This summer, for a limited time only, my brother and I have collaborated to open the Literary Fantasy World Tour Company just for you! Over the next four weeks we will be offering tours of fantasy worlds complete with well charted maps.
Up until now this blog has focused on the world of literature as it relates to actual geography. In this post we’re taking our summer vacation by exploring places that have been well mapped and yet never set foot in. We speak of course of the fictional worlds contained in books that are handy enough to provide maps of their own. This post is written by A Suitcase Full of Book’s guest contributor, the author’s brother (hey Sis, can I be A Backpack Full of Books?).
So grab a coat from The Wardrobe, saddle up your dragon, and drop a coin in the Phantom Tollbooth. Let’s get adventuring.
Tour Option 1: Middle Earth
Tour guide: Bilbo Baggins
(The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien)
The first offering on our tour of the un-tourable is the granddaddy of them all, Middle Earth. Your vacation will begin in the Shire, an idyllic farming community of Hobbits, with a welcome Tea at the home of the gracious and very respectable, non-adventurous, Bilbo Baggins of Bag-End. Your traveling companions, the wizard Gandalf and thirteen dwarves, will arrive presently. Please review the map and sign the contract before setting off, and try not to forget your pocket-handkerchief. From the Shire you will travel east by pony towards the Lonely Mountain. (Be careful of trolls along the roadway!) The elves of Rivendell will offer you accommodations before the next leg of your journey where you will pass over, and then under, the goblin-infested Misty Mountains. You will then catch a flight to the home of Beorn, a man who often chooses to take the shape of a bear. After a feast and a night’s stay, your route continues east through the forest of Mirkwood. (Be warned, giant spiders will attempt to deter travelers within the forest.) You will next stay with wood elves in the forest before floating down the River Running by barrel to Lake Town. You will now be in sight of your destination, the Lonely Mountain. While travelers are free to explore the mountain, waking the dragon who lives inside will have grave consequences. Round trip expenses will be reimbursed with any treasure liberated from the dragon’s horde. Future vacations in Middle Earth include spelunking in Moria, a five night stay in Helm’s Deep, and a walking tour of Mordor.
Tour Option 2: Narnia
Tour guides: The Pevensie Children
(The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis)
To reach Narnia, simply crawl through the back of The Wardrobe. You will be joining the young siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie. It may take a few trips before everyone in your party makes it through the wardrobe. Please be aware of a slight time dilation as well. Once in the forest on the other side of The Wardrobe, regroup by the lamppost We first recommend stopping for tea at the home of Tumnus the faun and making a dinner date at the dam of Mr. & Mrs. Beaver. Be warned that this world has temptations that may draw members of your party away. (Do not try any Turkish Delight!) After that you may chose from various outings which include a forest hike to a war camp and the Stone Table, or a journey north to a frozen castle. At the camp you’ll meet Aslan the lion, rightful King of Narnia. At the castle, Jadis the witch will insist you see her statue collection. Finally, spend the remainder of your trip at the beautiful seaside castle Cair Paravel, before returning back through the wardrobe.
Know Before You Go:
In J.R.R. Tolkien’s first Novel, the Hobbit, published in 1937, his characters make an epic journey across a fantasy world called Middle Earth. This world is later developed in the subsequent trilogy The Lord of the Rings. Middle Earth is extensive- including languages, diverse cultures, and even its own mythology, all created by Tolkien himself. Almost every rock and tree has a detailed history. His character Gandalf the wizard, for example, is technically one of the Maiar, a low ranking angel. Fortunately, this detailed level of knowledge is not needed to enjoy the story. The inspiration for Middle Earth comes from fairytales and Norse mythology, such as Beowulf. In turn, Tolkien has inspired many authors who have tried to emulate his style of world building, with varying success. So many have paid homage to Tolkien that his writing has come to define an entire subgenre, making him the undisputed grandfather of High Fantasy.
C. S. Lewis, Tolkien’s friend and colleague, inspired modern fantasy in his own right. The two authors differed in their approach to Fantasy. While Tolkien infused moral Christian values within his characters, Lewis believed Fantasy should be directly allegorical to Christianity in order to teach religious values. This is exemplified by Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series, the first of which is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, published in 1950. The world of Narnia is a direct allusion to Christianity, with its own Christ like figure, the Lion. Later authors have joined in the discussion started by Tolkien and Lewis about the role of religion. One example is found in The Golden Compass, the first of Philip Pullman’s series titled His Dark Materials. In contrast to Lewis, Pullman promotes science and atheism over religion. Unfortunately, His Dark Materials does not have a fictional map, even if it is on a parallel world (Svalbard is a real place, look it up), so it does not make our list.
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