Wednesday, 19 March 2008

An Atlas of Imaginary Worlds 8: What is Left in the Back of My Map Cupboard

When I was in my phase of searching out interesting maps of imaginary places, the hollow Earth and so on, I came across a number of maps which did not really fit into the categories that I set out so I thought it was a good opportunity to round-up the various maps left in the electronic cupboard and explore them a little. Their sources are very varied and cover literature, games and exploration.

The Land of Oz

This is the Land of Oz as featured in the 14 Oz novels written by the US author L. Frank Baum (1856-1919), 1900-1920: 'The Wonderful World of Oz' (1900), 'The Marvelous Land of Oz' (1904), 'Ozma of Oz' (1907), 'Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz' (1908), 'The Road to Oz' (1909), 'The Emerald City of Oz' (1910), 'The Patchwork Girl of Oz' (1913), 'Little Wizard Stories of Oz' (1914), 'Tik-Tok of Oz' (1914), 'The Scarecrow of Oz' (1915), 'Rinkitink in Oz' (1916), 'The Lost Princess of Oz' (1916), 'The Tin Woodman of Oz' (1918), 'The Magic of Oz' (1919) and 'Glinda of Oz' (1920) plus short stories. Another 26 authorised books followed after his death and many others have taken up or altered the setting. Most famous is the movie 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939).

'Randland' - Lands of the Wheel of Time

This is a map of the lands featured in 'The Wheel of Time' series of novels by Robert Jordan about a fantasy world which has experienced battles between Dark and Light. Many have topped bestseller lists in the USA but do not seem to have penetrated the UK as successfully. The books in story order are (publishing date in brackets): 'New Spring' (2004), 'The Eye of the World' (1990), 'The Great Hunt' (1990), 'The Dragon Reborn' (1991), 'The Shadow Rising' (1992), 'The Fires of Heaven' (1993), 'Lord of Chaos' (1994), 'A Crown of Swords' (1996), 'The Path of Daggers' (1998), 'Winter's Heart' (2000), 'Crossroads of Twilight' (2003), 'Knife of Dreams' (2005), 'A Memory of Light' (2009). Jordan died in 2007 so the final book may never be published. The novels seem to draw on Buddhist and ying-yang themes through a wheel of time with seven ages and female/male aspects with 'channelers' able to draw on its power. The stories feature the repeated escape of 'Shai'tan' an evil creature known as 'the Dark One' and 'the Dragon' a champion of light. Again we have a lumpy westward facing continent, with a 'Dead Sea' and 'A Sea of Storms'. The lands are called by fans 'Randland'. The names reference Celtic and French culture, such as Tarabon which is a suburb of Montreal in Canada as well as a land here. However, the culture though again medieval in technology does not seem to seek to replicate identifiable ones in our world. There is a vast amount of material about this world online, even an encyclopedia, so if you are interested it is easy to follow up.

Peninsula of the Palm

This peninsuar features in the book by Guy Gavriel Kay called 'Tigana' (1990) which apparently is based on Renaissance Italy. The book was intended to be an 'adult' fantasy, not in the sense that it was pornographic but that it addressed deeper themes than many more 'childish' fantasy novels and in fact more personal themes too, for example one character was sent to assassinate a ruler and ended up becoming his consort and finds as the years pass that she is unable to kill him. The peninsula is invaded by two forces from the East and the West who divide the various provinces between them and the island province of Chiara (the name itself is reminisicent of Italian names) becomes a neutral province between them. The emphasis on small states rather than vast empires is also seen as a parallel to the Italian city states of the Renaissance. There are fantastical elements too as sorcerors on the peninsula can gain extra powers by cutting off their two middle fingers so their hand resembles the peninsula. After the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, Kay's work has probably received the most academic attention. This website has links to a number of academic writings on the background to the setting and their relationship to our history: What I like about this landscape is that it is finite and so this allows attention to political detail that is hard in books with vast empires (which in reality probably would have fragmented quickly given the slow speed of most communication forms in fantasy novels) and so to bring the story to a human level.

Ridgewell Planet

Though it is easy to locate this map on the internet, it is far harder to find out what it relates to. It seems to be an online game set on planets colonised by humans sometime in the late 21st century following a kind of collapse of human society. Ridgewell is one of the planets colonised in the story. Different planets were taken over by different groups of humans and so have a range of societies. Ridgewell was settled by the Prudence Foundation a family-orientated group, whereas another colony, Nova was settled by a combined US-EU-China-India mission another Atlantis by a private company. Anyway we have a nice planet in Ridgewell with more land than sea (so they are all effectively inland seas) and a huge connected continent. The whole website seems to be hosted at some education institution so it may be used for educational scenarios rather than gaming, anyway see:

Lands of the Legion of Dreams

This is an unusual one as it is a map of a world used by a group of Live Action Role-Players (LARP) people who rather playing online or with figures actually dress up as their characters and charge around fighting and casting spells, etc. The Legion of Dreams was established in 1986 and has a wood for hire where they act out these adventures and build equipment for the characters. They do horror and science fiction ones too, but I imagine this is the fantasy background. They have the usual elves and dwarfs but also a couple of other species such as the Melanonians who are a pale-skinned mystical race predating the elves and the Fomorians a lizard-like race. For more information see: Anyway, it is nice to see a kind of peninsula off a peninsula with just a couple of hints of inland seas that are not fully enclosed and no sign of Atlantis!


