising strung-together adventures. His use of archaic language is a challenge to some readers.
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."
- LeMire, Eugene D. (2006). A Bibliography of William Morris. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press. pp. 186–194.
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- The Wood Beyond the World at Project Gutenberg
- The Wood Beyond the World public domain audiobook at LibriVox
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