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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whose woods these are....

I'm back home!  Seoul was amazing---the city, the culture, the energy.  Sometimes I wonder what Morris's life would have been like if he lived in the era of plane travel.  He was such a sponge for knowledge of traditional arts and craft.  Would the sheer task of mastering the world's art history have overwhelmed him?  Probably not.

If you've been reading this blog regularly for the last few months, you are by now familiar with many of Morris's lesser-known-amazing-accomplishments---but wait!  there's more!  Did you know that Morris essentially invented the modern genre of fictional fantasy writing?  Yes, it's true, and that giant of twentieth century fiction, J.R.R. Tolkien (The Lord of the Rings) lay his inspiration directly on Morris's doorstep.

A few weeks ago I stumbled across Tyrion Frost's Fantasy Blog.  Tyrion (his nom de plume), 25 years old, reviews books in this genre and had just posted a review of William Morris's novel "The Wood Beyond the World".   It is an engaging testament to Morris's continuing influence in the 21st century and Tyrion agreed to let me post a few excerpts.  The red "editorial" comments are my own!   From Tyrion:

“The Wood Beyond the World” by William Morris begins with our hero, Golden Walter – a young man who happens to be in a very unhappy relationship. A man whom, upon coming to the conclusion that his new bride essentially hates him, decides to flee his home and set sail upon one of his father’s ships.  [hmmmm....sounds suspiciously auto-biographical]

 Kelmscott edition, 1894

"To begin, The Wood Beyond the world isn’t your typical sword and sorcery, slash em’ up type of fantasy — not at all. If anything, I’d say this novel is more of a medieval romance – one singed with fantasy elements..such as subtle magic, a queen of a strange world, an ugly dwarf, and of course..a lovely maiden slave whom’ longs to leave the Wood Beyond the World! A maiden whose fate soon intertwines with Walter – as they both fall deeply and madly in love.   [I (as Tolkien and Peter Jackson?) am picturing Walter as Viggo Mortensen aka Aragorn....]

"Written in a very archaic, Middle-English tone, I was a bit nervous when getting into “The Wood Beyond the World” – and a bit weary that I would spend more time deciphering the language than actually enjoying the story (lots of thees..and thous, and betwixt, etc). Luckily, I soon discovered that the language didn’t hinder my enjoyment at all, but actually enhanced it. After just a few chapters I was completely in love with the beautiful language, and felt as though I were reading something truly magical....

....."So, with that said, The World Beyond the World (sic) is an epic tale of romance, adventure, and love – all set in a very dream-like medieval world – a world that sucked me in and had me absolutely glued to each page. From the ethereal prose, to the beautifully crafted artwork, to the sympathetic and likeable characters, I can easily say that this is one novel that will truly stay with me."

You can read Tyrion's complete review here.  Thanks Tyrion!  You can read the novel on-line for free here (and you can also link to the original Kelmscott Edition, in Morris's original font, from that page as well).