On the Lines of Morris' Romances: Two Books That Inspired J. R. R. Tolkien-The Wood Beyond the World and the Well at the World's End Paperback – 23 Dec 2003
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Top customer reviews
In 'The Wood Beyond the World' a young man leaves home to escape the disappointment of his loveless marriage and to find adventure abroad. He follows a sort of 'vision' that comes to him very early in his travels, and arrives at an enchanted wood where he finds both love and peril. He's ensnared by 'the mistress' of the wood and falls in love with her slave. It's a tricky situation but fortunately for Walter, the slave is almost as powerful as the mistress, so even though escape is difficult, they do have a chance.
In 'The Well at the World's End' the youngest of four princes leaves home despite the wishes of his parents that he should stay. He falls in love twice in the course of his many adventures and almost every woman he meets falls in love with him. He and his second love seek the well at the world's end, the water of which extends life and youth. They have to overcome several very daunting obstacles before they can get to the well, but they're young, brave and strong and the mere appearance of impossibility cannot deter them.
Both stories are enjoyable but some readers might find the writing style a bit of a challenge. Morris used an archaised form of English - "Yea, yea; what though willest ..." - and that sort of thing. I got used to it pretty quickly and found it added to my enjoyment. Others may feel differently so it's only fair to mention this unusual style for those who might find it less attractive. I recommend these books/this volume to everyone who likes fantasies and who can enjoy (or at least not mind) the archaic style of writing.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The text is printed in two columns, as in a magazine. It's very readable and aesthetically pleasing (don't judge by the unfortunate cover). The only downside is that Morris originally published his books in an elaborate illuminated manuscript style (like [...]). Unfortunately no modern printing of Morris seems to include his gorgeous original format. On the plus side, this edition is definitely more readable.
As for the stories themselves, I think it's fair to say Tolkien (and to a degree C.S. Lewis) retained every innovation Morris made, more or less replacing him. It's likely that only hardcore Tolkien/Lewis fans will find these books worth reading. Compare Tolkien's Gandalf and his horse Shadowfax to 'The Well at the World's End' character Gandolf and the horse Silverfax.
The text is widely available free online (though it's not fun to read on a screen), so you might test a few pages before committing to a purchase: [...]
I gave this review 5-stars only because of how great the stories are. The formatting of this book is horrible. It is the size of a textbook with 2 columns per page. I think it would have been better using a standard paperback format, but this seems to be the only available edition out, so look past this and enjoy the amazing stories!