Remember Disney’s Aladdin, when Aladdin, dressed as Prince Ali, takes Princess Jasmine on a carpet ride? They fly over Egypt, Greece and China, with wild horses, pelicans, and soft, huggable clouds. For Princess Jasmine, who lived all her life inside her father’s palace, and for Aladdin the orphan boy, any place on the face of this earth is a whole new world.
There’s a sense of wonder in this particular Disney song that appeals to me. The magic carpet ride gives Aladdin and Jasmine an opportunity to view the world, sitting in comfort much like a reader does when reading a book, while the view (or is it the story?) unfolds before them. Books, like magic carpets, are a vehicle for adventure. And lately, at least, it seems to me that most fantasy novels are taking us farther and farther away from what we know, into foreign, author-created lands.
There are so many fantasy novels published in the United States these days, whether for adults or younger readers, and so many of these fantasy novels take place in an entirely new world which the author has written into existence. This new world often comes complete with a map, new customs, people in colors and natural abilities different from our own, and exotic wildlife. It’s not that fantasy worlds have not been imagined before — Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and Ursula K. LeGuin (to name my favorites) have all written a whole new world for their fantasies — and yet the sheer number of fantasies published these days amazes me and makes me wonder. Are authors reinventing the world, writing new countries and oceans into existence because the world has become so small? A global village, Hillary Clinton said. Perhaps our adventurous spirits as writers and readers long for new lands to explore?
|Takes place in Greece-like Attolia, Sounis and Eddis|
No more than a few years ago, Earth itself was a mystery. Many places were yet to be discovered: the heart of Africa, the tallest summits, Antarctica, the Amazon. Books reflected the Earth’s still pulsing potential for exploration. Fairy tales and early fantasy were located in the ambiguous “Once upon a time in a faraway land,” while myths, and stories of adventure took place in magical, as-yet-unreached places like the golden city El Dorado, the lost island of Atlantis, or the seat of the Greek gods on Olympus. The reader could aspire to see these places one day. After all, they were located here on Earth.
|The dystopian fantasy world of Range|
Today such faraway places as the Forbidden City of China or the Taj Mahal are familiar to most of us. With a click of the mouse I can see Antarctica and the summit of Everest without setting foot outside. If I chose, I could go there in person, and it will be my photos others will see with a click of their mouse. The world really is small, and I, for one, am grateful to writers of fantasy. You are stretching this planet’s mysterious magical appeal and my sense of wonder with your writing.