Wednesday, 15 August 2007

An Atlas of Imaginary Worlds 1: Narnia

Following my brief journey into the bizarre and sinister world of the censoring of internet maps I have come across a range of different imaginary worlds that are mapped in detail. The leading one has to be the Middle Earth of The Lord of the Rings story, as you can see there are stacks of those of different kinds, though lawyers are keen to stamp them out. Next in terms of internet popularity comes Narnia. C.S. Lewis (1898-1963; the part of his life are shown in the movie 'Shadowlands' (1993). Like J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973 who apparently converted him to Christianity though Tolkien was Catholic and Lewis Church of England) he lectured at the University of Oxford in the 1950s, they were both in the 'Inklings' writers' club and used to drink in the 'Eagle and Child' pub which still exists in Oxford. Lewis's 'The Chronicles of Narnia' consisting of seven books (a heptology I suppose): 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' (1950), 'Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia' (1951), 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader' (1952), 'The Silver Chair' (1953), ' The Horse and His Boy' (1954), 'The Magician’s Nephew' (1955), 'The Last Battle' (1956). Like Tolkien's work they are adventure stories (though probably aimed at a younger audience than 'The Lord of the Rings' and certainly shorter in length) with moral themes, and Christian undertones (notably the character of Aslan the lion, who like Jesus Christ in Christian theology redeems characters through his death and rebirth).

As with 'The Lord of the Rings' the CGI capabilities of the 21st century enabled Lewis's work to be revived through a blockbuster movie, with 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' (2005). The scene in which the White Witch, Jadis, (very well played by Tilda Swinton who has a suitably otherworldly demeanour; the witch is white because she is icy rather than good) sneers at the boy Edmund Pevensie who betrayed his friends to her in return for sweets (he had admittedly come from Britain in the Second World War where sweets were unavailable) is a good lesson for today's very demanding youth.

Anyway, as with any decent fantasy novel, there is a map. Narnia, by the way, is named after a city North of Rome in ancient times. Like Tolkien and Robert E. Howard (more on him another post), Lewis drew on his knowledge of the Classical world to provide names and locations. He also used other cultures, for example Jadis comes from the Turkish word for witch. So, below is a selection of maps of his Narnia:

Whereas Tolkien's Middle Earth faces North-West, Narnia seems to face East. Wildlands or wastes of the North seem a common element, and probably reflects authors coming from northern Europe and North America. Maybe the fantasy worlds of authors from the Mediterranean, Africa or South America would be very different. I suppose another thing is that you need wide plains to ride across in dramatic fantasies and to counter this maybe why when we turn to the work of Le Guin and Moorcock who eschew their predecessors, you have lots of archiepelagos instead.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the background 411 about the maps, and of JRR Tolkein and CS Lewis (on my list of favorite authors).

All the best!

Rooksmoor said...

As commentator acute alerted me, there is actually now a link from Wikipedia to this posting. It comes at the bottom of the entry entitled 'Narnia (world)' in the section entitled 'External Links' with the link title 'Six Maps of Narnia'. This entry is about the background to the Narnia stories rather than the plots which are handled in numerous other entries.


I do wonder what might be the impression of Narnia fans ending up at this blog and I am surprised that more Narnia fansites are not up and running carrying the kind of information I have easily secured to include here.

Laura said...

I recognize the first map as being the Disney/Walden map from the 2004 release of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and the second one is Pauline Baines's map, seen in the books, but I don't recognize any of the others. Do you have sources?

Rooksmoor said...

Not after all this time. I just picked these up from a random search of the internet back then. I did not even know they were associated with particular versions of the books or with the movies, and clearly some are home made. I guess you could simply do a search, but whether they are where they were over five years ago, I have no idea. None of them were copy-protected at the time and that may have changed too.