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The Wood Beyond the World

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,625 ratings  ·  148 reviews
"The Wood Beyond the World" was first published in 1894 and its author, William Morris is often considered one of the authors who aided in the growth of fantasy, utopian literature, and science fiction. C.S. Lewis cites William Morris as one of his favorite authors and J.R.R. Tolkein admits to being influenced greatly by Morris' fantasies. The hero of this romance is named ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published April 20th 2001 by Borgo Press (first published 1894)
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Average rating 3.58  · 
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 ·  1,625 ratings  ·  148 reviews

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Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fantasy fans who aren't put off by archaic language
Shelves: classics, fantasy
Note, July 22, 2019: I edited this review just now, to correct a minor typo.

For Morris (who was not only a writer, but an artist, scholar, and handicraft enthusiast as well), medieval Europe was a still-relevant social and economic model for the regeneration of modern society. It also profoundly influenced his creativity. His fantasies, which are (along with those of Lord Dunsany and George MacDonald) among the most influential works in the genre before Tolkien, are set in a medieval environment
Debbie Zapata
Jun 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: saturdaymx
This is around the third time I have read this book, and I still enjoyed it, but I need to remember to let more than just a few years go by before the next reading. I was fuzzy enough on details this time to not remember exactly what would happen. Until I got to various dramatic scenes, and then the consequences of them would scroll through my brain like a movie trailer. This did not exactly spoil the book for me, but it would certainly have been more fun if I had not been able to remember anyth ...more
Kimberley doruyter
Apr 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
what the hell did i just read
Feb 08, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Although a continuous narrative, this was a book of three distinct phases for me.

Firstly was the set up, how Walter came to be in the "Woods beyond the World". During this part I was still getting use to the antiquated prose and narrative style, finding my rhythm while not much interesting happened plot wise.

Then I got to the central part of the story, in which Walter becomes embroiled in a strange love square. While Walter sits back and passively waits for events to unfold, the others conspire
David Mosley
Apr 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
William Morris's The Wood beyond the World is an excellent example of the Faerie Romance. Walter of Langton, finds himself on foreign soil and stumbles his way into what can only be called Faerie. There he falls in love with what must be an Elf-maiden and must battle a dwarf, an enchantress, and an evil man before he can escape from that Perilous Realm. Even then, the lovers' woes are not over. Uncertainty amongst the Bears and the people of Stark-Wall must be overcome before any ending, happy o ...more
Nov 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I was really surprised by this story. I thought that based on how long ago it was written it was going to be more boring than exciting. I was wrong! I can see where other authors fell in love with this story and wanted to write their own.

Morris doesn't pull any punches for describing an "alien" place. The way he weaves the characters and situations is captivating. The ending leaves you for wanting more.

Much like Edgar Rice Burrough's inspiration, William Morris helped to start the heroic fantasy
Jul 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a true myth. I loved this book partly because I can see forshadows of Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Peake, Charles Williams and many other great writers of fantasy. What is the real world? And what must one do to find it? I make all things new, our Lord said. Write it down. That is humankind's hope, Christian or not. This myth leads one on a journey toward that new heaven and earth might begin to look like. The edition I have is a facsimile of the Kelmscott Press Edition-Gothic letters and Morri ...more
Dave Maddock
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: masochistic Tolkien fans who think the Silmarillion is the bestest
Shelves: fantasy
I am convinced that all ratings of this book are inflated by at least one star because people know going in that Morris was a key figure in the development of modern fantasy and an important influence on Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Granted, there are several of good ideas here which are utilized much more effectively by Morris' intellectual heirs--archaism, medieval revival, appropriation of myth, etc. However, these are not deftly applied here. This book simply cannot stand on its own without the po
Feb 22, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: classic-fantasy
The works of William Morris were hugely influential in the development of the fantasy genre. It's necessary to note that, because some of the characteristics of this book, while groundbreaking at the time, have since passed into overuse, cliche, and scorn. Notably, it's written in faux-archaic language in mimicry of medieval romances, and the plot has more than a hint of adolescent wish-fulfillment. A book like this written today would probably be considered garbage (at least to publishers and l ...more
Miriam Cihodariu
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: england
It's easy to understand why William Morris (and this book of his in particular) inspired both Tolkien and Lewis so much. It talks of strange and almost-human races, of high fantasy themes and enchanted forests, and reminds you of common images from both the works of Tolkien and Lewis (but mostly the former).

The language is old English and you shouldn't expect to read this book with your usual speed, but it's worth it. The Bear-men reminded me of Beorn and his family, the Maid and her wedding (co
Oct 16, 2019 rated it liked it
One star is gained just for this: "Yea, in his bed he died: but first he was somewhat sword-bitten.”
Daniel Ionson
Apr 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
This is another of those books one reads for the archaic prose.
Jan 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
I was drawn to this book because of its unusual title (you'd expect it to be The World Beyond the Wood) and because of Morris's influence on the development of the high-fantasy genre.

With only later works e.g. Tolkien under my belt, I hadn't much of an idea what to expect from Morris. Two things were apparent after the first few pages:

(1) The archaic language was off-putting and greatly diminished my enjoyment.
(2) The plot was slow and scant (and opaque due to the language).

To be clear: it's not
Even though it is not really deserving of five stars, I'm feeling generous today, so there.

I confess to being a fan-girl of William Morris, and as far as I am concerned everything he has ever created deserves eleven out of ten stars. Those wallpaper designs.......the man is a god............Red House, do you need more proof than that?

