Pictured below is a very interesting Fantasy World Map (thanks, Dan Meth!) Included are many fantasyscapes I’ll be discussing in future posts. From an initial survey, I see Middle Earth (I’ll be discussing The Hobbit); Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe); and Where the Wild Things Are. I will discuss the map in The Wind in the Willows; and I will provide a map when I discuss James and the Giant Peach.
Have you ever wondered why maps are included in books? Are they treasure maps? Are they portals into another world? Are they symbols or metaphors? Are they provided to give you the lay of the land? Are they there so you can follow along in the adventure? Do you consult them and study them for clues? Do you question the information they provide? Why do some books have them and some do not?
Maps pictured in the flyleaf of a book have always intrigued me. They depict the landscape or geography of the story world and lead the reader into the adventure. Imaginary maps show the compass, the edges, the borders, the towns, the wild places, neighbouring countries, and the inhabitants. Author Karen Abrahamson thinks that maps “set hard boundaries around the reader’s imagination” (Abrahamson Blogpost 1); however, children’s author Avi suggests that “maps not only illuminate a story, but seem to give a singular sense of reality to a narrative” (Avi Blogpost 1). Maps stir children’s imaginations, but they also instruct. Authors draw on the conventions for map-making, which means creating an “imperial eye” for the reader. Ricardo Patron says, “The modern West…naturalizes geometric, optical isotropic space as a fundamental…category, and thereby gives undue authority to the abstractions of the mapmaker” (Dillon 32). The Wilderland map in The Hobbit portrays an “imperial” view of the world because we are viewing it from a Hobbit/Dwarfish (i.e. conqueror) point of view. However, the mapmaker may also challenge this representation and privilege domestic space (the map in The Wind in the Willows) or warrior space (the battle scenes in Thror’s Map). When the author and cartographer plot the map, they reveal many details about the fantasy land, such as the class structure, adjacent lands which may be acquired and conquered, and the dangers which lie ahead for the traveller. On a broader scale, maps offer clues about politics, nationhood, empire, and nostalgia for what a nation has lost. These are topics we will explore together in upcoming posts.
By discussing my chosen books chronologically, referencing historical events, and using the map as a jumping-off point, I will study and explore the maps of imagination, illustrations, and accompanying text to discover and share what they reveal. So grab your passport, your travel journal, and your binoculars. Come and join me on my adventures into fantasyland. Don’t worry about a GPS—I’ll provide a map for each trip we take. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment. I welcome your feedback.