Now this one is slightly different. It was created by a death metal band called Bal-Sagoth as a location for their songs which are rousing epics about battles in a fantasy world. The band was established in 1993 and takes its name from a short story by Robert Howard story (of Conan the Cimmerian fame, see previous postings) called 'The Gods of Bal-Sagoth'. The pomposity of the lyrics of the band means they can be found all over the internet. Their world owes a lot to Howard and you can see many of his locations such as Hyperborea, Lemuria and Atlantis; they also mention Thule in one of their songs (more on Thule below). Of course being an almost generic fantasy world we have an inland sea (three in fact) and icy northern wastes, plus a nice huge empire, the Imperium. They are apparently also influenced by H.P. Lovecraft (Cthullu), Clark Ashton Smith (Averoigne, Zothique, also worked with Lovecraft and Burroughs), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Pellucidar, Tarzan) and Jack Kirby (X-Men, the Hulk, the Fantastic Four, et al).


This is a nice one of the continent of Faerun which apparently features in the 'Forgotten Realms' version of the classic role-playing game 'Dungeons and Dragons' and is on the planet of Toril. Apparently over a hundred novels and a number of computer games feature this sub-continent. It adheres to my model of large continents and of course has an inland sea. The peninsulas are a little more ragged than usual presumably so that it does not appear like so many other maps of this kind. It also features societies closely parallel to our own such as Kara-Tur like China/Japan, Zakhara which is an Arabic setting and Maztica which is like Aztec society. It would be nice if people could come up with something to our world's societies in different locations. Technology is like late middle ages so with some gunpowder.

The World of 'Nineteen Eighty-Four'

The next maps are ones which mutate our own world for various reasons in order to create somewhere different. This shows the World as George Orwell envisaged it would appear by 1984 in his dysopian novel 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (1949). His novel was very much informed by the development of the Cold War at the time and the globe is portrayed as being divided up by three superpowers: Oceania (effectively the West led by the USA), Eurasia (the bloc in our world represented by the Soviet Union and its satellites) and Eastasia (effectively China's sphere of influence). This was a critique of the harsh and cynical regimes developing in the light of the Cold War. Halfway through the novel Oceania switches its alliance from Eastasia to Eurasia, but his perception of the tripolar division of the Cold War world was ahead of its time and really only accepted by policymakers in the USA in the early 1970s.

The Island of Sodor

The Island of Sodor is the location for the so-called Railway Series of children's books. These were written between 1945-72 by Reverend Wilbert Awdry and then from 1983-96 and again in 2007 by his son, Christopher Awdry. There are currently 41 books in the series. They feature anthromophic steam trains, carriages, traction engines and even a helicopter. The most famous of the characters Thomas the Tank Engine, though many other train characters appear in the series. Sodor comes from the Diocese of Sodor and Man one of the seats of British bishops. Man is the Isle of Man which sits in the Irish Sea between England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire. Effectively it is frozen in time somewhere in the 1950s. The culture is very British. As can be seen from the map, Awdrey located the large island between England and the Isle of Man which would clearly have altered the geography of the Irish Sea and made the smaller Isle of Man which was colonised by Vikings, much less isolated.

Costa Rico

This is a comic map from Toucan Tours of Costa Rica, see , that stems from all the enquiries they get from customers about the posibilities of travelling to the country of Costa Rico as opposed to Costa Rica or Puerto Rico. Here it is shown as a narrow peninsula country bordering Nicaragua and stretching into the Caribbean Sea. Presumably it would have experienced US intervention and a Communist uprising backed by Cuba but now in the post-Cold War world is experiencing a boom in tourism.

World of Conan

Now, I know I have stepped away from the maps that look like distortions of our world, but if you read on you will see there is a link through some of the countries mentioned on this map. This map looks different to the others featuring worlds in the stories of Conan the Cimmerian by Robert E. Howard that I looked at in an earlier posting. Aestheically it appeals more to me. Looking at it does seem to feature many of the same lands and of course a whole pile of the imaginary countries we see time and time again such as Atlantis, Lemuria and Thule. I have shown many maps of Atlantis but also came across this one of Thule, which was supposed to be either North or North-West of Scotland and Ireland so maybe where Iceland or the Faroe Islands are or in northern Asia. This might be where we get all the references to the Thule Society (1918-1925) a secret society in Germany that had links with the early Nazi Party. Ultima Thule, they believed was the capital of Hyperborea (a name which also features in Howard's stories, which he began writing in 1932). mentioned by the Roman poet Virgil in his epic 'The Aeneid' and supposedly a lost landmass near Greenland, which the German society believed would have characteristics of a Nordic race which they were keen on promoting. People from Thule (and the name was used inter-changeably with Hyperborea) were supposed to have come to Greece and one Thulean studied under Pythagoras. Thule was supposed to have a period of the year when the sun never set, which clearly puts it into the Arctic Circle. It is quite possible that people from Norway or Iceland travelled to Greece in Ancient times provoking this fantastical legend. We also know that volcanic activity can lead to the appearance and disappearance of islands. The best known case is the island of Surtsey which appeared off Iceland between 1963-7. The outline of the island has been altering ever since as parts have sunk into the sea and new areas have emerged.

