Invented Geography: All aboard the SS Imagination
econd star to the right and straight off until morning.” Imagine seeing that on your GPS. You must be on your way to Neverland, one of the many destinations known only to readers. This magical place is home of the Lost Boys, who will never grow up, as imagined by the author of this fairy tale location, J. M. Barrie, who wrote ‘Peter Pan.’
“Follow the yellow brick road.” And off went Dorothy, in her silver shoes (which turned red on the silver screen). Those yellow bricks led her all the way to Emerald City and to the Wizard of Oz. L. Frank Baum’s novel ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’ describes the city as surrounded by a “high, thick wall of green marble, polished smooth and set with glistening emeralds.”
King Arthur’s kingdom was first mentioned in Chrétien de Troyes’ poem ‘Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart.’ The Knights of the Round Table would gather in this location that has been featured in many novels and films.
The magical land of Fantastica is an endless, borderless kingdom. Bastian, the protagonist of Michael Ende’s “The Neverending Story,” wanders through this place of wonder in search of the Childlike Empress, who lives in an Ivory Castle. On his journey, he encounters the Swamp of Sadness, Amarganz (the silver city) and Goab (the desert of colours) among other fascinating locations.
World-famous magician Harry Potter studied at Hogwarts, and his school came to life on the big screen. Warner Bros might have filmed on stunning sound sets in London and other original locations, but the true magic here comes from the readers’ imaginations. J. K. Rowling wrote that the architecture was somewhat complicated in Hogwarts, owing to the fact that “the staircases and the rooms keep moving.”
Imaginary geographies aren’t limited to children’s books however. Macondo, the town from ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude,’ was concocted in the mind of Nobel-prize winner Gabriel García Márquez. He imagined it as a village built on the bank of a river “that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs.” J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel ‘The Lord of the Rings’ might not have won its author a Noble prize, but it did scoop an Oscar (for the film adaptation). Middle-Earth, Mordor and Rivendell evoke legendary battles and odysseys for hobbits, men, dwarves, elves and orcs. On this occasion, New Zealand proved to be the perfect setting to recreate them on the big screen.
The über successful TV adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ franchise has successfully recreated King’s Landing, among other locations. The Iron Throne sits in the city that is inhabited by “prostitutes, thieves, knights and farmers.” ‘Game of Thrones’ has made it one of the most popular literary locations in television pop culture – with all due respect to Camelot.
There are many parallel worlds that can be reached through the pages of a book, including ‘Treasure Island’ by Robert Louis Stevenson; the ‘Wonderland’ that Lewis Carrol dreamt up for Alice, or the medieval Kingsbridge that Ken Follet conjured up in ‘The Pillars of the Earth.’Maps of immortal places that will live on unchanged in the minds of generations of readers, surviving battles, fires, eternal winters and even nothingness. Emily Dickinson was on to something when she said, “To travel far, there is no better ship than a book.”