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William Morris - The Wood Beyond The World

For many readers and listeners, William Morris invented the genre of fantasy fiction. His novel The Wood Beyond the World transports his hero, Walter the Golden, from the English village of Langton-on-Holm across the seas to a magical kingdom in a forest beyond the known world, ruled by the Mistress, an extraordinarily beautiful, complex, and sinister woman.

There he meets the Maid, a woman captured, enslaved, and tortured by the Mistress, who has magical powers of her own. By the strength of their love and the wisdom of the Maid, she and Walter make their escape through the land of the People of the Bear to the kingdom of Starkwall, where a fate even more extraordinary awaits them.

Morris wrote his novels in a courtly, old-fashioned language reminiscent of Malory's Morte d'Arthur and the French romances. His language had a lasting influence; Tolkien's early works are in very much the same style, and other writers working in the fantasy genre followed suit as well.

For a modern reader, this story offers an escape into a magical world, where true beauty emerges from the soul, not from the skin, and where bravery and love can still win happiness in the end.

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