The Thule Society turns up in fantasy stories featuring the Nazis such as 'Hellboy'; the movie of which starts off on an island supposedly off the coast of Britain. Post-medieval references to Thule may stem from Viking settlements on Greenland which died out when the climate became colder in the 11th century. This is a nice historic map I found of Thule but I cannot find the full one on the internet to show the context:

This is a modern day speculation on the location of Ultima Thule which people seem to want to find in the same way as seeking the entrance to the Hollow Earth. Of course in a warmer climate Vikings may have got to islands around the Arctic like this one. However, no-one is going to find signs of a vast lost civilisation, instead they will find, if anything, outlines of houses like those left on Greenland which show settlers from Scandinavia caught out by climate change.

Hyperborea is also a name used by Howard and was also a place believed to really exist. Often it is associated with regions around the North Pole. However, from somewhere I got this map of it being associated with Antarctica. However, the continent shown on this historic map which I believe is supposed to be late 16th century is larger than our Antarctica and comes very closed to the tipe of Argentina which you can see on the right (the map has South at the top) and not that far from South Africa. In prehistoric times Antarctica was temperate and dinosaurs lived on it, but it gradually shifted farther South until it reached its current location at the South Pole. On this map it is also shown as Terra Australis, i.e. Southern Land, which of course ended up being given to Australia when it was discovered by Europeans in the 18th century.

The Antediluvian World

This one comes from another role-playing game called 'Atlantis: The Second Age' produced by Morrigan Press. It combines kind of ancient world characters such as bronze age Chinese and Egyptians with other more exotic ones such as Amazons and Goblins. I like how they have got all the lost worlds in as distortions of our own continents so there is Atlantis, Lemuria, Mu and a nice selection of almost inland seas. Russia seems to have come off worst, so separating out three major continental blocks. Funnily the British Isles seem untouched.

The Lands of Barsaive

This is another world associated with a role-playing game, one called 'Earthdawn' produced by FASA and first released in 1993. It features many of the standards of fantasy games like dwarfs (the dominant species in the game) and elves but also sees creatures from other dimensions termed Horrors crossing into the world. There are also other creatures such as T'skrang which are lizard-like humanoids, Windlings - bird-like ones and Obsidiman which are rock based creatures. The location of the lands is similar to the Ukraine in our world with the Death Sea being the Black Sea, the Red Sea being our Sea of Aziv and the Aras Sea being like the Caspian Sea. The landscape is often tropical jungle and the seas are of molten lava rather than water.

This is Novaria from the 'Crown of Stars' fantasy novels by Kate Elliott (the pseudonym of Alis Ramussen). These were: 'King's Dragon' (1997), 'Prince of Dogs' (1998), 'The Burning Stone' (1999), 'Child of Flame' (2000), 'The Gathering Storm' (2003), 'In the Ruins' (2005) and 'Crown of Stars' (2006). It is a medieval world where elves and humans fought almost three millenia previously. There has been a vast empire which allowed the humans to recover from the war which has now been replaced by successor states. The author acknowledged parallels to our world as follows: Alba = Britain, Salia = France, Varre = The Low Countries, Wendar = Germany, North Mark = Denmark, Eikaland = Norway & Sweden, Polenie = Poland, Salavii = Slavs, Ungria = Hungary, Karrone = Switzerland, Darre = Rome, Aosta = Italy, Arethousa = Byzantium, Quman = assorted steppe tribes (Tartars etc) or the Golden Horde, Hessi merchants = Jewish traders, Ashioi = Aztecs, Kartiako = Carthage, Jinna = Persia.
The fact that the Mediterranean is open at the eastern end rather than the western end is interesting and the Sinai desert has become an island. Ireland comes off worse having fragmented into a much smaller cluster of islands. With the contraction of Scandinavia, the Baltic Sea has become a vast gulf.

In some ways it reminds me of the 'Warhammer' world. 'Warhammer' was a fantasy battle game, first released in 1987, for armies of lead soldiers and used an altered version of Earth, again with late medieval technology with basically the same peoples in the same locations as in our world, note Cathay (old name for China), Nippon (Japanese name for Japan) and Ind for India. Amphibious aliens, however, were effectively the Aztec empire and there is an Atlantis-like Elf land, Ulharia, in the middle of the North Atlantic:

An older, simpler version of the same world, look at the size of Albion, i.e. Britain! Also the Galapagos Islands and the Falkland Islands have grown substantially.

Well, that is my cupboard cleared out for now but I am sure I will encounter more imagined worlds and will update these periodically. If you find any others of interest let me know.

1 comment:

MCG said...

Nice post! So, responding with links, here's an intriguing Tolkien-related map: Where on Earth Was Middle Earth? and also: the Tory Atlas of the World on the very nice Strange Maps blog.