To me this fantasy is an exercise in wish fulfillment. Golden Walter is clearly an autobiographical character. Jane Morris is the to the true identity o
Marts  (Thinker)
Apr 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, classics
Morris's fantasy novel in which the protagonist Walter or Golden Walter leaves his home to go on a trading voyage since his wife has betrayed him, but his evil wife orchestrates his father's death whilst he is away. Well he's informed and decides to return home but on the way there's this storm which causes him to end up in this really strange country, and he comes upon some castle, meets this fair maiden, has a series of adventures through the 'wood beyond the world', and guess what ends up bec ...more
Simon Mcleish
May 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in December 1999.

The earliest of Morris' fantasy stories, The Wood Beyond the World is short and simply told, in the style derived from medieval romance that is his trademark. The story is one which emphasises the psychological world at the expense of the plot, and has the curious feature of an ending which seems to forget about the beginning.

Driven from his home by an unhappy marriage, Walter Goldn is haunted by a recurring vision of a lady, an attendant mai
E.A. Lawrence
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was ok
This was only okay in part because after reading the Well At The World's End I had extraordinarily high expectations. This book has lovely, lyrical prose but the story seemed confused and I object to two big things. Thing 1: the female characters had no names, only archetype appellations like The Lady and the Maid. Thing 2: the female characters did all the big work of the story and plot while the protagonist, Walter, seemingly gets all the benefit and never bothers to learn anyone's name. Grrrr ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
While interesting because of its influence on later fantasy writers, I struggled to like this book and even to finish reading it. It most reminded me of George McDonald's fantasies, in which a dream-like quality prevails as incongruous events follow one another without much sensible explanation.

It is certainly very "adult" in the prevalence of lust, violence, and nudity (all related in delicate ways that are not as offensive as a modern novel would be, but still...). And the archaic language wa
Lynette Caulkins
This early fantasy work is a perfect literary depiction of William Morris's textile design style. Fanciful, woodsy, creatures peaking out here and there. As a quilter of several decades, I've been quite familiar with his artistic works, but I didn't know until now that he was also an author.

This is definitely an artist's tale. The archaic language adds much to the dream-like atmosphere. "To wit," this is something like reading a well-rendered 19th-century telling of an opium-enhanced dream that
Oct 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, carpool-book
This wasn't actually half-bad, for a late Victorian-era tale of faerie. Some predictably problematic things -- like the Maid's magic being dependent on her virginity -- but also some sort of interesting aspects, like the fact that the protagonist ends up being little more than a witness (well, part witness and part tool used by either side) in the central battle of magic and deception between two powerful women.
Knox Merkle
Jun 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Angela Brown
Jul 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
I thought this was a beautifully written and memorable as a very early example of faerie romance/fantasy. If you do start reading Morris because of the trail of influence on Tolkien, you can find examples of what might have lit Tolkien's luminous flame in these pages, but it depends on the aspect of Tolkien's writing that you focus on. For me, one of the aspects of Tolkien's word-weaving, is as a wonderfully gifted nature writer in a fantasy context. Tolkien had an incredible ability to draw lan ...more
Jaakko Ojala
Apr 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I read this book due to C.S. Lewis' comment about J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis wrote to his friend about Tolkien that, "he had grown up on William Morris and George MacDonald." So, having respect for both Lewis and Tolkien, I wanted to find out what they had grown up on. The book was a romance and did give a good space and place to think over my own entangled romantic feelings and experiences. Fantasy literature in general has and especially this book had an effect of taking the dust out of my difficul ...more
May 07, 2009 rated it liked it
If you like interesting old-fashioned words. If you like Beowulf for it's style. Read this.

I had mistakenly added this instead of the second volume of The Well At the World's End - only realizing my mistake now that I have listened to the Librivox version. What's my problem? Confoozled. Anyway, although I didn't like this one as much as aformentioned WATWE, it still had all the lovely language and the straight-out-of-a-tapestry style story. Morris really does create a world unto itself in each o
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, ebook
Took me ages to get through this, mainly because of being away for Christmas, travelling, getting home. Any other time I'd have read it much quicker.

I think I read somewhere that Tolkien was inspired by William Morris and I can see that connection here between this and the earlier stories he wrote where real life met Faerie.

Intend to read more by William Morris in the future. It's interesting to see how the fantasy genre has changed.

Did find it confusing at points because of my stop-start readin
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 10, 2012 rated it liked it
An interesting neo-medieval romance with some tell-tale moments that foreshadow the true early fantasy of Lord Dunsany. A good example of escapism and worth the read.
Jul 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
The creaky faux-archaic diction does nothing to cover up the fact that this is an intensely banal story, whatever larger influence it may have had notwithstanding.
Payson Dunn
I hesitate when I say this is the worst book I have ever read, only because so many people seemed to have enjoyed it. Frankly, I am beginning to wonder if we are even reading the same book.
This book reads like a weird fan fiction. (I’m not sure of what, medieval romances perhaps?) I’m pretty sure it is his own personal male fantasy. It's pretty easy to read Walter as a self-insert, the original Mary Sue (Mary Sue), especially in light of Jane Morris’ affairs (Jane Morris). Allow me to make my c
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
First off, this is literally a beautiful book, as it is a facsimile of Morris's Kelmscott Press edition, with his own typeface and decorations. Second, of the Morris books I have read, it is probably the one I like the most, perhaps because it is the most compact of them. Morris's characteristic figures, superficially the stereotypes of romance (mysterious woman, brave young man, sometimes not even given names--e.g. the heroine here is simply known as the Maid), but colored by complex but often ...more
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William Morris was an English architect, furniture and textile designer, artist, writer, socialist and Marxist associated with the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Morris wrote and published poetry, fiction, and translations of ancient and medieval texts throughout his life. His best-known works include The Defence of Guenevere and Other Poems (1858), The Earthl ...more

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