J.R.R. Tolkien brought the Fantasy genre into prominence in the Twentieth century with Lord of the Rings. This book inspired many authors to try capturing the feel of the book with their own creations. Before Tolkien, there were many authors who wrote Fantasy too. One of these authors was William Morris. He was a multitalented writer, furniture designer and publisher of the late 1800’s. Living during the Victorian era in England, he was a socialist and wrote several books of Fantasy, which formed the major works of his fiction.
The Glittering Plain is a story revolving around the theme of immortality. The Undying King kidnaps the heroine because of his desire for her. The hero, trying to rescue her, faces obstacles like the people refusing to help him out due to fear of the king. The novel has an underlying core of humor, which the author provides with obvious clues.
The author’s most complex Fantasy is The Well at the World’s End. The four king’s sons draw lots to see who stays behind from the quest. Ralph loses the contest, but leaves in the night to begin it anyway. He must undergo several trials to reach the well and his redemption. Ursula joins Ralph on the quest in search of her fulfillment. They both change and grow as people. It is a very good book, but a little difficult in the language because Morris tried to write in an older style of language.
The author’s next book is a little different. The Wood Beyond the World is a dark tale set around the theme of faithlessness. It begins with a painful marriage in trouble that sends the characters off on hard journeys. There is a terrible evil to be overcome by any means. This book is short, but contains many vivid images created by the author.
Mr. Morris created a woman character to follow in The Waters of the Wondrous Isles. Birdalone is kidnapped from her family and becomes the slave of a witch as a child. She escapes from her island prison on a magical boat. The book tells her story through several magical adventures as she reaches maturity to become a strong, fully realized woman. It is an early book of women’s liberation with fantasy elements.
The Sundering Flood was the author’s last book, finished a few days before his death. Mr. Morris attempted to write a mythic fantasy with this book. The theme is about separation. Two lovers are separated by a river. There is a magic sword and they are helped by a virtuous knight. This last book is an interesting end to a creative career.
William Morris is one of the founding fathers of the Fantasy genre. He wrote many memorable Fantasy romances in the late 1800s of Victorian England full of strong characters, vivid settings and compelling themes. Multitalented, he wrote books, designed furniture and was a publisher with his famous Kelmscott Press. Many authors such as Tolkien and Lewis found inspiration from his books for their works. He is a challenging, but important author to read. Some of his texts can be found online at: http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au