The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

The Dictionary of Imaginary Places

::sigh:: I do love this book. I remember when I first got it. Fellow-blogger and bestest-buddy Catie and I were at a bookstore, and we both saw this book. We fell in love. In fact, we loved it so much that we each decided that we needed our own copy (weird for us, since we shared all our books). It’s a *must* for ever fairy tale, fantasy, sci-fi, and general lit fan out there. And no, its not all Middle Earth. In fact, it is decidedly not all Middle Earth (though yes, Mordor is there, with maps, I promise).

There are complete maps of Oz. Tourist descriptions of Pellucidar (map below) read: “Travellers are warned that standing on the inside of the earth is like standing at the boom of a bowl whose sides curve up to the sky on all sides. As result, perception of distance is very different very different to that experienced on the surface of the Earth.” So cute! Love it!

Note the "Here There Be Tigers" In The Upper Right Corner

Pellucidar: Note the "Here There Be Tigers" In The Upper Right Corner

There are also some wonderful fairy-tale related entries as well.

Here, for example, is part of the traveler’s guide to Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen’s Castle:

SNOW QUEEN’S CASTLE: in the barren regions of icy-cold Finland, where snow flakes do not fall from the sky – cloudless and bright with the Northern Lights – but run straight along the ground, and are alive, taking on strange and formidable shapes. Some look like great ugly porcupines or snakes rolled into knots, others like little, fat bears with bristling hair – these last are the Snow Queen’s guards. The walls of the palace itself are formed of driven snow and its doors and windows of cutting winds. In the palace, there are over a hundred halls, the larges of them many miles long, all illuminated by the Northern Lights, all alike, vast, empty, icily cold, and dazzlingly white. No sounds of mirth ever resound through these dreary spaces; no cheerful scene refreshes the eye. Not even so much as a bear’s ball, such as one might imagine…takes place, not even a small select coffee-party for the white, young lady foxes.

The book can be funny, too. Of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, it notes that: “Imitations, inspired by this castle, were later built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and by Mr. Walt Disney of Chicago in the United States.”

I love to curl up with this book on cold, soggy nights (like this one). All the greats are there: Never-Never Land, Narnia, Oz, Utopia, and Wondreland. I even discover new and weird ones from time to time (I mean, the book is over 700 pages), like The Isle of Silk (apparently from the Earthsea books), or Foxcastle (an Elfin kingdom beneath a hill in Scotland, where they bind intruders in cobwebs).

With A Map Like This, You'll Never Be Lost

With A Map Like This, You'll Never Be Lost

The reason I’m writing about this book is partly to let people know that it’s there (and that it’s awesome), but also because its a great place to look for trends. Connections. Between tales, between genres. Looking at this was how I got my idea for my thesis (classical epic meets Brothers Grimm). Having descriptions in an easy to reference format is a lot quicker than having to pour through books looking through passages. It’s a great research tool, terrific read, or bedtime story.