The Wood Beyond the World

Supplementary Materials:

Anderson, Karl. "Scandinavian Elements in The Wood Beyond the World," From "Scandinavian Elements in the Works of William Morris." Diss., Harvard University, 1940, 367-68.

The Wood Beyond the World, which was published in 1894 and is the fourth in order of publication but actually the fifth in order of composition in the series of eight prose romances which Morris produced between 1888 and 1896, is, like The Well at the World’s End, a pure romance. Nevertheless, we find in this story, just as we did in The Glittering Plain and shall do in The Well, a few details that Morris seems to have borrowed from his Icelandic reading. Thus, there is one allusion to the custom of “hanselling”;3 one of the tribes described holds a “Mote”4 or, as it is once called, a “Man-mote”;5 and at the Mote-stead there is a “doom-ring.”6 These matters I have already discussed in detail in my treatment of the earlier romances.7 Furthermore, just as in the previous tales, there are several very vivid descriptions of mountain-scenery which, though to a less striking degree than in The Roots of the Mountains and The Story of the Glittering Plain, recall the mountainous country through which Morris travelled on his tours of Iceland.8 In this story we
  1. See, for example, The Saga Library, I, 126, 11.28-29. For an account of usury among the early Scandinavians see Mary W. Williams, Social Scandinavia in the Viking Age (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920), pp. 232-233 and the references to Norse lawbooks given there.
  2. See above, pages 326-327.
  3. See Collected Works, XVII, 61, 1.3.
  4. See ibid., XVII, 105, 11.6, 7, 22, and 27; 106, 1.23; and 107, 1.6.
  5. See ibid., XVII, 108, 1.6.
  6. See ibid., XVII, 98, 1.23; 100, 11.22 and 26; 103, 1.14; 104, 11.14 and 31; and 105, 1.1.

[Notes 7 and 8 are cut off from the bottom of the page.]

also find a reference to an interesting early Scandinavian custom which had not been mentioned in the first three romances. When Walter, the hero of the tale, has slain the hideous, evil dwarf who guarded the Queen of the enchanted land into which he had wandered, the heroine, who is well versed in the black art, tells Walter to cut off the dwarf’s head and place it by his buttocks before burying him, in order to prevent his ghost from walking.1 This device was one of the common methods in early Scandinavia of “laying a ghost”; Morris had long been acquainted with this custom, for in the Grettis saga, one of the first Icelandic stories he translated, Grettir follows this procedure in putting a definite end both to Karr the Old and to the fiend Glamr. 2 Beyond these matters there is nothing in this tale which can be traced to Morris’s Scandinavian studies.