What is more engrossing in a novel than a whole new and fascinating world? Escaping our world becomes reality in the land of Dagonout, Narnia or Middle Earth. These are my top 5 fictional worlds in children’s books!
One of the Netherland’s finest fantasy authors is Tonke Dragt. Without doubt. I first discovered her when the movie adaptation of The Letter for the King came out in 2008. I was sixteen at that time – a little older than the intended audience, but this truly is a book for the young and the old. It is thrilling read about the young Tiuri who’s about to become a knight but is asked to help deliver a letter to the neighbouring king. The world of Unauwen and Dragonout are fictitious but clearly medieval and have everything from knights in shining armour to cunning spies and vindictive enemies. Do not skip this book and its even better sequel The Secrets of the Wild Wood because it is advertised as juvenile fiction. Don’t forget The Hobbit was intended as children’s book as well. Dragt’s story is as gripping as it is suspenseful.
The Hobbbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)
Dragt had never read Tolkien’s work till after writing The Letter for the King. Its sequel contains many references to Tolkien’s magnum opus. In many respects, The Hobbit is one of Tolkiens finest works. Sure, The Lord of the Rings is an immense work of fiction, but the fact that Tolkien managed to create an almost equally fascinating story and prequel to the LotR that appeals to both children and adults deserves the highest praise. It has everything that is essentially Tolkien: legends, stories within stories, unforgettable characters, villainous creatures and songs and poems. Together they created Middle-Earth, the world that would be explored more fully in the subsequent trilogy, but already existed in all its glory in this ‘mere children’s’ book.
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
One of the most disturbing fictional worlds in children’s books is probably Neverland from Peter Pan. Although the novel became known under the same title as its main character, the novel was actually published as Peter and Wendy in 1911. It was an adaptation by Barrie himself from his 1904 play ‘Peter Pan; Or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up’. In the novel, Peter takes Wendy Darling and her brothers to Neverland, a fictional island (‘second to the right and straight on till morning’) inhabited by mythical creatures as mermaids, the dangerous captain Hook and his crew on the Jolly Roger, the Lost Boys, fairies and Indians. Over time, Neverland has become a symbol of eternal childhood and escapism (of modern life and adulthood). The Lost Boys remain forever young on the island and are constantly pursued by Hook. Neverland is a dubious place and many studies have been written about it. However, it is without doubt one of the most influential fictional places.
Every time I stay somewhere with an enormous wardrobe, I search for some fur coats, mothballs … something that tells me that this wardrobe can be a passage to Narnia. In vain I’ve searched and I’ve disappointed myself a number of times. Fortunately, I can still travel to Narnia in one of Lewis’ seven books. I first read the books when I was around the age of 15, maybe 16, not understanding anything of the world building that was explained in the seventh book. After rereading it a couple of times I can appreciate Lewis’ work more than ever. So many excellent characters, from the Pevensie’s and Aslan to Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, Mr. Tumnus, Caspian, Trumpkin, Eustace and my absolute favourite: Reepicheep … The only criticism I (and many others) have is the fact that, even more than Barrie, Lewis presented growing up and the accompanying adult feelings as something that was undesirable. Nevertheless, Narnia remains one of my favorite fictional places!
Although the Dream Country that the BFG visits regularly to catch dreams and nightmares isn’t as prominent or detailed as the other fictional worlds and places, it is a very imaginative one. I remember me and my brother being absolutely in love with the Disney adaptation of the novel and intrigued by the BFG’s profession. Imagine that all the dreams you have had, had been delivered to you by the BFG! That would’ve been something. Catching dreams, fabricating horrifying nightmares to scare the giants … count me in!
That’s it for today! I hoped you like this top 5. What are your (five) favorite fantastic worlds and places in literature?