Wood Beyond the World
by William Morris

Synopsis

This synopsis will contain spoilers!

Golden Walter lives in the town of Langston, his father a successful merchant. His wife's infidelity drives him to leave his home, however, in search of adventure and distraction. Upon reviewing the ship that will take him away, he sees a dwarf, a Maid with a bracelet on her ankle indicating she is a thrall, and a great Lady. They seem to disappear onto a nearby ship.

Walter leaves, and enjoys successful trading with his companions. In the last town, however, a messenger arrives with the knowledge that his father has passed away. Heartbroken, Walter plans to leave the next day. He sees another vision of the Dwarf, the Maid, and the Lady. They begin their journey home, but a great storm overtakes them and drives them off course. They find land much later, and well of course.

In this new land they find a hermit who offers them a place to stay, and what supplies they can. When the men go off to hunt, Walter stays behind to talk with him. The man tells him that a path nearby leads to the Men of Bear, ferocious people that will kill him if he enters there land. He also tells vaguely of how he went on a journey, the first step of which involved stepping over the body of another. When Walter asks if a nearby trail was the first step in that path, the old man says it was not, but Walter thinks he is lying.

Walter takes the path in secret, and after a tough journey over mountains, finds himself in a pleasant land. There he encounters the Dwarf from his visions. The creature displeases Walter, but indicates that Walter was expected. Walter continues on, meeting the Maid next. She asks for a moment to think, and Walter leaves her to it. When he returns, she asks if Walter loves her, and he says he does. She says the same, and declares that she must trust him if they are to escape together. Walter agrees not to touch her in the meantime, and to do whatever he must to survive until she tells him it is time to flee.

Walter finally arrives at a great golden house, where the beautiful Lady resides, as well as King's Son. She and the King's Son express affection for each other, but ignore Walter. He sees them together several times, and he is effectively ignored.

One day, the Lady asks for him to accompany her as her squire, and they go hunting. She is much warmer and open with him. He rescues her from a lion, and the affection grows. They kiss. Subsequently they sleep together. Meanwhile, the King's Son now expresses interest in the Maid and she seems to comply. However, Walter and the Maid meet in secret and she tells him to be ready on a certain time and place. The Maid knowingly allows the Dwarf to hear, but later gives Walter other instructions. The Lady, knowing about the meeting with the Maid, gets Walter to agree to a meeting at the same time.

Walter waits for the Maid, thus snubbing the Lady. He hears a great scream, and then the Maid arrives. Together they flee from the golden house. The Maid tells how the Lady killed the King's Son, believing it to be Walter, and then killed herself upon realizing what she had done. Walter is forced to kill the Dwarf as they flee.

Their journey brings them to the Men of the Bear, who believe the Maid to be their god. She obtains safe passage through the land and to a new kingdom where Walter and the Maid are separated. Without a word, Walter is taken inside where he is stripped and bathed. After he wakes, he is marched naked before all the men of the kingdom, then offered a choice of clothes. He chooses the warriors raiment, and is made King of the land, according to the Kingdoms custom. He asks for the Maid to be brought before him, and she is made Queen.

They live happily together in the Kingdom and produce a great line of heirs.

Reviews

Quotes

"Awhile ago there was a young man dwelling in a great and goodly city by the sea which had to name Langton on Holm."

William Morris the First Line of Wood Beyond the World

"Now of Walter and the Maid is no more to be told, saving that they begat between them goodly sons and fair daughters; whereof came a great lineage in Stark-wall; which lineage was so strong, and endured so long a while, that by then it had died out, folk had clean forgotten their ancient Custom of king-making, so that after Walter of Langton there was never another king that came down to them poor and lonely from out of the Mountains of the Bears. "

William Morris the Last Line of in Wood Beyond the World

"Sweet and dear friend, I have come a long way from the quay at Langton, and the vision of the Dwarf, the Maid, and the Lady; and for this kiss wherewith I have kissed thee e’en now, and the kindness of thine eyes, it was worth the time and the travail."

William Morris in Wood Beyond the World

"Dear friend, dost thou speak to me thus mournfully to move me to love thee better?  Then is thy labour lost; for no better may I love thee than now I do; and that is with mine whole heart."

William Morris in Wood Beyond the World

Originally Published Jan. 1, 1894

Digital edition:

118 pages - March 17, 2011

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