My Top Ten Imaginary Places
“Captain Cook discovered Australia looking for the Terra Incognita. Christopher Columbus thought he was finding India but discovered America. History is full of events that happened because of an imaginary tale. “ Umberto Eco
I think imaginary places exist to help us make sense of our realities. Sometimes they look a lot like the world we live in. There are always recognizable characters that we know from our own lives. Sometimes the places look completely different. Always, I am transported to the world of these author’s imaginations and for this I am grateful.
1. Chocolate Factory – Willly Wonka And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
I was brought up on health food and was not allowed to have candy as a kid. This was my ultimate fantasy place. Wonka’s Chocolate Factory included a river of chocolate with enough chocolate to fill every bathtub in the entire country. The grass and flowers are made of candy and minted sugar. Machines can shrink you into a tiny person and special seltzer can make you float. Also, nothing really bad happened at the Chocolate Factory as opposed to other imaginary places, which look great but have witches and warlocks and pirates and monsters.
2. Emerald City, Oz -The Wizard Of Oz by Frank Baum
“The walls are green, but the city itself is not. However, when they enter, everyone in the Emerald City is made to wear green-tinted eye glasses this is explained as an effort to protect their eyes from the “brightness and glory” of the city, but in effect makes everything appear green when it is, in fact, “no more green than any other city.” Dorothy sees rows of shops, selling green articles of every variety, and a person who sells green lemonade, from whom children bought it with green pennies.” I’m talking more about the MGM version in all its1939 green, Technicolor glory with midgets and kids dancing and singing all around as munchkins. Emerald City was a happy place.
3. Narnia The Chronicles Of Narnia by CS Lewis
Narnia is a fantasy world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals. The protagonists are all children from the real world who go through a closet and are magically transported to Narnia, where they are called upon by the lion Asian to protect Narnia from evil and restore the throne to its rightful line. The books span the entire history of Narnia, from its creation to its eventual destruction. There is something about going through an ordinary closet and finding an extraordinary world that is very appealing to me.
4. Atlantis Timaeus and Critias by Plato.
That was the earliest reference to Atlantis which has been mentioned many times in literature as a perfect place. In this story Atlantis was a fictional island who ruled the world and suffered defeat against Ancient Athens (Plato’s perfect society). I love Greek mythology and the ancient gods give Poseidon the island. But I think it is Plato’s description of the island that captivated me not the story. It lies between “the pillars of Hercules in the Straits of Gibraltar.” It was larger than ancient Libya and Asia Minor and then it was swallowed up by the sea and vanished. I think that was my beginning of wanting to see the world and the Straits Of Gibraltar are still on my bucket list.
5.Hogwarts Harry Potter Series by A.K.Rowling
Hogwarts is ‘the finest school of witchcraft and wizardry” in the world. Its full name is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It is located in Hogwarts Castle somewhere in Scotland. The exact location is unknown. Children with magical abilities may be enrolled at birth, and acceptance is confirmed by an owl at age eleven. Of course Hogwarts is on my list because it feeds into my over achieving sensibilities. It’s the best. There are definitely a lot of the Dark Arts people hanging around, but Harry always triumphs in the end. What House would I join? and what would I wear? I want to be in Gryffindor, but Ill probably be accepted into Hufflepuff. As long as I’m not in Slytherin, it is all good.
6.Camelot The Once and Future King by TH White
Camelot is the castle and court of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It includes King Arthur, Guinevere, Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, the Holy Grail and a sword named Excalibur and sometimes a wizard named Merlin. The location of Camelot is not agreed upon since the stories are based on early French romance stories. Camelot has become more of an Arthurian vision than an actual place. It was full of high ideals, quests and medieval chivalry with occasional jousting. I think we always want our leaders to follow the Code of the Knights of the Round Table. The legend lives on.
7. Neverland Peter Pan by JM Barrie
Neverland is another one of the places that has an ambiguous location because it exists in the minds of children. It has directions like second star to the right and straight on till morning. Peter Pan, Lost Boys, Pirates, Fairies, Mermaids and Indians live there. It is best known for being a place where people don’t grow up and time is difficult to track. The only clock is inside a crocodile. The not growing older interests me at this time.
8. Utopia Utopia by Thomas Moore
Utopia is an invented island society where everything is perfect. The political system, legal system and all social and religious interactions are perfect. The word Utopia comes from Latin and literally means nowhere. Thomas Moore gave us the word for a perfect society that can never exist. As an adult living in the messy and violent world of 2014, Utopia sounds like something to strive for – even half Utopia would be good.
9. Shangri-La Lost Horizon by James Hilton
Shangri-La is a fictitious, happy land of eternal youth, isolated form the outside world in the mountains of Tibet. People are immortal and only show their age a little bit. The book says, having made war on the ground, man would now fill the skies with death, and all precious things were in danger of being lost – books, art, relics etc. It was hoped that, overlooked by the violent outside world, Shangri-la would keep them and show them later to a receptive world exhausted by war. That was the real purpose of the lamasery of Shangri La – study, inner peace, and long life were merely a side benefit to living there. We look for peace now as our world becomes more chaotic – for a place to put our history so it won’t be destroyed by the environment and violence.
10 Xanadu Kubla Khan a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
One night after an opium influenced dream and reading about Xanadu, the summer palace of the Mongol ruler Kubla Khan, Coleridge wrote one of his most famous poems. It was based on the writings of Marco Polo who said he had visited there. It created pictures in my mind of people in the world that I had never heard of – like a damsel with a dulcimer and an Absynnian maid. He joined two of my favorite things – imagination and traveling to an exotic place. It was as far away from Brooklyn as a girl could get.
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan, A stately pleasure-dome decree :
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran. Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
Any more places?